For those of us who work full-time – and that’s 23.25 million of us Brits – there’s nothing that provides us with more light at the end of our 9-5 tunnel than the prospect of annual leave. With the average UK worker receiving 25 days a year, 10 more days than our American friends, you may be forgiven for thinking that we are spoilt; drowning in hours of office-free time. Except, we’re not. Halfway through the year we log into our holiday entitlement to find less a flood of remaining holiday and more a desert: a dry Sahara of vacation-less work stretching out ahead of us. Where did it all go wrong? Why did you book that one Friday off to watch back-to-back Game of Thrones? Or that last-minute Monday to avoid the team’s monthly meeting?
Not making the most of your annual leave is common. It’s also a guaranteed way to ensure that you see less, do less and experience less. However, by properly managing your holiday allocation and planning ahead, you can turn your precious 25(ish) days of freedom into something much more. Here’s how:
The Bank Holiday bumper package
The ‘buy one, get three free’ Bank Holiday trick is known to any seasoned worker, but do you use it to its full advantage? This year, if you coupled your annual leave with every bank holiday, you could have extended your 25 days leave to a whopping 55 days (including the Bank Holiday Saturdays and Sundays) of glorious office-free time. By using your Bank Holidays strategically, you can make sure that you’re making a profit on each holiday, enjoying more time for less. Make sure you swot up on your Bank Holidays using this government website and get planning.
Last-minute Christmas 2016 tip:
This Christmas, if you play your annual leave cards right, you can use three days leave to enjoy 10 days of holiday. As Christmas Day and New Year’s Day both fall on a Sunday, our Bank Holidays are bumped to the 27th December and 2nd January, giving us an extra couple of days out the office! All you need to book off is 28th-30th December, as Christmas Eve has been kind enough to fall on a Saturday. If your office closes for the entire festive period, then take 19th-23rd off to earn yourself a whopping 17 days out the office, for just five extra days leave. Why not use this time to grab some winter sun? Take a short-haul flight to the glorious Carpe Verde on Africa’s coast or explore Northern Tenerife, a ruggedly beautiful spot removed from the usual winter crowds. If you’d like to go further afield, why not spend the festive period in the Caribbean? Or brave the 24-hour travelling for Christmas on the beach in Australia?
The mini tour
If you’re using your holiday wisely, pairing it with Bank Holidays, then you’ll have some time aside for that coveted two to three week holiday. This is your chance to think big. Rather than booking two weeks on the beach, select a location that enables you to move around; experiencing different landscapes, regions and cultures within the space of 14 days. Flight Centre offers a great choice of tours and are a good starting place to begin your planning.
Mini tour ideas:
A tour doesn’t always have to mean a long-haul slog. The Greek islands are the perfect place to experience vastly different cultures, separated by just a boat ride. Why not spend two weeks island hopping, beginning in frenetic and historic Athens, before taking a boat out to idyllic Mykonos or Santorini? Where you go from here is up to you: from quiet, charmed Hydra (part of the Saronic Gulf Islands) to the Turkish-Venetian inspired Dodecanese Islands, the choice is yours. Finish your sun-drenched adventures with a few final nights in beautiful Crete; an island of wonderful food, historic taverns and crystal-clear waters.
The midweek escape
For many of us, taking a week out from office life isn’t always possible. However, there’s hope! Why not head into the office for the first two days of the week, getting those meetings out the way, before embarking on a five-day out-of-office experience? Wednesdays and Sundays are the cheapest days to fly out and return on, meaning you’ll also be grabbing yourself a great deal. With weekends also featuring soaring hotel prices, it means you can treat yourself to that superior room on Wednesday and Thursday night, without hitting the credit card too hard.
Midweek escape routes:
Five days is more than enough time to explore any European city, so why not create a multi-centred trip? If you want to combine a beautiful city with a place of outstanding beauty, then we’d recommend taking a trip to Slovenia. Stopping first in the capital of Ljubljana – Europe’s greenest city – explore both the stunning architecture and fantastic nightlife, courtesy of the 50,000 resident university students. City-slicking done, head out to the majestic Lake Bled; a fairy tale lake nestled amongst soaring snowy mountains and pristine forests. It’ll take your breath away. If this doesn’t take your fancy, check out Flight Centre’s Europe City Breaks brochure for more inspiration.
Friday night getaway
Of course, there is one option that allows you to get away from it all, without using any holiday at all: the Friday-night getaway. This takes some planning, but if you’re prepared, you can slip out the office at 5pm and arrive at your weekend bolthole by bedtime. Top tip: Friday and Saturday nights are peak times for hotel prices. However, operators tend to change their prices on a Tuesday morning, after monitoring the take up of rooms over the weekend. So if you’re primed and ready, you can catch a deal on a Tuesday morning and be on your way come Friday night.
Weekend bolthole ideas:
Now’s the time to make the most of the UK. If you’re looking for something a little different, then why not try Scotland? A short evening flight means you’ll have more than enough time to explore the fantastic cities of Glasgow or Edinburgh. Or, if you want some peace, then fly to Aberdeen and drive out into the rural Highlands for two nights of walking, log fires and rugged beauty.