How to Make the Most of Limited Vacation Time

Let’s talk about something that so many people want to know about. How to travel while working a full-time job. It’s actually something I didn’t think about until I moved to Europe. My work-life balance was non-existent when it came to taking my personal vacations.

The amount of vacation time given (and taken!) in the United States is just sad. And like most Americans, if you like to travel, you are trying to make the most of what you’ve got. That’s where this post comes in to help you! It’s all about how to maximize your vacation days.

We’ll assume you have two weeks (10 days) of vacation. It’s a generalization but based on my experience, it’s pretty true…unless you work for one of those unlimited vacation companies now.

If you’re not American or you just get more vacation time than most, you still want to make the most of it, so keep reading!


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Use every vacation day

Use every single one of those beautiful vacation days. There’s a horrible statistic that says 42% of Americans don’t ANY of their vacation days. 10 days is such a small amount, to begin with, so use it!

You need it. Seriously. You need a break.

It’s hard, I know. I’ve been in a job that I felt guilty leaving for a day, so a week was anxiety-inducing. A way to avoid anxiety is to talk with your manager and see when the best time of year would be for you to take a vacation, then book it. Everyone will know early on that you won’t be there and you can plan for it ahead of time.


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Make That Weekend a Little Sweeter

Use a day or two to make a long weekend and create a mini-vacation. Just think about how many mini-vacations you get out of that! For those who don’t want to travel far anyway, it’s perfect. For the majority of the population, you are pretty close to fun activities that you can take a long weekend to enjoy.

A great example is where we moved from in the United States. We were two hours (by car) to Washington D.C., Richmond, or in the mountains near one of the best resorts in the country. Having a long weekend in Warm Springs, VA was perfect to get in some R&R and didn’t take much effort to get there. Do the research and see what’s around. Or take a staycation!


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Piggyback on National Holidays

Is the office closed? Add a couple days to it! If it’s closed on a Wednesday, you only need two vacation days to have FIVE days off. That’s a deal! Request early though, because other people know this trick too!

A day before and a day after is a nice start for this since traffic can be terrible when everyone else leaves or returns home. This can be a nice tradition and something to look forward to each year.

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Use the Momentum

Extend a work trip if you can. Think about this, you’re headed to California for a conference and it’s for three days. See if you can just have your company book the flight a few days earlier or later and enjoy some relaxation or fun. You’re already there and the flight is paid for!

Having your vacation after the conference will give you that push through the event since you know you’ll love what happens afterward. Just be sure your work ducks are in a row before you release all thoughts of work from your mind. Take notes and organize your swag so you have nothing to think about except what’s going to make you happy!



We need vacations. We need to de-stress or it can take a huge toll on our bodies, emotional health, and relationships. Give yourself the time to relax, be you, and enjoy life.

Do you have other hacks to make the most of vacation? We’d love to hear them! Please leave a comment below so we can all learn from each other.

All photos are used under Creative Commons CC0 from

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  1. One of the things I struggled to accept when living in Canada was the limited vacation days. I went from having the school holidays off as a teacher at home in London, to 10 days! I used every creative way to make those special 🙂

  2. Of course I agree that no matter how little paid time off someone has, there are simple ways to maximize each day on order to take more vacations. Great inspirational post!

    One more tip that I always suggest is to consider asking for time off in lieu. If have a salaried full-time job and put in extra hours during crunch times for example, ask for a bonus day (or two) off. Explain to your manager how you value time off more than money. Since this trick isn’t likely to be standard HR policy, it helps to be working for a flexible employer who values your hard work and commitment. Are they willing to offer a free day off to make up for extreme overtime periods?

    -Scott, VacationCounts blogger – How to Take More Time Off

  3. Yes! After moving from Australia to America, I’m horrified at how little time people take off from their jobs. Two weeks leave, and they don’t even take it all!? Leave is essential for destressing and preventing burnout. It doesn’t take much to use some of the tricks you suggested to get an extra long weekend here and there for some short trips away 🙂

  4. Lovely tips, Jess! What I did, when I was living in Amsterdam & working full-time, was taking Fridays off from time to time and going for 3 day adventures in Europe. It was only 1 day off that made a huge difference to me as I could easily explore such cities as Brussels, Paris or Bruges in 2-3 days.

    • Yes yes yes! Precisely! One day bumped up next to ones you already have off (whether a weekend or holiday) can make a huge difference. Best of luck on your new adventures 🙂

  5. I don’t like vacation with limited time. I feel depressed and less energetic after having such vacation. But the ideas provided here regarding limited vacation time has got me and I’m thinking about to follow the plan suggested here for my next limited vacation (if I ever make one).


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