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5 Ways to Maximize Your Limited Vacation Time

Going Somewhere Soon
Complimentary slippers ar Archer Austin Hotel

I am always amazed at how many people do not take their vacation days! I mean, I get it. No one wants to return to a pile of work when they get back, vacations are seen as expensive, your boss is trippin’ and makes you feel guilty about taking a vacation (jerk), or maybe you are like me and have a very limited vacation plan. It’s a struggle but that has only forced me to get a little creative! Planning in advance, balancing longer vacations with shorter ones, taking advantage of extended weekends, and enjoying many more trips closer to home — those are just a few examples of how I take this limited vacation thing on like a pro; and you can too.

Here are a few tips you can use that will help maximize your vacation time and ensure it doesn’t go unused! No more excuses ya’ll! Um-kay.

Book Your Time Off Early

A last-minute trip is not always feasible, especially if your line of work requires a little more lead time for time off requests. Kicking off your travel plans at the beginning of the year will help to ensure all your time is used in the most efficient way. You’ll have a better chance of getting your preferred days off (because not everyone is thinking of summer vacations in January), you can schedule vacations around your busy work periods, and you can look out for travel deals aimed at those booking way in advance. A bonus? Booking ahead allows you to pay for your trips over an extended period of time. Whether you are paying for a cruise little by little or saving up yourself for a big payment down the line, time is on your side.

Pro tip: Confirm payment plan options when booking vacation packages and cruises. Also, check for hotels that only require a credit card guarantee. Both options give you more time to pay for your vacation.

Travel Books & Wine
Searching for a little travel inspiration…

Split Your Vacation Into Smaller Trips

Everyone doesn’t have 4 plus weeks of vacation to use. Are you raising your hand with me? If you only have 2-3 weeks of vacation you fall in the same boat as many Americans who wished they lived in Europe; where a 2-week vacation plan is laughable. My recommendation? Book one longer trip (maybe one week) and reserve the remaining time for 2-3 shorter trips. This way you’re not using up all of your vacation time on one trip and you can spread the fun throughout the year. Some years I’ll take one longer international trip, another shorter international trip and save the rest for weekend trips. It’s time tested and Shanna approved.

Pro tip: Create and arrange a bucket list by travel distance where flights over 12 hours may require longer stays. This ensures you are ticking off those destinations and getting a good mix every year. Also, don’t forget travel agents are still a great avenue to help plan your vacation! It’s certainly easier to come up with a strategy when you have the help of someone who knows the “law of the land”. 

Travel on the Weekends

Speaking of weekend trips, this is where you can really maximize that vacation time. It’s still a getaway even if it’s a domestic destination and you can have a great time when 2 nights is all you can spare. For those that live in coastal cities, you have more of an advantage. I live in Houston and spending a weekend in Mexico takes less travel time than going to California! Moreover, I can jump to Central America in around an hour more. Spend some time and research those international destinations close to you; especially those where non-stop flights are available! This will cut that travel time drastically and leave more time to experience and explore.

Pro-tip: Visit your preferred airline carriers website and check out their routes. The route maps provide a complete list of non-stop destinations from any city. This is one of my favorite ways to determine the trips I can take when I only have 2-4 days available.  The route map for United Airlines is located here.

Quick extended weekend trip to Mexico.
Quick extended weekend trip to Mexico.

Did Someone Say Road Trip?

I spent the majority of my summer traveling to the Hill Country in Texas. This is a beautiful area only 2-3 hours from my home that is filled with gorgeous lakes, bed and breakfasts, wineries, and so much more. From glamping to spending a weekend navigating and sipping wine up and down the Texas Wine Trail, there was plenty to get into. So pack a bag, grab some snacks, and hit the road with the fam or your girls. Every city has those areas within perfect driving distance that feel as though you’ve traveled far when you’re right in your backyard.

Pro tip: Hipcamp is a cool app that lists locations providing various camping and glamping experiences. Check out my first glamping experience in Texas here.

Stay Longer Without Using Vacation Time

When a weekend just won’t cut it and you need maybe one or two more days to make the vacation “complete” try extending the fun without using your personal vacation time. Yep, that’s a smart idea if you ask me! You could plan your trips around a holiday, extend your business trip a few days and stay over the weekend, or take a red-eye flight that allows you to travel during the evenings. If your company allows it, you could even work remotely. Just because you’re sitting on a beach with your laptop checking emails doesn’t mean you’re not working 😊. Am I right?

Pro tip: Working remotely does mean you do have to work and you have to be reachable. Start your day early, get your work done, and spend the rest of the day out and about (with your cell phone just in case)! And for those planning to travel around the holidays, you’ll need to confirm your travel plans earlier than normal as prices and availability can get ugly. You’re probably not the only one trying to get around that limited vacation thing.

Is your vacation time limited? If so, how do you get around it?

Follow @goingsomewheresoon_ on Instagram for more travel inspiration! Check me out on Facebook as well!

  1. Ari says:

    These are great ideas!! I was thinking of writing a similar post for this week and now I’m glad I didn’t!!

    You’ve stated everything perfectly!

  2. I’m very lucky to be living in Malaysia, being a country with one of the most holidays in the world! Haha! My European friends are always super surprised that every now and then, we are on public holiday!

    1. Shanna says:

      I wish America would step up to the plate on this! We seem to be so behind the rest of the world when it comes to work/life balance. You have to work a decade at a place just to get close to 5-6 weeks vacation time. Lucky you! #jealous

  3. Colby Holiday says:

    These are all awesome tips! It definitely takes a little finagling to get the most out of those 10 little measly vacation days. But, if travel is a priority you figure it out, or if you’re like me, book that super awesome flight deal and allude to the fact that if your job doesn’t approve your days, then for them to just go ahead and plan for you to be sick from June 5-12 lol. Jk…but only slightly.

  4. Paul Bowles says:

    Shanna!
    I love this! With my hectic schedule, I can’t plan a vacation earlier than 6 weeks in advance – MAX. It’s so stressful but I love your second suggestion – Split Your Vacation Into Smaller Trips! I will try this going forward. Thank you for sharing your tips!
    – Paul (Beyond Utah)

    1. Shanna says:

      Thanks Paul! Hopefully you get to take advantage of those last minute deals! Most of my weekend trips have almost no notice and a last minute deal is a lifesaver. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Great post! So many people don’t travel because they don’t realize how to maximize their days off and often feel intimidated at how to plan out their vacation days, i love that you include actionable tips people can use to really change their mindset!

    1. Shanna says:

      Yes, you hit the nail on the head! Vacation planning can be intimidating especially with so many options and ways to book. That’s why travel agents were so popular back in the day and are now regaining that momentum.

  6. These are great tips! I own my own business so vacation time is a significant luxury, especially after coordinating with clients. So, the weekend idea is fantastic and extending work travel. Love it! Thank you!

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