The only thing more depressing than looking at your bank account after booking a major trip is figuring out how to best utilize your limited vacation time! PTO is daunting to manage. Coordinating time off with coordinators, managing upcoming deliverables and deadlines, and dreading a full inbox upon your return can all take some of the fun out of planning a trip. Managing PTO doesn’t always have to be stressful, however. Here’s how I manage going on multiple international trips a year within my allotted 18 days of PTO:
Have a Conversation with your boss.
Having PTO conversations can be nerve wracking, especially if you are new to a job or the workforce. Asking for a day off won’t get you fired (unless your boss is Miranda Priestly). Every work environment is different, but here’s how I approach the conversation:
When starting a new job I ask my manager if there any times of the month/year that are the busiest. This allows me to determine “no go” times to ask for PTO.
Ask your manager what the PTO policy is - You can’t plan if you don’t know! Make sure you know how far in advance you need to ask for time off and if your company has any policies about obtaining coverage while you’re out.
Utilize bank holidays
Memorial day, Labor Day & New Years are all “extra” days you can use to take a longer vacation without having to take extra PTO. I always try to leverage using one of these days when I take a week off since it only requires taking 4 PTO days. These are also great times of the year to take shorter trips without any PTO!
Work from home
Most companies offer some sort of flexibility to work from home. Leverage this. Need to leave at 3 PM for the airport to catch your 6 PM international flight? Bring your laptop and work from the airport while you wait to board instead of taking a half day off.
Work days no one else wants to
Let’s face it. If your company is open around the holidays someone has to be in the office the day before New Year’s or Thanksgiving. Offer to be that person. Being willing to work the days no one else wants to will make your boss more willing to give you flexibility with vacation time in the future. Also days before holidays tend to be slower, so it’s a great time to check off all the items on your to-do list that you’ve been pushing off.
Map out “Family” days in advance
Does your family always go to Florida for Christmas or New York for Thanksgiving? Since you already know this, account for any days you may need to take off for family trips at the beginning of the year. Now you know the remaining days you have for trips the rest of the year.
Extend work trips
Do you travel for work? Take advantage of this when you account for vacation time. Check with your employer to see if you can take work away days out of town, and spend time checking out the city you're in between WebEx meetings. You can also often cut down on travel time by connecting work and personal trips, which means less PTO needed for travel and more time to relax/explore your destination.