How Much Vacation is Too Much Vacation?

I posed the question last week on Twitter, “What is the ideal number of vacation days per year?”

Of course, there were many replies that it was obviously 365, or for those who like to get real specific: 365.25.

And sure a permanent vacation sounds great in theory, but in reality it is neither fiscally nor mentally doable.

At a certain point you will either run out of money or get bored!

So this all leads to the following questions:

  • Is there such thing as too much vacation?
  • What is the ideal number of vacation days?
  • What is the right amount of vacation benefits that companies should offer?

Is there such thing as too much vacation?

I’m going to just come out and answer that yes, there is such thing as too much vacation.

I know for me, that the longer more comprehensive trips I have been on, the more I have come back tired and worn out.

Now, this is a good kind of worn out. Seeing new places and experiencing new things really never gets old.

But eventually you just run out of energy. You need to sit on the couch and veg around a bit.

No matter what type of vacation, at some point if you do it for too long it is going to become the new “normal” and loses it’s appeal. This even goes for sitting on the beach:

So yes, in my mind, there is such thing as too much vacation.

What is the ideal number of vacation days?

Circling back to the question I posed on Twitter…I received responses from 3-4 weeks, to 6-8 weeks, to unlimited vacation.

So what is the right amount? I think it probably depends on your job, your family responsibilities, etc.

What I do know, is that the standard two weeks vacation, plus sick time is not enough.

You just cannot mentally recharge in two weeks!

Even if you do your best to plan around the holidays and maximize your time off with a couple of four day weekends, you are going to run out of time real quick.

This doesn’t even account for any parents who have to take time off to care for a sick child, or if someone in your family has a health scare and needs your help.

2 weeks offers no flexibility, and isn’t cutting it.

For me personally, I’ve always enjoyed having one or two big vacations a year, sprinkled in with many longer weekend trips.

4 weeks of vacation per year helped to give me enough balance, but EVEN working 40 hours a week or less, I always was left wanting just a bit more.

Plus, there were often years where I had a family member in the hospital, or I had to travel for bereavement, or take time off for personal health issues.

Things just happen, and you need more time and flexibility.

6 weeks feels like the right amount for me personally.

6 weeks a year is long enough to take a 3-4 week vacation every year, and really unwind, while also having enough time off to deal with the other ups and downs and life throws at you.

It’s also not too much that it will cause any problems for your workers.

Considering there are 52 weeks in a year, 6 weeks off is only 11.5% of the year off. I think we can all deal with that right?

What is the right amount of vacation benefits that companies should offer?

So what should companies do?

In 2021, more than one–third of private industry workers received 10 to 14 days of paid vacation after one year of service. After 10 years of service, 33 percent of private industry workers received between 15 and 19 days of paid vacation. 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employee Benefits Survey

So, as of 2021, only one-third of private-sector workers receive more than 10 days off per year.

This is a huge problem. Especially when a majority of smart people all believe that it should land between 4-8 weeks.

We should take a look at other countries and see that things don’t actually fall apart when you give your workers more time off:

European Union legislation mandates that all 27 member states must by law grant all employees a minimum of 4 weeks of paid vacation

Wikipedia

Mandating that all employees get 4 weeks of paid vacation would do wonders in America.

Our hustle culture may have helped us to create one of the most robust economies in the world, but it won’t help us to sustain it.

For me personally, if I was CEO again, and started another company, I would give every employee 6 weeks of paid vacation.

I had several people suggest “unlimited vacation” – but as I have found in my career, if not properly embraced by all management, this can backfire and lead to employees taking even less vacation.

PTO Genius has a great breakdown as to why Unlimited PTO typically does not work:

  1. Lack of clarity: Employees aren’t sure about how much time off is too much time off.
  2. Lack of ownership: Since PTO isn’t accrued as an employee works, employees don’t feel that they’ve “earned” the time off. It doesn’t feel like the PTO belongs to them.
  3. Lack of encouragement: Unlike traditional policies, management tends to encourage getting away a lot less with unlimited plans.”

This has been my personal experience with Unlimited PTO as well.

So rather than Unlimited, I think it’s better to put together a very generous PTO plan, not only for yourself, but for the betterment of the entire organization.

According to HR Direct Apps, by giving more time off you will:

  • Have access to better talent
  • Increase employee retention
  • Improve morale
  • Greater productivity
  • Enhance teamwork
  • Allow for better planning

I think the upsides far outweigh any perceived downsides.

AR’s Recommendation: 6 weeks!

Companies doing this right

There are many companies out there doing it right.

According to Monster, Facebook offers 21 days of vacation, plus 11 company holidays and “sick days when you need them.”

That comes out to more than 6 weeks of vacation per year.

Google, also bumped up and matched Facebook with a minimum of 20 days of paid vacation days annually.

Apple typically gives between 15-20 days off a year.

Disney gives between 20-30 days off per year.

These companies would not be giving these great benefits if they did not also bolster their bottom line. Time off is indeed, good for business.

Conclusion

There are many different kinds of vacations from sitting on the beach to backpacking off the grid, and from visiting theme parks to visiting national parks.

You can also vacation right at home, or spend a bit of money and staycation at a local hotel.

No matter how you vacation, there is a clear need for more employers to embrace giving more vacation days than ever before.

So how much vacation is too much vacation?

I’m not sure I have the answer to this question yet.

But my goal is to find out!

So, do you agree or disagree with 6 weeks of paid vacation? Let me know in the comments below!

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4 comments

  1. I am from Germany and worked only some years in a company with less than 6 weeks. And for me 6 weeks always was a bit short.
    And now, that I have two Kids in school and don’t want them to hang out at the playstation for weeks on end during school hoolydays, 6 is defeniletly nor enough. 8 – 10 I would prefer.

    1. Yeah, that is a good point. When our kids have all this time off, it helps if WE also had the time off. This is a big reason why I decided not to find a job after Accidentally Retiring. I’d rather work on my own terms than someone else’s. I also don’t think anyone’s bottom like would be hurt by 8 or 10 weeks off. Everyone would be a lot happier and more productive.

  2. Great crowd sourced statistics and references. Thank you for pulling this together. I’d be interested to see how much vacation people are actually taking even if they have 6 weeks off. I know some people go into use-it or lose-it territory often.

    1. Yeah, I didn’t dive into it much, but there is also a systematic problem with people not taking vacation. I saw some data when I was researching the article, but then couldn’t find it again. But essentially a ton of vacation days are going unused!

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