How Much Vacation Time Should You Really Get?

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How much vacation time do you get? Hard work is great, but we need to allow ourselves time to vacate and enjoy life in order to relieve stress and be happy.

I want to start out today’s post with a simple question – how much vacation time do you receive each year?

Do you get a week? Do you get two weeks? Are you among the rare few who score three or more weeks per year?

Personally speaking, the most vacation time I ever had in the traditional work force was two weeks. My last employer had a PTO system where they also allowed up to a week for sick time, taking it to a possible three weeks off. However, that sick time could not be used for vacation – even if you had a bunch of hours built up.

We Work Too Damn Much!


We champion hard work here in the States. There is nothing wrong at all with that. My parents raised me to work for what I wanted and needed and not to be lazy. I hated that growing up, though am immensely thankful they instilled a strong work ethic in me today.

However, I just cringe when I read studies saying 56 percent of Americans have not taken a vacation in the past 12 months. Full disclosure – the aforementioned study required travel of at least 100 miles to be considered a vacation. That aside, it does little to negate the problem of us hard-working Americans not allowing ourselves time to truly vacate. There may be a number of reasons behind that, from fear of losing our jobs, fear work piling up or fear of looking bad. Regardless, it leads to increased stress.

That needs to change. No, it must change.

Compare our numbers versus that of other industrialized countries. A Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) study shows most European countries legally require 20 paid vacation days each year. Others take it further and require 25-30 days of paid vacation per year.

How many days are required in the U.S.? Zero. That’s right, nothing. In fact, the CEPR study points out that we are the only “advanced” economy in the world not requiring at least one vacation day. While I already knew this, it’s still crazy!

Entrepreneurs aren’t Immune to this Problem


One of the reasons why I love working for myself is the freedom that comes with it. If we want to take three weeks off we can. If I want to take every Friday off I can. Of course, that also requires working to make that possible, but you get my point.

While we travel a fair bit more now that we run our own business, there is another problem that comes up – working while on vacation. Most of the entrepreneurs reading this are likely nodding their heads in agreement.

You know what it’s like. You’re on your vacation, but your laptop is cracked open because you’re working on a project. We’re not alone either – a TripAdvisor survey shows that 77 percent of Americans work while on vacation.

I’d love to say it’s a problem with “the Man” not allowing us to get time away. It’s arguable as to how much employers care about their employees, though I believe it’s a systemic, cultural issue. We seem to have an engrained, felt need to always be working.

How much vacation time do you get? Hard work is great, but we need to allow ourselves time to vacate and enjoy life in order to relieve stress and be happy.

Life is Meant to Be Enjoyed


Life is too short. We all know that. Why on earth would we want to spend so much of it working ourselves into the ground? Think about when you look back on your life…WHO in their right mind says “Gee, I’m glad I worked myself like crazy instead of taking time to enjoy life!”?

I’d guess that vey few of us would.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you need to spend all sorts of money taking extravagant vacations. There is a place and time for that. What I’m talking about is simply taking time to vacate. Whether that be through a frugal staycation, taking a week to stay at a local bed and breakfast or going all out and traveling to Vegas for the week. (Disclaimer, I’m really wanting to go to Vegas and just need to convince Mrs. Frugal Rules we should go).

Whatever it is, take time and do it. Your mental health and your friends/family will thank you for it – trust me. Oh, and if you’re like me, hand your smartphone over to your partner while you’re away. Staying tethered will only keep your mind on work, which negates the whole point of taking a vacation in the first place.


How much vacation time do you get at your job? When was the last time you took a vacation? Why do you think we prize working so much in our society?

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.

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  • Thias @It Pays Dividends says:

    Right now, I get two weeks a year, with a third week coming in a year and a half (ugh). The other day I was thinking about how I haven’t had more than a week off in a row since I was a sophomore in college, 8 years ago. A week at a time is nice but sometimes you just need longer to truly detox from a busy working lift.

    We normally try to get in at least one vacation where we travel somewhere outside of the mid-west per year. You just need to get somewhere away from your normal day to day to get a nice recharge of your batteries.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I’ve had bouts of time like that Thias and it’s a great reminder of how refreshing/recharging those times can be.

      Great point on getting away from your normal surroundings – that’s vital in my opinion.

  • Brian @DebtDiscipline says:

    Four weeks is the max vacation time I have received, it was very unlikely I could ever use it in a single year. I would typically carry time over into the next year. Extended vacation requests beyond two weeks are typically frowned upon in most companies too.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Yep, I’ve seen it to even extend towards vacations longer than a week. If they’re going to give you the time it stands to reason they need to provide some leeway to take it.

  • Amanda S @ Passionately Simple Life says:

    This new job informed me they give 15 days of vacation! 15?! I was in awe and shock coming from a job that gave 0 paid days off. All these new opportunities have opened up for me in terms of being able to truly rest and relax and not have to worry that my finances are going to take a hit.

    In all honesty though, being able to get away from the world from a bit is a must. It should be mandatory that we explore regions outside of work and not feel tied down to something we might even love.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    I got 15 PTO days for the first 5 years at my old job. After that, I had 20 days. That sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t when you consider that those were my sick days and my kid’s sick days too. We also have family out of state that we have to visit a few times a year. It never felt like enough.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Yep, when you start to think through how those days need to be allocated it really isn’t very good. We never had enough either.

  • Ramona @ Personal Finance Today says:

    As much as possible ๐Ÿ˜€

    Kidding aside, in 2010, 2011 and 2012 we had 6 MONTHS of vacation. Well, I was partially in vacation, since my freelancing allowed me to earn some bucks during the ‘slow’ days (bad weather, being too tired to travel etc).

    Our goal is to actually have at least a month every year, if not more. As soon as I get some more passive income streams to work properly, I plan on getting even more vacation time with our daughter.

  • Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor says:

    I was a teacher before having kids, so I had summer off, but my husband just finally started getting 3 weeks, and I don’t think he can ever get more at his company. We agree with you–that this is not really enough, especially since he wants to spend as much time as possible with our kids while they are young. We make the most of it by taking long weekend trips sometimes, and planning at least two different week-long vacations a year.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Having that summer off is nice. My brother is a teacher and he really cherishes his summers off. That said, 3 weeks really is nothing – especially if you have a family.

  • Hannah says:

    My company recently changed their policy so that no vacation time gets paid out when you leave the company. I’m of the opinion that this is a great choice. I earn 3.5 weeks per year, and I tend to take vacation in big chunks (wedding/honeymoon, maternity leave, etc.) with a few long weekends or random “mental health days” scattered among them.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I think that’s a great approach to take as a business. It incents people not to build up vacation for long periods of time.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    I actually think the view of most in the US is a bit distorted. People in Pakistan typically work 6 or 7 days a week. People in Japan, on average, work much more than the average American worker. Yes, compared to European countries people in the US work more and do not get as much vacation time. I’m very interested in seeing how long that trend can last without Europe becoming less competitive from a business standpoint.

    Back on topic though, our PTO and sick days are the same. Which does have one downside: people come to work sick. We get 23 days a year starting and then 28 after you’ve been there 5 years. Not a bad deal imo, and honestly it’s more so my side hustle that I end up working on while on PTO. I got a big ad deal while we were in Hawaii so I coordinated that and (thankfully) had writers to get the job done. But most entrepreneurs and business owners will inevitably end up working more than 9-5 employees. Pros and cons to everything ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • John Schmoll says:

      That’s exactly my point DC – we shouldn’t have to work that much. ๐Ÿ™‚ We’ve spoken with several friends who have moved here from Japan and they mention how people work themselves in the ground there…in general. Life is meant to be enjoyed, not working like crazy. ๐Ÿ™‚

      That being said, we see the same thing with people coming to work sick. I know I did it myself as there was not much time to deal with. But, as you said, we also tend to work quite a bit more than a traditional 9-5’er so there’s a tradeoff to be had.

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach says:

    Even though it didn’t do wonders for my finances, the road trip I took to Utah I was completely checked out, and it was wonderful. I think as freelancers it is very hard to do that, because we know no money is being generated (unless you have passive income) in the meantime. But I just told another blogger who is working non-stop this: if you don’t take time off and enjoy life, you will actually have NOTHING to write about!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Excellent point Tonya. Those times to check out are vital. I also know those times I step back it creates all sorts of ideas of things to write about. It’s counterintuitive, at one level, but is very true.

  • Reelika @Financially Wise On Heels says:

    I’m from Northern Europe. I still work in a corporate field and I also run my own online business. However, by law, we need to get 28 vacation days per year when working in a private corporate field (in public sector it would be 35 days). I can’t really complain, I can take those days out whenever I need and want. My employer is great in that aspect. However, running my online business has given me a time and location freedom to work where ever and whenever, and I can take days off when I prefer.

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    This has been a record year of vacation time for me. By the end of the year, I will have taken 6 weeks off for travel plus various long weekend trips thrown in here and there. It was fantastic and made up for the years when I took almost no time off.

    That being said, I’m looking really hard at taking a full time job with the federal government. One of my conditions is double the standard vacation time, which would give me 25 days off. If I can’t get the vacation time, that’s a deal breaker. Life is way too short to work all the time.

    • Kathy says:

      Kim, when I worked for the federal government the vacation time was mandated by law to be 4 hours per pay period the first 3 years, 6 hours for 3 through 15 years and after 15 years vacation was 8 hours per pay period. We had 26 pay periods in a year so after 15 years we got 26 days vacation. You could accumulate 30 days to carry over indefinitely, while at the same time you could earn the current year’s time. So conceivably, when you retired you could actually have 56 days of vacation for which they owed you your full salary. At the same time, we earned a strict 4 hours per pay period for sick leave. Any unused sick leave each year could be carried forward basically forever which was great if you had a need for long term sick time such as for maternity leave of to recover from a surgery etc. Plus, any hours you still had at retirement were added to your years of service which benefitted your pension amount. At the time I worked there, these terms were not negotiable and I don’t know if things have changed since I left.

    • John Schmoll says:

      We’re in the same boat Kim. It has been a record year for us and likely will surpass it next year.

      Good luck on that situation. I think I’m spoiled for the corporate world – extended time off would be a must have for me.

  • Michelle says:

    I think everyone needs more vacation time! One job I held for 5 years and never received a single vacation day. I had to BEG for a day off ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ajaveen says:

    I get three weeks of vacation leave and two weeks of vacation leave and I also have 450 plus hours of carry-over leave.
    The last long vacation I took was to NY with my beau this past summer.
    Because working hard is a sign of not being lazy even if it affects ones mental and emotional well-being.

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    I’ve never had a traditional job complete with vacation days, but I can’t imagine never having time off. (and two weeks is never ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I admittedly have a tendency to work on my vacations, but I take a TON, so it’s not so bad.

    • John Schmoll says:

      That’s pretty much my thought – two weeks is not enough at all. I think a month should be standard in most full-time type roles.

  • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says:

    I’ve actually been pretty blessed when it comes to vacation time. At the Corporate jobs I worked, it was based on a combination of years of services and band level and I had a generous amount in comparison to many other people. I definitely agree that life is meant to be enjoyed and more vacation time should allotted. Rest makes us more productive.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Glad to hear that Shannon, not everyone is that fortunate. I think we forget all too often that a little R&R can really help us be more productive and effective.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    I can definitely say that I do not get near the vacation time that I want or need. Even though I could take as much as I want, since I’m the boss, I have a very difficult time letting go and truly enjoying vacation. I am planning to take some downtime during the holidays and we have a few family trips planned for next year but other than that, I really actually enjoy just a day or two here and there where it’s solely family time and not work time. Since I’m not good at letting go, I focus on quality rather than quantity.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I’m not good at letting go either, definitely something I want/need to improve upon. I’m a fan of taking days off here and there. I think it can be a great way to break up the monotony and give a needed mental break.

  • Anita says:

    In Germany the minimum is 24 days.
    But school holidays were 59 days this year.
    So many parents I know don’t take their vacations together so they can take care of the children.

  • Mrs Lewis says:

    We don’t take enough vacation! I just requested two weeks off at the end of June and my boss’s jaw dropped as if I was being so irresponsible. I was disappointed with his reaction. I’ll have the PTO time saved up and I don’t vacation that often, Maybe twice a year for 5 days or less. I don’t want to feel guilty about getting my life adventures and leaving work. I can’t fit everything in on Saturday and Sunday.

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