How to make the most of your work annual leave for holidays (UK guide)

We started this website because we love to travel and see the world, but unfortunately, having a full-time job means that we can only visit places for 3 weeks or less, which is fine, it just means those trips have to be more action packed than a leisurely 2 month backpacking trip.

Travelling the world one holiday at a time is how most people visit different countries and it’s still a great way to unwind from a busy work schedule, whether you’re jetting off on a weekend city break in Europe or a longer 2-week holiday somewhere in South America. Follow our tips below to find out how to make the most of your annual work leave and pack in as many holidays as you can per year. The only limiting option is funds! We manage to fit 5-6 holidays in per year using these simple but effective tips and tricks.

  1. Travel over bank holidays

On average, the England and Wales has 8 bank holidays, with Scotland having 9 and Northern Ireland, 10. Bank holiday weekends are a great time to travel because you simply take fewer holiday days from work due to most companies including bank holidays in addition to annual leave days.

The Easter period and the month of May are the best times to take advantage of bank holiday travel. Easter always has Good Friday as a Bank Holiday and a Bank Holiday Monday that follows Easter Sunday whilst May has a bank holiday at the start and end of the month. Time your flights right and you could save 2 days annual leave for either period. What’s even better? The weather around Easter and May is usually quite good for most destinations and it’s still a cheaper time to travel compared to the peak summer months.

View the latest UK Bank Holidays dates on the official government website here.

  1. Take advantage of the long Christmas break

Christmas also has lots of bank holiday dates. Some companies offer the entire Christmas period off work whereas others may offer Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day for their standard leave entitlement. Take advantage of company closures and travel over Christmas and New Year to save plenty of annual leave days.

An upside to Christmas travel is the cheap prices that can be found if you choose to fly on Christmas Day, Christmas Eve or Boxing Day, as this is when many people choose to stay at home. Try to avoid flying around New Year’s Eve as it can be very expensive due to popularity of going away for New Year’s Eve.

Christmas holidays are great for long-haul destinations where good weather is almost guaranteed, or inter-Europe city breaks and ski trips.

How to make your annual leave go further - Christmas holidays

  1. Avoid using holiday when you’re not going on holiday

This one is quite an obvious annual leave saving tip and but it’s often overlooked. If lots of holidays and travelling is simply a must for you, avoid taking time off work for events, weddings, relaxing at home, waiting for a repair guy, visiting friends for the weekend and the rest of the endless reasons you might have to take a day or two off work.

Sometimes it’s inevitable and you’ll need to take time off but remember that every day off work is an extra day you could spend seeing the world.

  1. Travel over weekends rather than week days

Another tip that may seem obvious is traveling on a Saturday or Sunday rather than a weekday. For instance, if you travel on a Tuesday for a one-week holiday, you’ll return on a Tuesday, meaning you’ll need to take 6 days off work. Travelling on a weekend only requires 5 days of annual leave – excellent!

Squeeze in an extra day of holiday for the same annual leave cost by flying out on a Saturday and returning on a Sunday. If you’re going long haul however, ensure you check your arrival times – nobody wants to go into work on a Monday if they’ve landed at 6am!

How to make your annual leave go further - flight times

  1. Book half-day holidays if you’re flying late or returning early

If you have a late afternoon/evening flight or arrive early in the morning, why not work the other part of the day? Holiday days are precious after all and working that day can save annual leave to prolong another trip. We regularly work in the morning and go straight to the airport after work to jet off for a trip if we’re flying in the late afternoon.

Another benefit of working on the day you travel or return is that time seems to fly by, meaning less hanging around waiting for you flight! Of course, sometimes it’s nice to wind down before your flight – it all comes down to how precious that extra half a day of holiday is for you.

  1. Carry over holiday from a previous year

This tip is great for those that want a longer trip to a long-haul destination or simply want to relax and unwind for longer in a villa in Spain.

Many companies allow you to carry over X days of holiday from a previous year and apply them to the new financial year. Although you’ll have fewer holiday days to take in the previous year, you’ll have plenty more days to take in the New Year for a longer trip. Always check with your employer the maximum amount of leave you’re entitled to and the exact amount of days you can carry over.

How to make your annual leave go further - carry over holiday

  1. Buy more holiday (company specific)

Some companies allow you to buy and sell annual leave days. You can choose to work more days in a year and get paid for those but take less annual leave. On the other hand, you can ‘buy’ more days of annual leave by taking a calculated cut in salary, ideal for those that want lots of holiday and don’t mind a slight cut in wages.

This one is very specific to individual companies but still worth exploring if you’re lucky enough to have the option. Check with your employer to see how many days you’re allowed to ‘buy’.

  1. Negotiate good holiday entitlement at the start of a new job

When starting a new job, the main thing people look at is the salary and working hours. Glancing through the benefits and terms of the contract, you’ll find the number of days’ holiday entitlement. 20 – 25 days of leave is standard for the UK, with some larger companies offering more. Furthermore, many companies increase your vacation entitlement the longer you work for them, or you can negotiate annual leave when discussing a promotion with your boss.

If annual leave is as high on your job importance list as it is for us, always ask the employer/recruiter how many days of annual leave you get when you’re in the recruitment process. If you receive a job offer and annual leave entitlement is low or the employer isn’t budging on salary negotiations, try to ask for more annual leave days.

For some companies leave entitlement is non-negotiable, whilst others are happy to offer you more days off to win you over. It’s always worth asking!

How to make your annual leave go further - airport

  1. Stay at a company for a long time

This annual leave saving tip isn’t exactly quick and easy but nonetheless, it’s a way to have more holidays. If you love working for a company, staying there for a long time can often reap its rewards in the form of extra annual leave days for every X years you work. The amount of leave and period you have to work for differs by company so always check it out with your employer. Again, some companies may not offer this benefit.

  1. Be flexible with the airport you’re flying from

If you’re flying from a small airport, flight plans can be limited and airlines only fly on specific days. This isn’t good news if flights only depart on weekdays and you’re trying to save annual leave days.

Search for nearby airports when booking a holiday to see if another location offers weekend flights to the same destination or better availability over a bank holiday. Skyscanner’s ‘nearby airports’ checkbox and calendar view is ideal for this.

  1. Go on shorter holidays

If you want to see as many places as possible in a year and don’t spending less time in each place, going on more frequent short holidays such as European city breaks can be a great idea. Most European cities can be reached within a cheap flight that takes less than two hours and you can see most of the sites within a few days. Simply travel over the weekend and take a Friday or Monday off work for a good amount of time to see a city. Having lots of short trips can be more expensive than less frequent 1-2-week holidays but it’s a great way of seeing the world whilst working full-time.

Similarly, choosing a multi-destination holiday allows you to see more places in a single holiday and is highly recommended if you’re visiting a long-haul area of the world such as South-east Asia or the USA.

  1. Ask for unpaid leave

If your annual leave entitlement simply isn’t enough for the trips you have planned (you might be attending 3 weddings abroad in 12 months or simply love travelling!), ask your employer for unpaid leave for the extra days’ holiday you need.

This can sometimes be unpopular and frowned upon by employers so proceed with caution. We’d recommend approaching the conversation well in advance of your trip and negotiating politely with an option to compromise. A good reason for the trip such as a wedding, honeymoon or family visit also helps.

How to make your annual leave go further - unpaid leave

  1. Ask for a sabbatical

Once unknown by many, sabbaticals are becoming quite popular with workers looking to take a break from work and explore their dreams of travel for multiple months. People of many ages take them, although they’re particularly popular with young professionals, lasting anywhere from one month to a full year.

Not all companies offer sabbaticals so it’s worth checking with your employer. It’s completely up to your bosses whether they grant your request and it can depend on your worth to them, you’re proven track record, company policy, amount of requested time and how long you’ve been working for them.

Some companies are happy to offer sabbaticals to employees rather than having them leave the company. A good employee is worth a lot and they realise this. Most sabbaticals are unpaid, however you could be one of the lucky few that has a paid sabbatical granted.

  1. Take time off between jobs

So technically, this doesn’t have anything to do with making the most of annual leave, but it’s worth considering anyway if you want to travel for an extended period of time. If you’re tired of your job, feel like starting a new path in your life or your employer won’t grant the time off you want, quitting and spending time out visiting new countries is a therapy that does wonders, however it is a risky option if you have a lot of responsibilities and commitments.

Nevertheless, quitting a job, travelling for some time and then securing another job when you return is a popular option if you can pull if off with little consequences. Having a potential job to come back to will definitely help you out here.

How to make your annual leave go further

We hope you enjoyed reading our handy guide on making the most of your annual leave. Although some pointers are obvious, they can often be missed and combining different options can help you achieve more holidays than ever! A slight disclaimer to the above is that all advice is dependent on your individual job. All employers have different policies and what may work well for an office job may not work for retail. However, we hope we’ve provided something useful for everyone!

Do you have any annual leave saving tips of your own? Let us know in the comments below or on our social pages, we’d love to hear it!


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