How to ask your employer for more vacation time

Typical vacation time in the U.S. is just two weeks, which is not up to standard compared to the rest of the world. And asking for more time off can be an awkward subject to bring up. Traveling not only benefits you, but it also benefits your employer.

If you show your value to your company and demonstrate your accountability, you’ll set yourself up for a “yes” answer when you ask for more vacation time.

At the time I asked for more vacation days, I had recently been part of some awards for my agency and received high remarks on accountability during my review. The high remarks for accountability were in part due to how I prepared when I left the office for vacations.

Here are some tactics I do and that you can start doing now so your employer feels comfortable giving you more time out of the office:

  • I put my vacation time into the system when my trip is booked. This is at least a few months in advance, if not more. I do not alert anyone else. It’s too premature for team members to be able to do anything with this information.
  • About 4-8 weeks out, I send an email to all of my team members, including any people from other departments who are actively working on projects with me. I tell them the dates I’ll be out of the office and I offer to start on my portion of the projects in advance so I can alleviate the work that needs to be offloaded to others.
  • I talk to other writers about who will handle each client/project in my absence, so they are not surprised by anything. Since I have started working on projects in advance of my departure, I often leave them with little work to handle while I’m gone.
  • I send one last email to my supervisor and team members the day before I leave the office. This email has project numbers, the status of projects, the next steps and which writer will be assigned to each project in my absence.

When I took a two-week trip to Asia, there was hardly any work that needed to be offloaded while I was gone. 

Next, present the value of travel to your company if they do not already understand how it personally benefits you and them (everyone is different—and that’s okay).

You can bring value to your company by exposing yourself to different cultures, seeing other parts of the world and taking on the grit that international travel requires. Here are examples of how travel can add value to your company.

Travel teaches you how to handle uncomfortable situations 

In an interview many years ago I was asked how my study abroad experience in college prepared me for the job I wanted. I could have easily talked about the communications course I took in Paris, but instead, I said that I learned how to handle myself in uncomfortable situations.

Foreign languages, currencies and cultures can come at you fast, and I developed the ability to stand strong through the discomfort.

This is an important skill in the workplace, where you’re constantly having to learn and adjust through situations that may feel frustrating or unfamiliar.

Travel inspires and expands your mind

When I returned from a two-week trip to Southeast Asia, I dove back into my projects. The art director was having a hard time finding the image he needed, but I had just seen a perfect example of what he was looking for on my trip. I showed him a picture I took on my phone and that helped direct his image search.

Travel makes you tough when the going gets tough 

When I landed in China for the first time, I had an “oh crap” moment. As the plane approached the gate I felt way out of my element, but there was no going back.

Getting out of your comfort zone allows you to work through even the most difficult situations back in the office.

Travel makes you a detail-oriented planner 

Finally, the planning required to go to the other side of the world can be complicated. There are visas, booking multiple flights in various time zones, selecting hotels in places you don’t understand, adaptors and converters, etc.

Taking on this detailed planning helps you handle responsibilities back in the office and makes you more resourceful. When I went on the two-week trip to Asia, I had 11 (YES, ELEVEN) flights, on different bookings. Three hotels, a layover tour, airport pickups and figuring out airport transfers in foreign airports, travel insurance and a visa.

I did so much research ahead of time to ensure everything would work, all confirmations and paperwork were handled. I printed every confirmation and put them into one folder. Because you know… cell service also isn’t a guarantee when you land in Indonesia. I sent my family my flight itinerary (all ELEVEN of them), hotel dates and contacts, etc.

And everything went off without a hitch — so smoothly, it was almost a miracle. The flights were perfect and strategically booked to earn points towards status and SkyMiles — my friend earned her Gold Status with Delta upon landing in Singapore.

If you can take on the responsibility of handling yourself thousands of miles away from home, that spills over into your time and tasks in the office, too. Practicing this type of responsibility is a plus to your employer.

In summary, asking for more vacation time can be uncomfortable. But if you’re prepared to show your employer your accountability, value to the company and how travel can be mutually beneficial, you’ll be preparing for your next departure in no time.

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