Why you need to take that vacation time off even if you can’t get out of town and (how to enjoy it)
Half of American workers don’t take all their vacation days. Incredible. I actually could not believe it when I saw those statistics. And it’s not because Americans have a lot of paid vacation time. Lucky ones get 2 weeks vacation a year, and many don’t get any.
Compare that to a minimum of 20 days and up to 30 days a year in the European Union and it’s a real mystery why Americans give back to 2 weeks salary to their employer every year. Here is a good article on the subject.
If you have been guilty of this sin, because it’s a sin against yourself to not stop work and go out and play, I hope to make you change your ways this year and make the most of your vacation time even if you take a staycation instead of a trip around the world.
The biggest reason to take your vacation days is because it’s good for you. Plain and simple. In the olden days, people worked 6 and 7 days a week and vacation days were unheard of for many. People also died quite young in those days and I suspect many did die from overwork. (Still happens in Japan). More on this here
Time away from work is good for both your physical and your mental health, even if it’s a staycation, or vacation in your backyard.
Here are some benefits:
Vacation time helps lower your stress and this is good for your heart.
Lower stress is also good to help you sleep better. See a previous post on stress
When you experience less stress, you are less likely to use food or other substances to feel better
Vacation time puts you in “play” mode instead of more productivity mode. That in itself can make you feel years younger. See another one of my previous post on how stress is bad for you.
If you have a partner and young kids, vacation time can help you strengthen those relationships
Vacation time is time to do more of what makes you happy – a hobby, friends, family, fun, carefree living.
Planning a vacation is in itself a stress lowering, fun activity. The longer you anticipate your vacation and plan it, the longer your brain is in that frame of mind and it helps not to dwell on what’s stressing you at the moment. You have something to look forward to.
Now that I have convinced you that taking your vacation time is good for you, let’s do the planning.
First, talk to your boss, HR or supervisor to let them know you want to take vacation time. Approach them with 2 potential dates for your leave.
A few weeks before your planned vacation day, start working on tying loose ends at work so that you don’t end up working overtime during the week just before your holiday.
Two weeks before your holiday, take some time to clean your house and shop for groceries. You don’t want to use vacation time to wash floors or waste time at the grocery store, except for last minute things.
A week before your holiday, start going to bed a little earlier so that you start your holiday somewhat rested. Holiday time should not be time to catch up on sleep.
Once your employer approves your leave, start planning. Even without much money, you can create a great time for yourself with a staycation, or home holiday.
A home vacation at home can be fun and relaxing as long as you plan how you want to spend those days, because just staying home and vegging will not give you much benefit or great memories. Rest does not mean doing nothing, except in small doses. It means doing something different.
If your job involves a lot of physical work, you may want a physically active holiday or you may want a change of pace, with more reading, tending to the garden and strolls around the neighbourhood.
Planning your home vacation does not mean you have to fill every waking hour with activities. It means to plan blocks of time to do something enjoyable every day that will not cost a fortune. Ideally it involves one hour of some form of physical activity every day, whether it’s a hike in nature, a swim at the lake or the local pool, a game of tennis or other sport, canoeing, or brisk walking around town.
Decide which activities you want to do and be flexible. Sometimes Mother Nature does not cooperate, but with a plan, you have more chances to make the most of your time off.
Some great ideas to enjoy your staycation
Put on your “tourist” hat and visit sites that are on your local tourist attractions.
Find out music festivals and plan one or two evenings listening to your favourite music. No money? Some music festivals are so loud you can actually listen from somewhere in the neighbourhood.
Where I live, I have joined hundreds of others on the sidewalk across from the BluesFest and enjoyed the music, free. I have seen others enjoy the Jazz Festival from the bridge, just a few feet away from the Main stage.
There are also activities which are free. Again, find out through the Tourist information bureau where you live. For example, most museums have a free day or free half-day every week and you may also get a pass to the Museums from your library.
Not interested in camping but love nature? Some camping areas have day passes that give access to the beach. For a few dollars and a well stocked cooler, you can spend the day in the country. Same goes for some lakes with a public beach, some of which are free. . Again, fill the cooler with enough food for the day and come back to sleep in the comfort of your own bed.
Those who know me also know that swimming at the lake is my favourite Summer activity. I buy a parking pass every June and I can spend the whole day at the beach, about 35 minutes from my home. I bring food, a few bathing suits and something to read for what I call my “low-cost cottage”.
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Are you an avid reader or movie buff? Now is the time to block some time to read or take in a few movies, whether at the cinema or on your computer. Even without any subscription, you can view movies for $4 or $5. on Amazon. Better yet, your public library may have all the movies you want to watch. Find some good book and movie ideas here at Amazon.
Another activity to include in your home vacation; invite some friends for a casual at home dinner. A BBQ, pot luck or easy one pot meal is a great way to spend time with friends or family.
Do block time off for sleeping in, sitting in your back yard or on the porch sipping your morning coffee, visiting your local coffee shop or spending time at the library to read the stack of magazines you’ve been meaning to read during the past year and having dinner by candlelight, in the backyard or inside.
Plan to cook one or two of your favourite meals.
If the budget allows, have lunch or dinner at one of your favourite restaurants.
Have a nap or quiet time siesta like they do in Europe.
Take a bike ride and visit your local Farmers’ market early in the day
If you love long baths but don’t have the time during the year, give yourself the time for a long warm bath every day and time for using those body creams you don’t normally use.
Finally, don’t use your holidays to stay way past your regular bedtime because you will be more tempted to spend your mornings in bed to recuperate and you will suffer when you return to your usual routine.
Enjoy that time off. And go open a savings account for next year’s vacation.
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