SURVEY SAYS: What Are Your Vacation Plans?

November 12, 2009 ( - I don’t know about you, but this is the time of year when I begin to worry about how – and if – I’m going to be able to fit in the vacation time I have left with the weeks I have left in the year to take it.. 


This week, I asked readers if they had used all their 2009 vacation by year-end – and, if not, what their options were. 

Apparently I’m not the only one who’s going to have trouble fitting in all their vacation – nearly half (49.2%) of this week’s respondents said they won’t be able to. 

Now, 17.5% said they would, and slightly more (20.8%) indicated that “that’s the plan.”  Roughly 6% said they weren’t sure – and the rest opted for “other” – mostly because they didn’t get vacation (a combination of new hires, unemployed, or self-employed respondents). 

With so many (apparently) not going to be able to use all of their vacation, my next question – what happens if you don’t – seemed particularly germane.  Roughly a third (35.1%) said they could carry it over to next year, 36% said they could carry SOME of it over to next year, and the rest said that if they didn’t use it, they would lose it. 

Of course, some of the problem in using the vacation may be how much vacation there is to use.  A robust 43% said they had more than 20 days to use up, while a quarter (25.2%) fell in the 16-20 day range, and a near-matching 24.4% had accumulated 11-15 days.  Nearly everyone else was in the 5-10 day range.

I was reminded by one reader, “Nevin - you're dating yourself asking about vacation time rather than PTO days! "Vacation" is so 1900's :-)”  Of course, that might also be a contributing factor in the accumulations above. 

There are, of course, issues with PTO – for instance, how it tends to “institutionalize” what were, pre-PTO, more or less “optional” sick days into “earned” time off – or, as one reader noted, “We get PTO rather than sick and vacation time, so people will come to work when they're deathly ill so they can use all of their time for vacation.”

As for taking that time off, one reader said it “Depends on the risk I'm willing to take.”

Another noted, “Next year I will not have to worry about PTO.  I'm retiring!”

It looks like many of us could empathize with the reader who noted, “Being that I waited until the last minute to get all my vacation scheduled in, I'm pretty much having to take off half of Nov and Dec to use it up.”

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said, “At this time of year those of us in the trenches of plan administration and maintenance are lucky to celebrate Christmas in December”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!  More verbatims are on the following pages.

Considering I was laid off in June, I guess you could say I've used all of mine.   But, don't cry for me, Argentina!  Fortunately, my husband and I are in a good spot in our life where I can actually enjoy the time off without worrying.  In fact, I don't even intend to look for another full-time job for at least six months! (I do have a part-time job.) 

"Now I am working on my personal days.  I have diligently saved my one a year for the last five years and plan on blowing 3 at Christmas and have two left for anything that pops up.  Like maybe a day of Christmas shopping by myself." 

I have 3 unscheduled days.  My husband has none.  I'm fantasizing about taking a long weekend and lying on the beach somewhere warm and sunny. But, the reality is, I will waste one day watching day time TV.  Then spend the other two cleaning house and Christmas shopping. 

Next year I will not have to worry about PTO.  I'm retiring! 

"Just a few years ago we could carry over any we had.  We've never been told the real reason but the excuse to use it or loose it was the company wanted us to not burn ourselves out - our guess is there were too many people leaving with months and months of unused vacation. 

They have started a good monthly email reminder to let everyone know when they have not scheduled time off sufficient to get then down to the carry over level." 

We get PTO rather than sick and vacation time, so people will come to work when they're deathly ill so they can use all of their time for vacation. 

I want to use the vacation days that I have, but I don't know how I can do that and get all the work done that I need to before the end of the year.  I guess I could take a day off and then work the entire weekend, but that seems to defeat the purpose of taking a vacation day.

Due to switching careers and industries, I was rolled back to college-grad-like 2 weeks vacation. Not to mention a grand total of 3 sick/personal days. After a recent flu, I had no choice but to take unpaid time off to recover. Apparently I should have come in and infected the whole office. All I can say is that companies who practice the art of "you should be thankful you have the privilege of working here" will see it come back on them tenfold in relation to employee turnover when the job market improves (and rightfully so).

Having children, especially those in school, help one use the days....especially those odd in-service of 1/2 days two weeks before another break!!

Being that I waited until the last minute to get all my vacation scheduled in, I'm pretty much having to take off half of Nov and Dec to use it up.

Our policy changed this year limiting how much can be rolled over to the next year - otherwise lose it.  So we have some people scrambling to use up vacation time yet also scrambling to get work done.

We have a very flexible benefits program and it is designed for and about the professionals that work for our company.  .

Actually, our vacation "year" runs from April 1 - March 31.  Most rank and file employees must use theirs.  Under certain circumstances we will pay out unused vacation.  Supervisory employees can carry over some of their unused vacation to the next vacation year.

I have 3 days left.  I am hoping I don't get the flu or we have a bad snowstorm before the end of the year so that I'll be able to carry them over into next year.

Don't get me started...began the year with 12 vacation days, had to use 10 of them back in May so I could spend the first two weeks of our newborn son's life at home (my firm doesn't recognize the term 'paternity leave').  And of course, I'm able to respond to this survey due to our office being open on Veteran's Day (thanks NYSE)...

Have about 5 days left.  Perfect for a day or two of shopping and a day or two when my kiddo gets sick.  I'm sure I could figure out an afternoon or two to take off if I have any remaining! 

I have used up all my vacation, sick days, comp time and one day floating holiday.  Home for the holidays! 

At this time of year those of us in the trenches of plan administration and maintenance are lucky to celebrate Christmas in December. 

My problem is the opposite: How negative can I get my vacation account before my boss stops me from taking more time off & digging a deeper hole? 

Unless I conveniently forget to bring my cell phone with me (and I encourage you all to do the same), there will not be one day off while taking vacation days.  So I ask Mr. Santa to consider how nice I have been all year and please bring me some uninterrupted family time in 2010. 

Really ... it should be a crime to have your company take your vacation days back.  I look at them as compensation.  Companies should be required to pay them out!!!  Or, put in a retirement plan. 

My firm was merged into a much bigger one this year, and so next year I won't have as much time off so I was sure to use every day I could this year.  No raise, no bonus, less vacation time, lower profit sharing contributions, - it just keeps getting better and better. 

We receive only 50% pay for each day of vacation we don't use this year.  Since everyone was given an additional day off each month to offset a 5% reduction in pay, many employees have days remaining to be used. 

The only GOOD thing about our PTO plan is that we can roll over what we don't use until the next year.  Everything else about it bites!! 

I just used my final days on a quick Bahamas cruise.  It's amazing what 4 days of rest, relaxation and no Blackberry will do for a person's attitude. 🙂 

Can only rollover 35 days which I have had for several years. Looks like I will lose it as I have been told I can't take 11 days off between now and year end.

Depends on the risk I'm willing to take. Normally it is use it or lose it. However I did have carryover from last year to use up as well my normal vacation this year due to a lengthy payroll consolidation project from summer to year-end that prevented vacation usage in 2008. Now in 2009 the company required three weeks of time off without pay, fired people and overloaded us on work to the point we have no time to take vacation in the weeks left. When I bring this dilemma up and request to either take the time off or be paid for it I get no response other than "we'll deal with that later". Anyone want to bet on how that will work out? More importantly - does anyone have a job opening in benefits???

We can accumulate up to 520 hours of both vacation and personal time. After 520 hours, we lose it. As for me, I met 520 hours for both a long time ago! 

We are all given 2 extra weeks of vacation (unpaid) this year. I'm trying to look on the bright side - I still have a job. The down side of this is we have already taken a 5% pay cut, no increase for 2009 and 2010 and no profit sharing, so we've lost 18% in one year. I am still thankful for my job. Retirement will be delayed! 

We have great benefits -- we can accrue a maximum 420 hours of PTO (we work a 35 hour week). So far I have gotten up to 419 before taking time off, but I have never lost any. I keep wondering what my boss would say if I asked for a 12 week vacation. 

We are limited to rollover 5 days this year, it was 10 days last year. I will lose approx 6 days of vacation this year and rollover the remainder of 5 days. 

As a contractor, my time off is between my and my boss. When I take time off, I don't get paid.  I took 7 business days in March (vacation), 3 biz days in July (health issues; now resolved), will take Thanksgiving week (vacation), and 2.5 other days for short trips.  This strikes a decent balance between lost income and lost sanity. 

We're allowed to carry over 5 days. If I have two or three days extra, I can use them "under the table" with my manager's permission next year. 

I don't understand those that do not use their vacation time.  I guess some people feel that they need to "go away" for vacation.  Some of my best vacations were those that were spent at home with no agenda.

If I voluntarily cannot take my vacation, I lose it.  BUT... if ACME needs me for some reason, then I could probably work out a deal to roll it over, though it's all "unofficial."  If I were to leave and hadn't taken my rolled over vacation, I'd have no official recourse to be compensated. 

Understanding that I have vacation planned and on the calendar and feeling the internal conflict with plans to be out of the office during a busy time of the year.  Will the feelings of guilt cause me to cancel that vacation? 

Employees are allowed to carry over vacation time to next year but not to exceed one year's accrual. Any time in excess of one year's accrual is lost. 

It's hard enough to schedule my furlough days, let alone the ones I actually get paid for!  I have so much comp time I don't need to use sick, vacation or personal time, but if I don't use all my comp time I lose it - ditto personal time.  Last year I tried to take off the last two weeks of December, but ended up working most days because of (unexpectedly) being called into union negotiations.  So this year I'm just taking the last week of December off and hoping the unions are doing the same. Still I can never use all my of leave time...