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.