Tips for Optimizing Your Time Off

"You Americans work too hard and hardly take breaks." That’s what my friend from the UK tells me anytime he visits the US and I must say I agree with him.

PTO in the US can be very limited and they make you believe that work will not go on without you, but this is not the truth.

I have been both a part of a large corporation and an independent contractor. While being an independent contractor has its drawbacks, I much prefer the work-life balance that is available with the flexible schedule. 

Having to optimize my PTO in the past, I wanted to share a few tips that can help you improve your work-life-vacation balance in 2023. 

Woman in a lounge chair on a beach

Plan your breaks around long holiday weekends

Martin Luther King Jr Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day and Columbus Day holidays all fall on a Monday. That means you have a 3-day weekend if your company observes these holidays. You can easily get 9-10 vacation days if you plan your vacation around this holiday weekends.  

Plan your breaks around your weekend off 

This applies mostly to people that do shift work. Healthcare workers in most places have one or more weekends off within the month. You can plan a short vacation around your weekend off.

Swap shifts with your colleagues 

While this is common practice in some workplaces, it is important to apply caution here. Most places have policies in place that can be implemented to manage shift swaps for the benefit of everyone. Swapping shifts definitely helps when you need to stretch those vacation days without using too many of your PTO days and it can benefit both the swapper and swappee (sic). 

Take all your vacation days at once 

For some people, taking a really long break from work can be rejuvenating. They feel refreshed and ready to tackle work for the rest of the year. If you are one of those people, and your company can afford to let you go for that long, by all means, go far, far away and have some fun while at it.

Two women in a car on a road trip having fun

If any of the suggestions above don’t apply to you, don’t lose hope yet. You can still have maximum fun on short vacation days

  • Travel to other cities within your state or plan a road trip to neighboring states. As an independent contractor, I look forward to long weekend holidays. I plan trips to neighboring cities or states. Nothing more than a 3-hour drive typically. 
  • Maximize all your days for fun activities 

If you can afford it, take direct flights to your vacation destination so you don’t waste valuable time at airports 

  • Plan ahead for each day but be flexible to change 
  • A staycation can be an amazing option. You can explore your city, visit some museums, go to a festival, visit restaurants and check off other places on your list.

It is always good to take time off from the rat race because the race never stops. So, make an effort to do something fun as the year unfolds but don’t feel bad if things don’t go according to plan. I have been planning a trip to Paris for the last 3 years myself, so you are not alone. The dream of things I will do in Paris keeps my hope alive though. Someday, it will happen! This I believe. Always be open to new adventures home and away. You don’t have to take that big vacation to have maximum fun. 

As a side note, ALWAYS take loads of pictures, those captured memories will keep you going until your next trip away from work or home. 

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