Canada normally comes out on top when it comes to standard of living surveys, but when it comes to paid vacation time, we’re tanking in the ratings. Canada came in second last in a recent survey of vacation time in developed countries, managing only to beat out Mexico. Canadians have, on average, 10 days of paid vacation time, and an additional 5 stat holidays for an average total of 15 days off per year. Compare that to the front runner, Russia, with 28 paid vacation days and 12 stat holidays.
It’s a pretty sad reality for us Canadians who want to escape the winter for half the year and seize every moment of the summer for the rest of it, but fortunately there are ways to maximize what little vacation time you have.
Piggy back on stat holidays
We get five national stat holidays per year and various provincial holidays depending on where you live, so make use of those to stretch out your holiday time, and make use of weekends too. Take the Canada Day long weekend, for example. July 1st falls on a Monday this year, so you can take four days of paid vacation and, using the holiday and two weekends, stretch that into a nine days off (four work days + one holiday + two weekends). And you’ve still got six vacation days left for the rest of the year.
Stretch out business trips
If your job requires you to travel, you know that business travel is definitely not the same as vacation travel, even if a change of time zones is involved, but you can tack vacation time on to a business trip to get a bit more bang for your buck. If your company is already covering the cost of a flight to and from a destination, see if you can stretch out the time that you’re there. You’ll need to take vacation time for the days you’re not working, but at least the airfare is covered.
Don’t waste too much holiday time on staycations
Staycations are all the rage and there’s certainly something to be said for exploring your own backyard like you’re a tourist. But if you want to get the most out of your vacation days, don’t use chunks of vacation time for just kicking around your backyard and catching up on laundry. Instead, combine long weekends and single days off for trips closer to home. Reserve your week off for something that allows you to really get away from it all.
Pick one spot and stay there
With only a limited amount of vacation time, you might feel a bit of an urge to cram in as much as you can, but that can do more harm than good. If you’re taking all of your vacation time at once, stick to one or two places rather than trying to fit in a mini-tour of Europe in two weeks. You’ll spend less time packing and unpacking and less time in transit between places, meaning you can relax, settle in and really feel like you’re on vacation, leaving you more relaxed when your vacation inevitably ends.
Stop taking your birthday off
I’ve never done it and I’ll never understand it, but there’s a tendency for people to take their birthday off as a vacation day. I get it — who wants to work on their birthday, but if vacation days are precious gems to you, don’t waste one of them on your special day. Chances are, few of your friends and loved ones will also have the day off so you’ll end up spending it alone. That’s not a terrible thing, but it’s a one-off day so you can’t get too far. Instead go to work on your birthday, enjoy the grocery-store cake and 15 minutes of attention and save that vacation day for another time. The only exception to this is if your birthday falls on the Monday or Friday before or after a long weekend. My birthday always seems to fall on a Tuesday, no matter what, so if this stroke of luck happens to you, seize it, take a four day birthday weekend and enjoy it.