How to Plan Ahead for Vacation Time

view of Manhattan from the World Trade Center observatory

Friends and coworkers are always remarking about how I am “always” traveling.  They constantly ask how I have enough vacation time to take all of the trips that I go on.

Well, the answer is simple – I plan ahead!

I like to use a simple Excel file to keep track of my PTO (paid time off) hours, and at the beginning of the year I take time to really think about how I want to use it.

Excel grid that is used for planning vacation time, filled in for 2017
Simple Excel file that I use to help plan my vacation time for the year

Now, obviously plans will change as the year goes on.  But when plans do change, now you have a quick and easy way to see how those changes affect the rest of your plans.  Having a planning tool like this also allows you to play the “what if” game, and evaluate your options!

Download my Excel file HERE, and start planning out your own vacation time!

Here are some of the basics:

At the top of the sheet, fill in the yellow cells with whatever numbers apply to you.  You can also change the “Hours” to “Days” if that is how your company keeps track.

For me, I get 14 days of PTO per year, and that amount is earned at the end of each month spread out throughout the year.  This means that on the last day of each month, I receive 9.33 hours in my “bank” of time to use.  I think this is a fairly common way that companies do this sort of thing, and I have set up the spreadsheet to take this into account.  In an example with easier numbers to think about, say at your job you receive 24 days of PTO a year.  Typically you would not be able to use all 24 of those days in the month of January.  Instead, you would earn 2 days at the end of each month, and depending on how much time you take off during the month, at any given time you have a running balance of time to use for doing fun stuff!

This is the way my spreadsheet is set up to calculate and predict how much vacation time I will have available to use during each month.  On each row the number on the far right represents how many hours I have available at the end of the month.

On the main table, use the middle 3 columns to experiment!  The column on the far right has calculations that will update to show you how much time you will have left to use at the end of each month, based on what you enter into the rest of the table.

One dilemma that I often think about is: what if I get sick and need to use PTO days for recovery?  Well, you can use this spreadsheet for planning out only the time that you plan to use traveling.  Maybe you get 15 days of PTO but you want to save 3 of them to use as sick days.  Then as you plan, just make sure your available time remaining on the right side of the table doesn’t dip below that number.

It doesn’t have to look exactly like my spreadsheet, but the idea is that as long as you take the time to think about planning out your vacation time for the year, not only does it get you excited for the adventures to come, but it also makes you more likely to actually follow through!  Writing down your travel plans is a way to hold yourself accountable for actually doing it.  So plan away, and get out there and explore!

Anybody out there have a different way of planning their vacation time?  Let me know in the comments, I would be interested to hear it!


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