How I maximise annual leave

by Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders

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‘You’re going on holiday again?’ Or ‘You’re always on holiday!’ Any travel addict like myself will resonate with hearing these words. Every time I mention I am going on another trip there is undoubtedly some comment from someone in the office. And yes, I do go away a lot, mainly because I am savvy with how I maximise annual leave. So here are my tips on how you can do the same to maximise annual leave.

Planning the year well in advance

Firstly, I obviously know exactly how many days I have and so think carefully about what I want to achieve in a year. My travel pattern is usually that I take one ‘big’ trip a year, which uses up a larger chunk of my annual leave. Then I use the rest for shorter city or beach breaks.

My company’s annual leave policy works slightly differently from some in that it is from my birthday to birthday, so in my case March to March. As I like to go skiing every year I have to make sure I save 5 days for that at the end of my year.

But by working out exactly how much leave I have left at the beginning of the year, means I can plan carefully to maximise annual leave I do have. It does mean I don’t get the chance to be as spontaneous however, which isn’t as ideal. I am trying to leave one or two spare days to jump on a last minute trip if I can!

Long Weekends

I find I start to get very itchy feet if I haven’t been on a plane for a while, I am sure many will sympathise with the feeling! Therefore rather than using all my holiday days at the same time, I use one or two here and there for long weekends away. Perfect for city breaks, and I am working on ticking off my European bucketlist, or for beach breaks. If you’re looking for the perfect beach break, Menorca is a good option!

My other suggestion is to take a Friday and Monday off work. I find having two, four day weeks at work makes the trip feel even longer! And coming back to work that bit easier knowing you don’t have a full week to get through.

Maximise annual leave through work Trips

If you are lucky enough to travel for work, then I would definitely recommend taking one or two days to add onto your trip. Your work should pay for flights and travelling would count as a work day. Plus your hotel would be paid for during the time you are away for work. It means you can get a bit of time to explore a destination, without having to take extra days for annual leave. And at the cost of a couple of nights in a hotel. An easy way to maximise annual leave days.

I recently went to Scotland for work (so far as far as I have travelled with work) and I took the chance to visit St Andrews for a morning. It certainly felt like I had managed to get a bit of a break. I even managed to fall completely in love with Scotland and am now desperately planning a return trip.

Bank holidays

This is a fairly obvious one, as bank holidays essentially offer those ‘free’ days. If you are looking to go for European trip, do expect prices to be staggeringly higher. This is unfortunately the sacrifice you must make for making the most of the bonus day.

However, I planned my trip to Mongolia (read more here) over the August bank holiday, which meant I had to take one less day of annual leave. One extra day I put towards a long weekend, thus maximising annual leave days. And with a destination such as Mongolia, the fact it was a bank holiday didn’t affect the price.

Checking the calendar carefully

Similar to the above tip. The first thing I do when planning how to maximise annual leave days is to check the calendar for when Easter and May bank holiday fall. 2019 and is a good year for being able to maximize annual leave days over this period. I have booked a trip from the 19th April to the 6th May. Because of the way the days fall over the long Easter weekend and the May Bank Holiday, I am able to take all these days for only 9 days annual leave. I always try and plan my ‘big’ trip over bank holidays, and now will definitely be looking at how Easter falls.

Likewise, Christmas is a good time to get a few extra days off. Although, for me, Christmas is a family time so I am not sure I would be able to bring myself to be away! I do usually go away for New Year though, and New Years Day is another ‘free’ day.

Lieu days

This one is a godsend for me. I only get 23 annual leave days a year, which is never enough. But because I work in events this sometimes involves working at weekends. If I work a day at the weekend, I get to take a days lieu. It has to be taken within reason of course, but it does mean I can garner a few extra long weekends here and there.

This year I will have taken 9 days lieu. Out of these I have used 1 in addition to my annual leave to go on my yearly trip to North Norfolk, 4 for a break in Menorca and 1 for a long weekend in Slovenia.

It is wise to be a bit careful with this, as lieu is not meant to be stored up for holidays, but more to recover having work over long weekends. However, Menorca was the perfect way to recover!

Buy back holiday or unpaid leave

If your company offers you this option, then lucky you! Last year I did take a weeks unpaid leave, as having changed jobs meant changed annual leave calendars and so I didn’t have enough holiday left for skiing! Disaster.

However, be wise with this one. If, having planned your year out meticulously, you realise you don’t have enough holiday and need to take unpaid leave, then this is my tip. Spread it out over a few trips. Don’t take it all at the same time. You will notice one day’s less pay in your pay check than you will a whole week. Trust me, February was hard.

Carefully planning flights

There are two elements to this to help maximise annual leave. Firstly, try and look for evening flights. If you are going away for a weekend, take a flight Friday evening and then late back Sunday night. This is exactly what I did for Amsterdam. I had an evening and two full days away and didn’t have to take any annual leave.

When planning longer trips, fly on the first day and fly back late on the last. When I go to Egypt next year, I am joining a group tour. But I am flying out really early that day, meaning I don’t have to take any extra annual leave.

Secondly, the red eye. This one is not for the faint hearted. When coming back from my amazing New Year’s trip to New York, I took the overnight flight home. We took off at 6pm local time (EST), landed at 6am GMT (which was midnight EST) and then I drove straight from the airport to the office. I arrived at about 10am and did a full days work. It was not the best day of my life. Much hilarity from my colleagues laughing at my jet lagged, exhausted state. But I survived, had a vaguely productive day and saved a days annual leave. It does help that there is a shower in my office.

So there you have it. My tips on how maximise annual leave you have. Are there any other tips you would add?

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jasonlikestotravel September 18, 2018 - 12:28 pm

Some great tips here. I’m not sure how people in other countries (such as the US) get by on something like 2 weeks annual leave! 🙁

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders September 18, 2018 - 1:53 pm

Thanks Jason! I literally have no idea!! I struggle enough as it is

jennasworldview September 25, 2018 - 9:48 am

Great tips, I only get 25days and I already have a big trip planned to next year, but I need to maximise my days and make the most of it.

Charlie - Where Charlie Wanders September 25, 2018 - 2:07 pm

I only get 24! It is a really struggle! But I absolutely make the most of it


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