9 Ways to Use Extra Vacation Days

Don’t forfeit vacation benefits.

As the end of the calendar year approaches, workers with “use it or lose it” paid vacation time may wonder how to make the most of their remaining days off. Whether your goal is relaxation, productivity or helping others, the following ideas will ensure you don’t waste your hard-earned respite from the office.

Donate days to colleagues.

Only some American workers have access to paid sick leave and paid family leave. Even those who do may feel they don’t have enough when a baby is born or a medical emergency strikes. About 15 percent of U.S. employers allow workers to donate extra personal time off hours to co-workers who are dealing with illness or the challenges of new parenthood, according to the Society for Human Resource Management 2018 Employee Benefits Survey. Research by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans puts that figure higher, recording 30 percent of employers as allowing workers to donate vacation days, 28 percent to donate PTO and 22 percent to donate sick leave. Of course, workers have no obligation to ensure their colleagues have enough leave time — that’s the responsibility of management. However, donating hours or a day to a co-worker may feel like a good use of your extra time.

Supervise home repairs or renovations.

Having a weekday free to stay home and supervise contractors as they make repairs to or renovate your house can get your needs met more quickly, since these professionals have more competition for their time on weekends. If you’re still making preparations for work on your house, it may also be worthwhile to spend a day off interviewing professionals to make sure you find the workers with the right skills and experience.

Tackle a DIY project.

Perhaps there’s a home-improvement project or two you’ve neglected, such as transforming unused space or keeping up with fall and winter house maintenance before cold weather sets in. A day off can help you accomplish these goals. Jeff Rubin, owner of the Baltimore Handyman Company and the Baltimore Remodeling Company, recommends the following projects for a day off:

— Painting

— Hanging pictures

— Deep cleaning, such as scrubbing shower grout

— Replacing regular lightbulbs with LED bulbs to save energy

— Replacing knobs on kitchen cabinets

— Replacing doorstops

— Organizing closets

— Doing yardwork, such as raking leaves, mulching and weeding flower beds

Get your finances in order.

Put a spare vacation day to good use improving your financial life. List all the little ways you can fix your finances and knock as many as you can out in a day. Mike Wroblewski, a certified financial planner and founder of Financial Advisor For You, recommends three tasks. First is to get free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com and check for inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Second, create a room-by-room inventory of your personal property in case you need to file a claim with your homeowners or renters insurance company. Take photos and make a list of furniture, electronics, appliances, clothing, dishes, decorations and linens. This checklist from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners can help. Third, make an encrypted list of your passwords for your phone, computer, security system, voicemail and online accounts. This will help your family or friends take care of your affairs should the need arise.

Have fun for (nearly) free.

There are plenty of low-cost ways to relax or entertain yourself on an extra day off. The options include checking out books at the local library, visiting an animal shelter, touring a brewery or winery, completing an online course or preparing many meals at once to save time later.

Tour your own town.

Popular restaurants, attractions and parks can be packed with people on the weekends. Having an extra day off may provide you with the opportunity to experience some of your town’s highlights for the first time or in a more enjoyable way than usual. Foodies may be able to snag coveted tables for lunch reservations, while lovers of the great outdoors may want to head to their favorite hiking trails, which are less likely to be crowded on a weekday.

Volunteer your time.

Many people’s thoughts turn to charity as the winter holidays approach. A vacation day can provide you with a good opportunity to act on the impulse to help others in your community and beyond. Hospitals need a variety of volunteers, as do nonprofits such as tutoring groups, environmental organizations and museums. If you need a little extra incentive, remember that volunteering tends to be good for your health. Plus, some nonprofits even help volunteers cover some of the costs of their student loans.

Work on your side hustle.

Popular side jobs include ride-share driving, personal shopping, babysitting, dog walking, photography and copywriting. If you have a side hustle, take advantage of a vacation day to get caught up on your projects, communicate with clients, track your revenue and improve your marketing materials. Caitlin Pearce, executive director of Freelancers Union, recommends freelancers carve out at least one day a month for business-building activities and strategy planning. That could mean writing newsletters or blog posts to bolster your reputation as an expert, updating your website with your most recent accomplishments or contacting potential new clients. It’s also important to make time to plan your goals, she says: “For many freelancers, it’s easy to be very reactive and take what’s coming toward you without having that North Star of where you want that work to actually go.”

Plan a weekend trip.

If you’re able to take vacation hours on a Friday or Monday, you’ll have enough time to make the most of a weekend getaway. Bonus points if you take a vacation day adjacent to a three-day weekend. For ideas about where to go, check out the U.S. News & World Report Best Weekend Getaways rankings, which name New York City, San Francisco and Chicago among the top contenders.

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9 Ways to Use Extra Vacation Days originally appeared on usnews.com

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