National Plan for Vacation Day – Where Will it Take You?

Heather and Kayla at Grand Canyon

Almost half of Americans households don’t plan for vacation and lose out on their time off. And each year, more vacation days go unused. In 2018, 768 million vacation days went unused, which is up 9% from the previous year. That is why the last Tuesday in January is the National Plan for Vacation Day. Yep, you heard that right. A day designated for you to plan your vacations out for the entire year.

Heather and Kayla at Grand Canyon
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Vacation Day Stats

So, why aren’t people taking their vacation days? Some of the reasons are that there is a fear of returning to more work than when you left, the belief that no one else can do your job as good as you, the inability to afford taking time off, the fear of being seen as replaceable, and to show dedication to the company by being a team player. Did you know that 236 million ultimately forfeited their days, and that resulted in $65.5 billion in lost benefits? Why are you letting these go? Don’t let them disappear! 83% of Americans want to use their time off, and if they all went on vacation, there would be 151.5 billion in additional travel spending, and it would create 2 million more jobs. Think about that!

Health Benefits in Taking Your Vacation DaysHeather in Florence, Italy

The health risks in not using your vacation days are proven. Working long hours can increase the risk of a stroke, heart disease, and can lead to sleep deprivation, which can lead to diabetes. But, if you do take all of your vacation days, you can return to work rested, relaxed, and recharged, which gives you more energy to get things done when you return. Plus, taking a vacation can help you avoid burnout. The other health benefits in using all of your vacation days are:

  • An annual holiday can cut the risk of a heart attack by 50%
  • Middle-aged men, at high risk of coronary heart disease, who take frequent annual vacations, reduced their chances of dying from coronary heart disease by 32%
  • Women who vacation infrequently (once every six years or less) are twice as likely to develop myocardial infarction or coronary death
  • Blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels are reduced even by taking a short holiday of 1-3 days

I can also attest to the health benefits of traveling and going on vacations. Before I decided to become a digital nomad, I was working 50-60 hours a week in a very stressful job. I was planning a big vacation to go on a safari in Tanzania and needed to get my vaccinations. After an eye-opening routine doctor visit, I had to go on high blood pressure medicine for the first time. Being the same age as my dad (46) when he passed away, made me re-evaluate my life and what was important. The number one thing was my health! Now a year later, of full-time traveling, I am down 40+ pounds, off blood pressure medication, and completely happy and healthy! I know that everyone can’t do what I did and quit your job to travel. But, the benefits of using all of your vacation days cannot be understated. Which is an excellent reason to participate in the National Plan For Vacation Day.

Learn to Plan

There are so many tools online that can help you to plan your journeys on the National Plan for Vacation Day. The U.S. Travel Association has a nifty online planning tool that you can use here. Or, you can email your favorite full-time travel blogger (that would be me), and I can see if I can help you research your trip ( I use Pinterest for research) and give you some great ideas to add to your itinerary. I can also help you find cheap flights if that is what you struggle with. I use Skyscanner to help me find the cheapest flights. The other great ideas to help you make the most of your limited vacation days are below. Free flight comparison with Skyscanner, your flight search starts here!

Take a Road TripKayla and Heather in Philadelphia at the Liberty Bell

One of the cheaper ways to take a vacation is to take a road trip. You can pack up a cooler and head out to a new destination in your state or a neighboring one. I’ve taken road trips for a weekend to see the fall colors or a week-long trip to Philadelphia from Michigan. As long as your car is ready for the road, this is the easiest way to see a new town. Here is a handy, dandy packing list for your road trips.

Be a Local TouristHeather trying on hats at Greenfield Village

Have you ever explored the town where you live? You might be surprised by what you will find in your backyard. Try going to festivals, local museums, and farmer’s markets. If you want more ideas, check out your local city’s tourism board. They will have a calendar of events of things for you to do, along with lots of other ideas of places to visit.

Extend Your Work Trip

If it is possible, look into extending your stay while you are on a work trip. See if you can stay for an extra day or two, which can give you more time to explore the town. If your work trip butts up to a weekend, go a day earlier or stay a day later to relax before you have to be at work. Sometimes companies will cover the costs for switching your flight, but if they don’t see if they will let you cover the difference. Then you can explore to your heart’s content.

Take Long WeekendsMadison and Heather on an Architecture Boat Tour in Chicago

Maximize your vacation time by scheduling your time off on Friday’s or Monday’s. Planning visits to a lot of places during the year can be achieved if you use those long weekends. You can see a lot more or travel further when you have three days off. You can leave on a Thursday night and be back on Sunday, ready for work the next day, all refreshed.

Attend ConferencesHeather on a tour at NASA in Huntsville

Attending conferences for work can give you a lot of opportunities to see a new town. After the meeting is over for the day, go out and try a new restaurant or see a play. If you have time off during the afternoon, you can see if there are tours that last 1-2 hours. You can try to find tours for food, street art, or a walking tour. If you are going with a group from work, see if they want to do something as well. I’ve been able to try Korean BBQ with a group of work people that I would never have tried on my own.

Book Direct Flights for Quick Weekend Trips

To maximize your weekend time in a new city, look at booking a direct flight. Use Skyscanner and search for flights from your airport to Everywhere and see where it can take you on the cheap. Flights leaving on Friday night and returning on Sunday night are not always the most affordable, but if you are short on time, you can make it work.

Take Red-Eye FlightsCaesars Palace in Las Vegas

Scheduling red-eye flights back home can be a great way to maximize every bit of time you have off to see a new place. You can usually find red-eye flights out west to come back east. This is a great way to have a weekend adventure in Las Vegas or a sunny weekend in California.

Extend a Layover to See a New City

Extending your layover at an airport is an ingenious way to explore a new city. The best way to do this is to make sure you have four or more hours between flights. Then check to see if there are tour operators that offer quick tours from the airport. It also helps if the destination is relatively close to the airport. You can usually find free tours from airports in Asia like Singapore, Taiwan, and Tokyo. Even Salt Lake City has tours from its airports. You will have to secure your luggage while you are on the tours. Most airports have luggage storage available to leave your bags while you go and explore the city.

Consider Unpaid Leave Opportunities

This is an option for those who have some savings put aside to be able to leave work for a certain amount of time. In Europe, it is very common for people to take gap years. A gap year is usually the year between high school and university where they go off and travel. But, there is no reason you can’t do this at any point in your life. I have one friend that is amid her unpaid leave and enjoying the time of her life following her dream of being a Disney show ice skater. You can choose to do anything or travel anywhere while on your unpaid leave.

Add Travel to Your List of GoalsHeather and Great Escapes Group in Beaver Village

When you add travel to your list of goals, you become accountable to yourself in achieving it. Which means taking the time to plan it and go on that vacation. Whether it is a bucket list travel destination or something closer to home, writing down you are going to travel will give you something to shoot for. You can also give yourself an incentive for completing your goals, which would make it even harder not to do it.

Add Vacation Days to Long HolidaysHeather in Africa on a Jeep Safari tour

Adding your vacation days in front and back of holidays is an excellent way to plan your vacation. I’ve been doing this for years, especially around Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and Easter. Having a holiday during the middle week allows you to have over a week to travel somewhere further. I was able to travel to Africa over the Thanksgiving holiday. And I wouldn’t have been ready to fly that distance and go on a safari if I hadn’t been able to add the two holiday days off to my vacation days.

Negotiate for More Vacation Days

Negotiating for more vacation days is an option for you to do before you take a new job. There is always a standard amount of vacation days given to new employees. If you have the experience to back it up, go ahead and request what is provided to comparable employees in your field, especially if it is more days. And if the company allows you to buy more days, do it! The amount you have to pay to buy the extra vacation days is well worth the value you get for taking those days off.

Spend Less Time with the FamilyHeather at My Son Sanctuary

This last option is probably the most controversial. If you are a family member who lives away from everybody, you will be the one who has to travel most often for the holidays. Flying to and from your family for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays takes a toll on your bank account and your sanity when traveling is not returned in the other direction. Sometimes it is perfectly okay to take a break and go somewhere new for the holidays. Talk to them and let them know that you won’t be there for a holiday. If you do go someplace new, make sure to call your family on the actual day. Even if you aren’t physically there, let them know you are thinking of them.


The National Plan for Vacation Day is your day to plan your vacations for the entire year. Go ahead and make those plans. I hope that this post gives you some ideas to help you plan your awesome vacations for this years and the years after. Because taking your vacation leads only to good things and why not do something to improve your health and sanity! Where are you planning to go now?

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Further Reading

If you are thinking of planning your next vacation, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:

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