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How to Maximize Paid Time Off and Take More Vacations

maximize paid time off and take more vacations

According to Zenefits, the average US employee gets 10 days of paid time off after one year of service with the company. When looking at larger corporations (those with more than 100 employees), that number jumps to 12 days of paid time off after one year of service. Once you get to 5 years of service, the number jumps to about 15 days of paid time off per year. I want to help you maximize paid time off and take more vacations this year.

Learn how to maximize your paid time off and be able to take more vacations to places like Hawaii.

When I started my first corporate job at a major investment bank, I started with 15 days of paid leave, with bonus days if I worked on three holidays, President’s Day Columbus Day, and Veteran’s Day. So we are getting all of this time off but less than half of all Americans use 100% of their allotted PTO.

How much Paid Time off do Americans use?

In 2017 a research group called Project Time Off surveyed Americans about their vacation habits over the past year. While the overall results suggested that American’s took the highest number of paid days off in seven years, almost a quarter of those surveyed said they hadn’t taken any paid days off in over a year, and fifty-two percent said they didn’t use all of their allotted paid time off.

What’s preventing you from taking more vacations?

Learn how to maximize your paid time off and be able to take more vacations to places like Europe.

Based on conversations I’ve had and asking y’all on Instagram, the main thing that prevents people from taking more vacation is the monetary factor. Luckily I’ve written several blog posts showing you how to use credit card points, airline miles, and hotel points to take extraordinary luxury vacations for next to nothing, like my first class flight to Bali for less than $200, or how I got $30,000 worth of Emirates first class flights for just $160.

Trips don’t have to be halfway around the world, although the dollar does go a long way in South East Asia, seeing new places even if its a national park a couple of hours drive from your house, or a staycation at your local beach resort will increase your happiness and productivity and also widen your perspective about how life is away from home.

Learn how to maximize your paid time off and be able to take more vacations to places like Big Sur.

The next thing limiting people from taking more vacations was their limited paid time off. Most people either don’t use their paid time off or fail to use it strategically to make the most of those precious few vacation days.

How to plan your vacations to maximize paid time off

In my roughly three years of working in corporate America, I developed a strategy to use my paid time off that maximized the number of trips I could take each year. My company counted sick days different than vacation days, so I could use up all of my vacation days without having to worry about getting sick and not having any days left, but in my strategy, I’ve built in 3-4 days per year if your company does things differently. This will obviously get a little trickier if you have children in school, but even then the idea is the same.

Maximize Paid Time Off Days by booking around Monday Bank Holidays

Every year we have 5 bank holidays that are guaranteed to be on Mondays, MLK Jr. Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day. That’s 5 opportunities for a three day weekend without using any PTO. If you request Thursday and Friday, or Friday and Tuesday you’ve just given yourself a 5-day window for taking a trip while only using 2 days of your paid time off. You can do this around all five Monday bank holidays and get 25 days of vacation while using only 10 days of PTO. Personally, I would use this strategy around two or three of the Monday bank holidays and take an extra day or two giving me two or three week-long trips over the course of a year.

Learn how to maximize your paid time off and be able to take more vacations to places like Amsterdam.

These holidays typically don’t fall around spring or winter break, so you may also find better deals on airfare or hotels during these times. I try to avoid using paid days off during the winter holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years mostly because they are the busiest times of the year and they are the best time to spend at home with loved ones, but you can totally use this strategy if the holiday falls on a Monday or Friday.

What days should I book my flights to maximize paid time off?

Learn how to maximize your paid time off and be able to take more vacations to places like Utah.

To maximize your paid time off you should book your flights to depart the night before your first PTO day, so if you’ve booked Friday-Tuesday, you should try and depart after work on Thursday. Sometimes this isn’t possible due to flight schedules and how they coincide with your workday if that is the case leave as early as possible the next morning. Early morning flights have less of a chance of being delayed due to maintenance, and you get more time at your destination!

Bonus Freebie!

So you understand the strategy, but now you have to put it into action. I’ve made it way easier! Below you can sign up and I will send you a printable calendar for 2019 and 2020 highlighting and listing what days to request off to maximize paid time off for the next two years!

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Americans get about 10 PTO days/year, yet more than half don't use them. My strategy will maximize your paid time off and allow you to take more vacations.


  1. Jamila says:

    Please send me a printable calendar for 2019 and 2020 please

    • peterrickloff says:

      Hi There! There is a box above where you enter your email and it will automatically send or prompt a download. The box has a hot air balloon on it.

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