How long are your vacations?

August 2, 2019, 9:54 AM

I saw a comment along the lines of "Americans only get around 2 weeks of vacation" and that got me thinking. I realize most of us do get a few weeks of vacation and/or sick time that might be 3-6 weeks in total a year.

When you take a vacation (or go on holiday), how long is it normally?

I'm in the US and get 4 weeks of vacation. In the last decade, I've almost never used more than about 5 or 6 days of vacation at a time. Including weekends that tops me out at 10 days.

Replies (18)

Edited: August 2, 2019, 12:39 PM

The legal minimum in the uk is 5.6 weeks per year (pro rata for part time) but that can include official bank (public) holidays at the employers discretion (obviously if you work it you are still owed that day off). You must be paid your normal amount that you earn - this might even mean commission for those who get paid on that basis.

If you work in the finance industry, even if it’s just a call centre operator for a car Insurer, the regulator insists that every employee must have 2 continuous weeks off at some point (as an anti fraud measure).

Sick time is different. If you are sick on annual leave you can usually claim it back. The legal minimum is Statutory Sick Pay (about £90 a week I think) but most employers in my experience pay contractual sick pay which is your normal salary for a number of weeks.

August 2, 2019, 10:47 AM

I get 26 days of annual leave a year. Throw in performance award time off of 3-5 days, and 3-5 days of travel compensation time off for traveling on weekends, and I get upwards of 6 weeks off a year.

But I can only really use about 3 weeks of it due to my workload, so I donate the excess before it expires.

When I do get a vacation, it's usually in 2 separate 1-week chunks plus the occasional day off around Thanksgiving and the 4th of July.

August 2, 2019, 10:56 AM

I accrue 2 days per month, so that gives me 24 days for the year. A far cry from what I used to get in the UK. My main vacation is usually 3 weeks, but if I go back to the UK I'll take 4-5 weeks.

With all the odd days I take off in mid-week to visit the local parks, I’ll be off work ‘on vacation’ for 35-40 days a year. And that’s still nowhere near enough …. LOL !!

Edited: August 2, 2019, 6:26 PM

My current job is technically part time (though still usually about 30 hours per week) so I don't get any paid vacation. However, I have an extremely flexible schedule, and provided that I request days off sufficiently far in advance I can often get as much unpaid time off as I like. I usually do one or two big trips (up to two weeks) each year that require 5-10 days off work, and two or three small trips that require 2-4 days off each. Add in the occasional three day weekend, and I probably take approximately 30 days off each year. As for distribution, roughly half of those are for theme park related trips, a third for ski trips, and the remainder for miscellaneous other things.

Edited: August 3, 2019, 9:56 AM

My take on the whole USA vs Europe thing

In the USA what would be considered entry level jobs like retail, food service etc historically were done by teenagers/young adults and immigrants (and on the retail side women who were married and their husband made the real money). So (and I hate to put it this way) historically no one cared about the benefits for them lol. In the USA it was pretty easy to get a full time job until the recession when a lot of people starting losing their good full time jobs that was when the media started to actually notice these people living the working poor lifestyle existed. My theory on it is because a lot of people who had the bread-winning jobs before were all of a sudden put into that lifestyle.

European governments treat the entry-level type jobs more like real jobs, they secure the benefits that the good jobs in the USA give to their employees for everyone. So while yes Europeans definitely have better vacation benefits its not like the USA doesn't have good vacation benefits. When I started working at age 15 to age 22 I had basically no benefits at all, but now I have 4 weeks vacation, holidays I can schedule whenever (I work on holidays so I get an extra day off on another day for each one), more sick days then any ethical person could ever use, and very subsidized health coverage.

There are positives and drawbacks to both USA and European systems. The most obvious one being that because there were so many less labor laws and regulations the USA came roaring out of the recession with a booming stock market over the past 10 years and in the past five especially the employment problem has become virtually non-existent as companies have been raising pay and benefits to attract workers. The EU on the other hand has been limping along and countries like Greece and Italy are still basically in depression (and that is a huge mess, I honestly I have no idea how they are ever going to fix that). Europe with the 5 week mandatory vacation I think is a more epicurean culture than the USA and as a result they have gotten trounced economically by places like the USA, China, and Japan. Germany has held up pretty well as they still have some big industries, but the rest of the continent has sucked them down. Of the top 30 companies in the world by net-worth 23 are American, 4 are Chinese, 2 are European, and 1 is from Taiwan.

A lot of Europeans have the mindset that the USA is like the wild wild west with no guaranteed benefits by the government but looking at the other side of the coin there are also benefits to having less regulation with the stronger companies: the most obvious being our country has tons of 401k millionares. It's not that hard to become rich in the USA, if your not the build your own business type all you have to do is show up to work and invest that money into the American stock market and the returns on that over a few decades will blow away a pension you will get from the government.

Also I want to say there is definitely a point of diminishing returns to the vacation thing. After 20 years with my company I will get what is basically 7 weeks vacation + sick days...at that point that is basically semi-retirement. Working in management how are you supposed to effectively lead when you are gone for two months of the year lol. Great for me but definitely not a policy for productivity.

August 3, 2019, 11:23 AM

>>>with a booming stock market over the past 10 years and in the past five especially the employment problem has become virtually non-existent as companies have been raising pay and benefits to attract workers. The EU on the other hand has been limping along and countries like Greece and Italy are still basically in depression (and that is a huge mess, I honestly I have no idea how they are ever going to fix that

Except that’s not really a fair comparison. You’ve looked at the broad US market, but then isolated out some poor performing EU areas... how are Greece et al doing in comparison to Kansas and the Midwest?

And we have pension plans too. You’ve vastly overstated how successful US ones are, but in addition to pension savings, we have a better safety net.

August 3, 2019, 11:25 PM

Yea I mean that's basically just confirming what I just said, the EU has more of a social net but its easier to get rich in the USA. I didn't say that Europe doesn't have pensions and I definitely did not say USA pensions are better than European pensions, I was saying the opposite, the 401k is not a pension its a retirement investment tool in which you get to buy stock (and most smart people will buy something like an index fund which allows you to invest in the S&P 500 every week at a very low cost) and those are better investments than a pension fund.

The point I was trying to make was about vacation time and diminishing returns on economic productivity, if 23 of the top 30 companies in the world are American and somehow only 2 are European (which funny enough one is Swiss which is not in the European Union) then maybe Europe's vacation model makes them less economically competitive with the rest of the world which would explain why many countries in the EU are still struggling financially. I'm not saying vacation is bad (obviously places like Disney World wouldn't exist if people never took vacations) but there are diminishing return affects on the economy and when the government mandates something like everyone must take 5 weeks...the companies still have to pay for that. Just for an example (albeit an extreme one, but true nonetheless) Bill Gates was 20 when he founded Microsoft he didn't take any days off until his 30's and I think you'll find a similar pattern for many people who started the worlds biggest companies (as well as the people working with them). IMO that goes a long way in explaining why so few of them are European.

But I also very much believe in "different strokes for different folks" just trying to point out the positives and negatives of both situations because what tends to happen, like the original poster pointed out, is that Europeans don't understand why America is such a rich country but the government doesn't mandate any certain amount of vacation time like other countries.

August 5, 2019, 9:12 AM

What I am interested in exploring is the shift in the average length of a vacation. I remember knowing folks in the 80's and early 90's who'd take 2-4 week vacations. I can't say I know anyone from the US that does that anymore. US folks seems to do the 1-2 week vacation now and do those a couple times a year and/or just add to normal national holidays.


(Personally I think it's apples to oranges taking 4 weeks off in he summer vs four 1 week vacations along the year so I'll echo "different strokes for different folks".)

I wonder if the current crop of people in their late 20s to early 40s simply want more kinds of experiences. Perhaps they are willing to sacrifice their time at each opportunity to experience multiple opportunities.

August 5, 2019, 10:00 AM

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August 5, 2019, 8:16 PM

Mexico. Couple of months. Downside is the dates are fixed I cant move them. I work at the University.

August 7, 2019, 8:45 AM

We just returned from the longest vacation we have ever taken, which was 15 days. Unless we were going to travel to multiple countries across a few time zones, 2 weeks is probably the longest we would ever consider for a single vacation. Personally, I receive 23 days off per year in addition to 8 company holidays (does not include all bank/government holidays), but I've worked for my firm for 15 years to reach what is the maximum allowable vacation accrual. However, even with all of that vacation, I struggle to use it, and find it difficult to take large chunks of time away from work.

I do know that a lot of tech firms have started offering long-tenured employees the opportunity for a sabbatical, which lifts the burdens of responsibility, allowing them to take a month or more off at a time. However, it's still a concept that seems to be limited to certain industries and only accessible to employees that stick with a company for a number of years. My wife and I used to take 2 one-week vacation per year (one in spring and another in the fall), but with a school-aged child, we've been increasingly gravitating towards one big summer vacation.

August 14, 2019, 4:48 PM

My Dad was a machinist used to get 2 weeks however, every 4th year they received 13 weeks and were encouraged to take it.

One year we used it to may a 3 week road trip in the "dragon wagon".

The longest vacations I have had:

2002: 8 days
2015: 7 days
2019: 10 days (stretched over 2 weekends)

Most have been short getaways (3-4 days)

August 15, 2019, 10:57 AM

I have been with my current employer for 12.5 years and, due to their buying the company I was with and grandfathering all of us, I receive 26 days of vacation not counting provincial or federal statutory holidays. My wife has been at her employer for 20 years and is maxed out at 20 days. We usually take 2 weeks over the summer and a week at Christmas. If my wife doesn't use her vacation days they get paid out in February, I am allowed to carry a full years allotment over to the next year.

Edited: August 16, 2019, 9:59 AM

Hi Rumblemike - you are right, there is a perception out there (in Europe) that Americans only get 2 weeks per year, which I know isn't the case these days.

I guess it also depends if we are talking paid or unpaid leave - in the UK the legal minimum paid leave is 4 weeks plus 8 bank holidays (28 days).

I think the perception may be partially due to the fact that when Europeans visit the USA and have Disney vacations, it's a long-haul holiday and so they go for 2 weeks, and package holidays make it much much cheaper - last year I got 2 weeks at Disney All Star, international flights and 14 day unlimited park tickets for £1100 ($1200-1300). For Americians it's obviously much closer to home so there would be a tendency to visit for shorter breaks

When I worked in epcot center back in the early 90s, 2-3 weeks did seem normal then though - maybe it was back then? But of course things move on. Back in the early 90s it wasn't unusual to only get 3 weeks in the UK as an entry employee and maybe 4 weeks after a few years. The 4-5 weeks, plus bank holidays, being normal practice, has only been around in the UK for about 15 years.

I run a small-medium business and, whilst I am generally in favour of regulations that encourage social responsibility and equality, EU/UK regulations can be hard work for small-medium business and make them less competitive. For example, you get maternity/paternity leave and pay but, whilst you are off, you also accrue paid holiday leave - that's just crazy.

At the end of the day it's all about balance and, as the_man points out, there are pros and cons with each system.

I am lucky to get 36 days paid leave a year, but we are a very seasonal business. Sometimes I do go away for 3 weeks - am going to western US for 3 weeks in November, but then I will also take European holidays/breaks for a few days or a week.

August 16, 2019, 1:32 PM

Hey thanks for sharing fellow Mike! 2 weeks at Disney plus flight for $1300 seems like an incredible deal.

August 17, 2019, 4:05 AM

Hi RumbleMike, yes we can get some really cheap 2 week package deals, that was with Thomson Holidays (now TUI holidays). If I had tried to book it all - flights, hotel, tickets - individually, it would have cost twice that I am sure

Edited: August 20, 2019, 9:34 PM

My usual vacation is a week or less. Lately getting a 4-day weekend is like pulling teeth. The longest vacation I ever took was in 2015, two and a half weeks. I get 20 days of vacation a year and in theory I can take them whenever I want. But it took several weeks of jumping through a lot of flaming hoops to get 19 calendar days in a row off (13 vacation days + 6 weekend days) Especially for a reason the boss didn't really approve of ("What do you mean you're going to England to ride roller coasters? You know there's roller coasters in Williamsburg, right?") I actually had to get approval from the CEO himself and justify my choice of leisure activity because I'm the one person at this company that doesn't like beach resorts or cruises.

Edited: August 21, 2019, 7:33 AM

@Danny - Why does your boss have to approve of where you go on vacation? If I found out that my company was denying my vacation request because they didn't like what I was going to do during my time off, then I would instantly file a grievance or find a new job. What I do with my free time is none of their business, and if they're basing their approval of my request for vacation on what I plan to do on those days off, they can shove it.

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