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Question of the Day: How Much Vacation Time Do You Use?

This article was written by in Career and Work. 24 comments.


I’ve been at my current company for six years now. That’s quite an accomplishment as I intended to work for this company for a short time while seeking out something more meaningful. As I’ve stayed with the company while moving around to a variety of departments, I’ve accrued to privilege of taking an increasing number of vacation days.

Here is our policy, modified a little bit for sake of quasi-anonymity. Every third year of service, an employee receives three more days added to their pool, starting with the first full year of employment. During employment before the first full year, vacation days are awarded at a rate of 1 days per month for the last six months of the year and 1.5 days per month for the first six months. 6 “sick days” are added to these totals, but they’re similar to vacation days in all respects except one: Don’t take more than 6 unplanned sick days in any 12 month period.

Any unused vacation days can be carried over to the following year with a maximum of half the total allotted vacation days. I have 24 vacation days this year (not including 6 sick days), plus 4 carried over from last year.

Last year, I took 17 out of the 28 total vacation days available to me. I should take more, particularly due to the health benefits of two-week vacations. Several studies show that Americans take fewer vacation days than workers in other countries, and we are awarded fewer days than workers in Great Britain and France. In 137, paid vacation is mandated for employers, but not in the United States.

Do American workers have a responsibility to take as few vacation days as possible? How many vacation days, or how much of your “allotment” do you take?

Published or updated June 9, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Brainy

I’m terrible for this… My last paycheck states that I have 296 hours of vacation time available — that works out to 37 days.

I can’t imagine taking that much time off though I see those around me doing just that. Perhaps I really am a workaholic.

But it does eat me up inside when I see how many paid hours I loose each year because I can’t carry over all of it… I wish my company had something similar to rollover minutes. Or maybe they could just pay me for the hours I don’t use each year — that’d be pretty sweet…

I know, I know, I should just use the hours…

Anyhow, this year I’ll be taking 6 days off for summer vacation. That’s a mere 48 hours off of my total. Sigh…

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avatar Jennson

I work at a private equity firm and the vacation days are pretty standard in financial services – 3 weeks vacation, after 5 years you get another week, which comes to 20 vacation days. Add on top of that 2 discretionary days an the occasional floating holiday if you were to work on a holiday and it easily runs higher than that. I’ve never been good at using my vacation days, but they actually encourage the staff to take days off so that you don’t burn yourself out from work.

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avatar Jon

My company only allows me to carry over 40 hours into a new year. So, I pretty much use it all (3 weeks).

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avatar Susan

I get 10 days off and I take each and every one of them. It’s hard juggling the school schedules and all the time off that the kids get with only 10 paid days off. I also schedule my “sick time” of 5 days for school holidays. I haven’t taken a sick day or a vacation day for my something other than day care in YEARS! Very sad.

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avatar Megan

I’m a federal employee with less than 3 years of service under my belt, so I get 4 hours a pay period, or 13 days a year. This year, I’ll probably end up taking about 9 or 10 days off, mostly because I would like to have a bit of padding as the year begins. I can carry over 240 hours, so that’s not a problem.

(I also get 13 sick days a year, which gets saved up for potential maternity leave – many, many years from now.)

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avatar Jeremy

I’m also terrible at this, and I actually have a fairly generous vacation policy. We also get to carry over a good number of days, and I checked this morning and I have about 280 hours, or 35 days left this year. The only days I’ve taken off in the past few years are a few right around the holidays, and sometimes to make a long weekend.

It is just tough because where I’m at, I’m sort of a one-man show, so if I take time off, I usually return to a mountain of work that kills any benefits the vacation may have had done to my stress levels. So I could easily take a week or two off, but then I’m faced with double the work when I get back. That usually kills any motivation for a vacation.

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avatar savvy

I get three weeks a year. Our vacation time rolls over until you get to around 10 weeks or so. Then you stop accruing any new vacation time.

I take all of my vacation and then some. I traveled a lot last year then two back to back vacations (Jan and Feb) for this year actually made me go negative. May was the first month (we accrue time monthly) I was back positive.

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avatar Emily

I started entry-level, so I started with 10 vacay days and gain 1 more each year. But people who start off in higher positions get more. Unfortunately, they don’t roll over past the next January. Some people here hardly ever go on vacation here, and end up taking long winter breaks just to use the days up before they expire. Not me, though! I’ve been out of college just over a year and am not ready to give up on summer breaks. I’m using all of my vacay days to go to Europe for two weeks, starting in about 10 days. Between those days, the two weekends in between, and the July 4th holiday, I’ll have a nice, long break. I think it is great for your sanity in addition to helping you be more cultured. Being well-traveled is so important, and I hate that so many people are such workaholics, they don’t ever get to really enjoy themselves. I plan to take advantage of my vacation days and use every single one doing something enjoyable. I just wish our country valued time off more and required we all get a certain amount of time off.

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avatar That One Caveman

I accrue 15 days of vacation over the course of a year and 5 days of sick leave. Right now my leave balance is sitting at 108 hours (13.5 days), but I’m banking a lot of that for December when we’re expecting our 2nd child to be born. Last time I only took a week off, but I have a feeling I’m going to have to take much more to care for both my wife and our first child.

We’re allowed to carry over some huge amount that I’ll never reach. If, by chance, you do reach your max, the company will cut you a check for 1 year’s worth of vacation so you can continue accruing.

I guess one reason I don’t take more vacations is that if I took off too much time, I would have a hard time convincing myself to return!

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avatar Kyle

I always take all my paid time off. It is part of my pay. Leaving a vacation day on the table is like turning down a raise. You wouldn’t turn down a raise, would you? Furthermore, leaving vacation days on the table ruins it for everybody else because it gives employers the impression they aren’t valued highly by workers. If enough people do this, they’ll stop offering them.

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avatar Mrs. Common Cents

I have about 3 weeks vacation (15 days) and have trouble “getting away”. Via our honeymoon last year, I’ve found a good solution – take one long (as in, 2-3 weeks or more) vacation and use the rest of your vacation when business is slow (4th of July should be a slow week this year, times around Christmas, etc.).

While out on extended vacation, it’s easier to experiment with delegating tasks, and you don’t come back to a huge pile of things to do.

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avatar plonkee

I’m in the UK and get 25 days as standard – I can sell up to 5 days and buy 15. We have to use all bar 5 of them each year. Last year I had 25 days and used 20. This year I have 30 days and plan to use 27 or 28.

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avatar Juggler314

I get 20 days vacation, 9 days personal time, but no real sick days (but as i’m fairly young (32) I think I have yet to ever take an actual sick day in my life (that is a day off due to actuall ilness)). So I effectively get 29 days, I also accrue comp time for weekend work or holiday work (comes up a few times/year due to the IT schedule). I never use all of it, but we have really good office policies so I essentially have unlimited carryover. I’d say I use about 25 days/year on average. I currently carryover another 25 or so from year to year, waiting for something to come up worth taking a month or two off for.

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avatar joana

I have been at my company for almost 4 years and I get 10 days vacation per year. I would get 15 days only after 5 years of employment… We can’t carry over any vacation days to the next year. They are all lost January 1st. Needless to say, I use it all and wish I had more vacation time. Every couple of years I go to Europe to see my parents, and 2 weeks is not enough.

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avatar Randy

I receive 4 weeks vacation, one week PTO, personal time off, which replaced sick leave. I use every minute of vacation and PTO every year. Use it, or lose it, no carry over, no selling vacation back, no buying more.

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avatar JoeTaxpayer

I get 32 days PTO (paid time off) which includes sick time, so I think of it as 4 weeks vacation, two weeks sick time.
I try to use it all by taking aweek at a time when school is out. If I had no child, I’d not use it all.
Joe

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avatar Velvet Jones

I’ve been with my company for 5 years and accumulate 21 days of PTO (paid time off), plus we’re give 2 floating holidays to use, along with the usual federal holidays. We are allowed to carry over up to 15 days to the next year. Every five years employees are given an extra bonus 5, 10, 15, etc. days of PTO to use.

I ALWAYS carry over 15 days to the next year. 2008 was my “bonus” year. So I started on Jan.1 of 2008 with 8 weeks of vacation before accumulating the 3 weeks I would normally get. Sweet! So why do I carry over the time? Two reasons:

1. Just in case I need it for long vacation, illness, etc.
2. That’s extra money for me should I live the company.

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avatar Ed

I work for a coporation and get a standard 2 weeks after a year, 3 weeks at 5 years, 4 weeks at 10 and 5 weeks at 15 or 20, can’t remember which. I’m salaried so don’t really get sick time, but ‘salary continuance’.
I can carry over 40 hours to the next year, but anything more is lost.
The biggest problem is that I’m a pharmacist and finding a replacement to cover my shift is nearly impossible, so I cannot take my vacation or at least take it in any lump sum. Sometimes I take a day here and a day there, but it is at the mercy of me finding my own coverage.

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avatar Matt

Last year was the first year that I took two full weeks off in my working career and I have to say that it was totally worth it. Right now I have no vacation time as I’m a contract worker and if I’m not working I’m not getting paid. I think people in North America take too little of their time off, there are great stress relief benefits to taking what we’re owed and if we did maybe the overall business world wouldn’t be as tightly wound a place if we did.

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avatar juggler314

In 2005 I took a full month off to drive cross country, something I have been wanting to do for years. It was, without a doubt, one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. First off a whole month without work was great, second off, I got to see parts of the country I never would have on “standard” vacations. I’d love to do it again, but on a longer trip – cross country + alaska – unfortunately I don’t know if I’d be able to swing a 2 month long vacation and now that *everything* is so expensive I find myself drifting to cheaper vacations (read ones that don’t involve 15,000 miles of driving – alaska is really far away…).

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avatar beth

I get just over four weeks (21 days) plus holidays. I tend to use pretty much all of it, too! I always take a week at Christmas, and often have visitors, and am taking a two week vacation in September, and a long weekend for a camping trip in October, and just came back from a week’s vacation.. let’s just say that losing my time has NEVER been a problem!

Of course my first job out of college came with six weeks’ vacation, so I got into the practice of taking time off pretty early. I’d like to accumulate a chunk so I can take a month off at some point, but so far… not so good.

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avatar Kevin

We get:
-2 weeks vacation
-6 days personal time
-2 “celebration” (use for anything) days

Comes to 18 days off, plus six major holidays.

We can roll over 1 week of vacation and 3 days of personal time, so in theory I should be using 5 vacation, 3 personal, and 2 celebration for a total of 10 days off per year. I think I did it last year pretty well.

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avatar Mark

One of the challenges that I and many in my company (a professional services firm that contracts with the Federal government) struggle with is that, despite the fact that we’re given a generous 25 days of personal time a year, one of the primary performance metrics that we are evaluated against is our “utilization rate” – that is, the number of billable hours charged per cycle. In other words, we’re encouraged to maintain a work-life balance by making use of vacations and firmwide holidays, but every day that we use eats away at the primary measure used to determine promotions and raises.

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avatar Krise

I spent the best 4 days 3 nights in the Caribbean at an escorts resort in the DR, with great services and escorts in private beach front villas. The erotic vacations resort also has golf court, fishing, casino and whole lot more at all inclusive packages.

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