For those of us who didn’t know: Today is National Plan for Vacation Day. I was not aware of this day until I saw an email from Vacasa – through the sea of emails, it caught my attention. Apparently, it is celebrated annually on the last Tuesday in January to remind us to start planning vacations and take time off from work.    

Here are a couple facts to encourage you to start planning: According to Sorbet’s 2022 PTO report, 55% of PTO for employees goes unused in the U.S and studies show that planning for a trip boosts morale, reduces stress and prevents burnout.

In honor of this day, here are six tips to get you started on planning vacations.

Start planning early:

Typically, I encourage clients to start planning vacation, trips, kids’ breaks, kids’ camps and any planned medical procedures in the Fall for the upcoming year.

But, if you’re anything like me, you might not have done that yet and are now scrambling to get things organized (or waiting for friends or family to get things organized) for 2023.

Remember: This is a work in progress and will most likely need to be adjusted throughout the year.

Establish your vacation calendar:

Find a calendar that works for you and your family. It could be an old school paper calendar or an electronic one. It doesn’t matter but pick something that both you and your partner can easily access and will use!

Start adding important dates such as school closures, day care closures, birthdays, planned medical procedures, and any other big milestones or events for the upcoming year. Review month by month. It can (potentially) take some time to capture all these days but it’s worth it. 

Write down your total PTO days for the year:

This might sound silly, but a lot of people don’t even know how many PTO days they have for the year. Take the time to look it up through your benefits website or ask your manager how to find this info. Ask your partner to do the same thing. You’d be surprised by how many people don’t know or are not aware of their spouse’s schedule. Also note any upcoming work anniversaries and potential increases in number of days off. If you have an unlimited number of vacation days, now would be a good time to pick the number of days that you plan to take off for the year. 

Decide if you will save any PTO days:

Does your employer allow you to roll-over any unused PTO days to the following year? Will the days be forfeited? Do you want to carry over any days to the following year? Perhaps you want to extend a maternity/paternity leave or plan a trip overseas. There are many reasons that you might want to roll-over your days but make sure you won’t lose them beforehand! Check your employee benefits and note that HR policies can change. My spouse’s employer recently updated their policy to only allow a maximum of five days to roll-over in 2024. In prior years, you were allowed to roll-over up to ten days.

Now for the fun part…start brainstorming! I suggest doing this separately and then sharing with your partner and even with your kids.

Determine how you want to use your time:

What do you want to do together as a family? Will you use any for personal/self-care or hobbies?

What activities do you want to do? What helps you destress? How can you use the time to recharge?

Are there any traditions or rituals that you want to create?

How often do you want to take off work? Monthly, quarterly, when kids are on breaks, or when kids are not on breaks – lol 😊 Start to pencil in a timeline for the various trips to see how they fit into your calendar.

For any trips: Will they be day trips? Local? International? Prioritize where you want to go (since there are typically more places than time available). I recommend keeping a list of local, regional, US and international locations that you would like to visit that gets updated regularly.

Establish an annual budget:

Do some research to determine a rough estimate for the trips that are on your list above.

If you have an annual budget, this can help guide the number of trips for the year, the length of the trips, the mode of transportation (car rental, flights), and the level of comfort (camping versus five-star hotel).

If you don’t have an annual budget, you could review your trip list and pick your top two trips. Add up the estimate for the two trips and then divide by twelve. Will you be able to save this amount each month to go toward these trips? Try it for a month or two and then adjust if needed. Or perhaps you will receive a bonus or RSUs this year that you can allocate toward your annual trip fund.

Let me know what trips you’re planning for 2023 and if you’re stuck, this is the type of work that I collaborate with my clients on.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for educational, general information, and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Jessica Kirwin, and all rights are reserved.