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Updated Feb 12, 2024

The Best Time of the Year to Take Vacation

Taking time off is crucial ― but getting away from work can be challenging.

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Jennifer Post, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Strategy
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There’s no question that the United States has an unhealthy vacation culture. According to the Pew Research Center, 46 percent of U.S. workers don’t use all their allotted vacation time amid worries about falling behind or burdening co-workers.

Still, time off is crucial for mental and physical health and can help rejuvenate workers and replenish creativity. Whether you’re a beleaguered employee or a business owner trying to craft optimal vacation policies, understanding the best time to leave an office is crucial. 

We’ll explain how to evaluate your industry and business needs to determine the best time to take vacations without creating undue stress on yourself and others. 

When to consider taking a vacation

Planning time off work for a vacation can seem daunting while dealing with ceaseless deadlines and projects. However, specific windows of time may make sense in your company or industry. Consider the following times when taking time off can be a win-win. 

1. Take vacations during your business’s offseason.

Dayne Shuda, founder of Ghost Blog Writers, says the best time to take a vacation in the business world is when other professionals are also vacationing. For example, if your industry peers seem to be vacationing at the beach in the summer or traveling for family gatherings, it might be a great time for you to take time off as well.

“The holiday season in late December is a good time,” Shuda noted. “It also seems that the Fourth of July week is less busy in the U.S.”

However, your industry may dictate your company’s vacation time options. For example, hospitality and retail businesses may consider the holiday season their busiest time of the year. For them, January might be a better employee vacation time option. 

Talk to your managers to determine your business’s offseason so you can plan a getaway that won’t impact the company’s bottom line. 

Did You Know?Did you know
Taking a vacation as a small business owner can be particularly challenging. Scheduling vacations during business slowdowns is key.

2. Schedule vacations during project or department lulls. 

Consider requesting paid time off (PTO) when your colleagues are scheduled to work and your presence isn’t as necessary. Project and departmental lulls might also be excellent times to take a vacation. Of course, you must discuss time-off requests with your manager as early as possible so they have time to reassign any work while you’re out.

Lisa Chu, founder of Black N Bianco, says her company takes employee vacations very seriously because they help create necessary boundaries for a positive work-life balance. “We put in place a very simple vacation-request policy,” Chu explained. 

Marielle Smith, head of people operations at Material Security, advises employees to give as much lead time as possible when requesting time off. If the vacation is a week or longer, Smith asks that they at least give a month’s notice.

“The best time is when other team members aren’t taking off, so it’s best to put requests in early and coordinate with others if possible,” Smith advised.

3. Schedule vacations when you’re in between jobs.

Regardless of your business or industry, a great time to vacation is when you don’t have to request time off or leave unfinished assignments behind. Experts say you should take at least a week off between jobs if you can afford to skip a paycheck. Ask your new employer to push out your starting state (if possible) to accommodate time for a mental reset.

When you start a new job, you’ll likely need to wait six months or so before asking for time off, so your time between jobs might be your last chance for time off for a while. 

Did You Know?Did you know
Even companies with unlimited PTO and generous paid leave can implement blackout dates for vacation time. Check with human resources or your manager to determine the best time for your vacation.

Why it’s important to take vacations 

While it’s wise to choose a vacation time that works best for you and your employer, maintaining your mental health is critical. If you are experiencing burnout, lacking creativity or notice a decline in your physical health, book a trip ASAP. 

Here are some top reasons why vacations are essential.

1. Vacations help prevent burnout.

Businesses are right to worry about employee burnout ― it’s a significant factor contributing to decreased productivity, high turnover and a lack of employee engagement. Vacations are a great time to step away and combat or prevent burnout.

Smith’s company is a huge proponent of vacation time. However, it goes a step further and encourages staff to shut off entirely during that time ― meaning no work emails or phone calls.

“We never want our employees to feel guilty or that their job is in jeopardy if they take a vacation,” Chu noted. “Happy and well-balanced employees are the most productive, efficient and creative.”

TipBottom line
To help prevent employee burnout, employers should strive for manageable workloads, offer flexible scheduling and promote mental health days.

2. Taking vacations can boost productivity and creativity.

It’s common knowledge that stress impacts productivity. However, employee vacations can lower stress while boosting productivity and creativity. Stepping away and gaining a fresh perspective reset the body and mind and can improve attitudes and motivation. Some of the highest-achieving workers use more vacation days than average employees and underachievers. 

“Going from staring at screens for most of the day to closing your eyes while soaking in the sun on a beach is just like pushing the recharge button,” explained Christine VanDoren, owner of Edge of Longevity, an online personal training company. “Studies have shown that taking a step back from a project or piece of writing allows you to reduce your own bias toward the work and develop a new perspective. Tackling problems with a new mindset leads to more creative solutions.”

Workers at every level must use their creative side at work, so it’s just as crucial for business owners and CEOs to use their PTO as it is for hourly employees.

3. Vacations can help improve physical health.

In one often-cited study, participants were asked to take five vacations; the study’s authors assessed participants’ metabolic states before and after each one. Findings revealed that “metabolic syndrome” (a group of conditions that raise the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes) decreased nearly 25 percent with each vacation.

Indeed, the mind and body work so closely together that if one is unwell, the other will be too. 

“Working without an extended break can make you quite unwell,” cautioned Jeremy Yamaguchi, founding partner of Splash and former CEO of Lawn Love. “Stress can cause a number of physical and mental health problems and it can also cause interpersonal problems in your marriage and with your family. Being a workaholic shouldn’t be a virtue, especially when it very often obliterates productivity as burnout hits.”

How to maximize your vacation days

We all look forward to taking vacations. Consider the following tips for maximizing your vacation time and reaping its rewards. 

1. Plan ahead for your vacation.

Planning your vacation brings more satisfaction than you may realize. You’ll have something to look forward to and the planning process helps you visualize the trip. 

In your planning process, find ways to mitigate your stress further and maximize your enjoyment. For example, nonstop flights may be a little more expensive, but they can save travel time and reduce headaches. The time you get to spend at your destination makes up for the additional cost of the flight, as long as it’s within your budget. 

Careful planning is especially vital for entrepreneurs running a one-person show or business owners with only a few employees. They still need to get away and unwind, but meticulous planning is more critical. 

2. Travel during a given destination’s offseason.

Consider traveling during less popular times for your destination. Traveling at off-peak times can save you from long lines and delays and even help you score some deals. 

When planning your trip, consider how much time you have. If you have a lot of time, consider traveling to less accessible places. For example, save a trip to Australia for when you have ample time off and choose a local beach trip when you only have a long weekend. 

3. Combine your days off with weekends and holidays.

Depending on your allotted vacation time, maximize your time off by wrapping vacation days around a weekend or holiday to make the most of your time away. Try not to take all your vacation days at one time ― no matter how enticing that may seem. Instead, space out your vacation days to achieve more balance. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to take two weeks off to gain the positive effects of vacationing. Even a short trip can benefit your physical and mental health and creativity. 

FYIDid you know
PTO policies exist for a reason. Employers should establish and communicate a clear PTO policy to ensure employees feel comfortable using their allotted time.

4. Leave the guilt behind when you take a vacation.

Part of maximizing your vacation days means enjoying the days you take. If you’re constantly worried about what you’ll walk back into when you return to work or if you feel guilty, enjoying vacation can be challenging. 

“I think the guilt that coincides with taking time away from work is our society’s obsession with productivity,” explained Ravi Parikh, owner of Parikh Financial. “Our society often measures a person’s worth with how productive they are on a given day. This is unhealthy and unsustainable. We must remind ourselves to prioritize our mental and physical well-being and take vacations when we can and want.”

Julie Thompson and Carlyann Edwards contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Jennifer Post, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Strategy
Jennifer Post brings a decade of expertise to her role as a trusted advisor for small business owners. With a strong foundation in marketing, funding, human resources and more, she teaches entrepreneurs about the software and tools necessary for launching and scaling successful ventures. From email marketing platforms to CRM systems, she ensures businesses have the technological edge they need to thrive while also sharing best practices for everyday operations. Post's recent focus on risk management and insurance underscores her commitment to equipping business owners with the services needed to safeguard their businesses for long-term success. Her advice has appeared in Fundera, The Motley Fool and HowStuffWorks.
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