Vacation might-as-well be a hotly traded commodity here in the U.S. We're, for the most part, a hard working people, and sometimes it is hard to convince us to take all of our vacation days.
Unless you're a hard working teacher, who gets a well-deserved 3-4 months off throughout the year or a politician who gets 11 months off a year - you probably get about "2 weeks" of vacation. Otherwise known as 10 days. 10 days! Fortunately, that does not include holidays, personal days (sometimes called "floating holidays"), or sick days. And God forbid you don't use them all in one year! Yeah, because if you don't, more likely than not, they'll simply disappear at the end of December. Poof! Doesn't seem fair does it? Well, life's not fair. So get over it.
Tricks to make the most of your vacation
Something I highly recommend doing is using them to extend a long weekend you may get because of a holiday. Let's use 2015 as an example. Next Christmas is on Friday. So is New Year's Day. Christmas Eve is on Thursday, December 24. Consider this:
You can take the same approach with a three day weekend stretching it into a long 4 day weekend. In the past, if a holiday weekend started on a Friday I'd take the next Monday off. Because suck-it, Monday. But a co-worker and I were talking recently - and to us - it seems like the week is even longer when you're off on Monday! I mean, am I wrong? So I think I'm gonna change that approach this upcoming year and take a Thursday or Tuesday off (depending on when the holiday is).
Don't use vacation days first
You read that right. Remember those "personal days" or "floating holidays" that we talked about (additionally, any comp days you get for working a holiday)? Come January, when everything resets itself, use those before you use any vacation days.
On the off chance that you're laid off (relax, I said "on the off chance"!), the company you work for will most likely pay you for your unused vacation days. I can't say for certain that every company does this but I would guess it's a practice most companies do. They won't, however, pay you for your unused floating holidays. So use them up before you start chipping away at your 10 days of vacation.
Personally, I'm of the view that you should only use sick days when you (or your kids/pets) are sick. I know other people don't feel the same, because like my vacation days, my unused sick days disappear at the end of the year when if I don't use them all. Call me lucky, but I don't get sick very often. Which means I don't use many of my sick days. If you, however, use your sick days as additional "personal" days then it's likely you get an extra five or six days off throughout the year.
I get it. It can be stressful trying to figure out when to use your vacation days to make the most of them. It may even cause you to use a sick day! But when you do figure it out - you want to make sure you enjoy the few days off you do get! I hope this helps.
Do you already use these techniques with your vacation days? Your sick days? Are there any other tricks you use?