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Strategies to Maximize Your Vacation

Most people have a favorite time of year to take vacation. Sometimes it’s a holdover from childhood. Sometimes it’s related to preferred activities (or preferred weather). And sometimes it tied to the requirements and expectations at work. In spite of this variety of underlying reasons, the majority of Americans (or at least the majority of those who actually take vacation!) prefer to travel in summer: 59% according to a recent survey conducted by Ask Your Target Market. Of those planning a summer vacation, the most popular month to travel is July, with the second week of July being the favorite vacation week.

Florida Memory, Public Domain, Flickr

So one way to make the most of precious vacation time might be to consider other times of the year. Here are a few reasons why that might make sense:

  • Fewer Crowds: Any activity that involves an entrance fee or line-ups of any kind will be a lot more enjoyable when it’s less crowded. So will beaches and swimming pools!
  • Cost savings: Supply and demand economics ensures that the most popular time to travel will be the most expensive time to travel. Gas, flights, accommodations and attractions are usually at their most expensive during peak vacation periods.
  • Extreme weather avoidance: Depending on your destination, traveling in the shoulder season may offer all the benefits of wonderful weather without the extreme heat and humidity of high summer. As an added bonus, most destinations are more affordable and less crowded during the shoulder season.

Scott Berkun, author and professional speaker, brings a different approach to vacation strategy. He suggests that you time your vacations based on the best opportunity for stress relief and anti-burnout potential. He also advocates working when everyone else is on vacation (e.g. the second week of July or the week between Christmas and New Year), since the office is usually quiet and relatively stress-free when it’s almost empty. Or, as he puts it:

“Spending your vacation on days when, had you gone to work, it would have felt like vacation is one of the worst bets in the vacation world.”

He offers the following questions[1]as a guide to help you decide when to book your next real vacation; and how to add some much-needed stress relief into your daily routine, if that break is too far in the future.

  1. When do you need stress relief the most?
  2. Are you, your friends, or your family, driving the use of your vacation days?
  3. When are other people at work on vacation or away, calming the workplace?
  4. Can you offset your own schedule, arriving at work before/after your coworkers, to make each morning a semi-vacation, free of interruptions or high stress?
  5. Can you make part of your daily schedule include time at the gym, the bar, the coffee shop, or with friends, breaking up every day with some kind of psychological reprieve?
  6. If work is really so unpleasant that you don’t have enough vacation to survive, perhaps it’s not the vacation that’s the problem, but the job itself.

It’s especially important for employees in the U.S. to be more strategic when planning for vacation. Not only do American workers get fewer paid vacation days than any other developed country; many of them also fail to use the days they do get!

In addition to considering other times of the year and taking time to identify the most stress reducing scheduling; you can also…

  • Take advantage of any public holidays you are already entitled to, add a few accrued vacation days and turn a long weekend into a longer break. For example, if you are entitled to a Federal Holiday on a Monday, and then take Tuesday through Friday off, you get a 9 day vacation for the “cost” of 4 vacation days.
  • If you’re required to travel for work, consider adding on a vacation day or two at the beginning or end of your business trip. Many employers see the value in this strategy since as long as personal expenses are covered personally and you have unused vacation time available.
  • Look for destinations that offer excellent short trip opportunities. If you’re like most people, some of your best vacation memories were created on the day trips and short excursions you took during a longer vacation. If getting away for a week or more presents a challenge, there are thousands of fascinating destinations, within a few hours driving or flying time, that could provide an amazing weekend excursion.
  • Find out whether your employer is amenable to adding some unpaid leave to your available paid vacation so that you can plan something really exceptional.
  • Make sure every vacation day you take is a real vacation day. If you work when you’re on vacation, it’s not a vacation

One final note. Whether you’re heading to your preferred vacation spot within the next two weeks, or you won’t be taking a break until later in the year, be sure to make every minute count with confirmed strategies for increasing vacation happiness.


Let TribeHR’s shared calendar and automated vacation requests help you maximize vacations for your team.  Try it free today!

[1] Scott Berkun  When Should You Take Vacation: Strategy

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