life Travel Work

Vacation Day Calculations

June 30, 2022

Last night, I started setting up my Erin Condren Daily Duo because it starts July 1st and I wanted to try it out! The Full Focus served me so well through May and June and still has one month left, but the ECDD is dated and I can’t not start on July 1, right!?


Anyway, I had a grand old time writing out our big plans for each month and highlighting the tiny 6 month calendar with our vacations and days off in the coming months.

THEN I started panicking, because omg I have a lot of time off planned and did I actually have enough PL days!?

The answer = yes, but I will lose much of the cushion I gradually accumulated in 2020-2021 by NOT taking many days off. This feels slightly uncomfortable and indulgent but also . . . I do feel entitled to those days! They are an official ‘benefit’ of my job — and honestly, what benefit could be be more important!? Also, for the most part I am taking them during times of the year when things are slow, anyway. Christmas break is not exactly a productive time for most people, including me.

The tally:

  • A few random scattered days, including tomorrow + Monday, Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah, and another short trip in September
  • 2 weeks (separate weeks, but each a full week!) this summer.
  • 2 weeks straight (!!!!) for winter break. Last year I took call for all of Christmas week (I was due!). In 2020, we did have these days off but we all got COVID so it was pretty much zero fun. This year we are going skiing for the first time as a family (in Montana!), and I already booked it so it’s going to happen.

Anyway, it was fun, informative, and slightly panic-inducing to see it all laid out like that. I will re-accumulate my pile of days in January – March, because I probably won’t take much if any time off until April’s spring break. So it will work out. I don’t think I will regret all of the above. The kids are finally at an age where travel and time off is getting to be actually fun and so . . . I guess I’m ready to enjoy it!

Example of this layout . . . possible vac dates for 2023!
Also, the EC paper is so luscious. Never change this, EC!

PS: I am lucky that I do not have to bank vacation days for potential sick time, because that comes out of a separate disability bank if more than 3 days are needed. On the downside, I don’t think you can use those disability days for caregiving (like if a family member were to become ill). But saving a slew of days specifically for that scenario is probably not worth it.

PPS: LagLiv is in ICELAND right now! Future bucket list use of vacation days. It looks truly amazing and her kids seem like perfect ages for the trip.

Does anyone else sit there with a calculator when planning days off?

Does anyone else feel guilty taking more time off than average even when the days are technically yours?

(Somehow I never felt bad using up all of my days for maternity leave so not sure why this feels different!)


  • Reply Lori C June 30, 2022 at 6:38 am

    Soooooo I actually have an Excel calendar that I started using when I got my first real job in 2003… its the full year on one sheet (a cell for each day) and calculates remaining PTO. I just built the 2023 tab last week 🙂 so I can put a bunch of stuff in and see if it fits and how much time I have left. I LOVE it. And yes I periodically go in and look at it and tweak things and think about ways to use the time!

    Sounds like long overdue time off for you and I am sure you will enjoy every minute. Dying to hear about Montana that sounds like an amazing experience

    • Reply Grateful Kae June 30, 2022 at 7:20 am

      I made an excel spreadsheet last year, too, and I love it!!! Our hospital went to an accrual based system recently, so we earn X amount of hours per pay period (every 2 weeks) and it just keeps rolling forward. At first I wasn’t sure I liked it, but it is so easy now.

      So I have my “Used” vacation on one side, where I track my beginning and ending balance each pay period and add any PTO I took. Then I have a “projected” vacation section, where it forecasts the whole next year. I love it because I can put hypothetical vacation hours in and it will update my projected totals…like, ok, if I take 16 hours in July, 64 hours in August…then how much will I have left if I want to schedule for October?” etc. I can see with one click. Obviously I can also ballpark the entire year or more in advance on paper, since I know what the overall total # of vacation hours work out to be for a year, but I LOVE this spreadsheet so much. Has been the best thing ever to reduce my stress around figuring out vacation time!

      Oh, and I would never feel guilty about taking time off. I assume, and have always assumed, that I am expected to take that time off! That’s why they give it to us…. The only time I wouldn’t use all of it in a given year would be to save it/ roll more forward for an even bigger, better, LONGER vacation or time off the next year!! hahaha.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 30, 2022 at 8:37 am

        “Our hospital went to an accrual based system recently, so we earn X amount of hours per pay period (every 2 weeks) and it just keeps rolling forward” – that’s exactly how ours is. I think if you build above a certain point they force you to take payout in exchange for days over the threshold, but it must be high b/c I’ve never reached it (though two maternity leaves were kind of a limiting factor!)

        • Reply Grateful Kae June 30, 2022 at 9:45 am

          I think for me, based on my years of work, etc, my max accrual before you start to lose it is like 294 hours! It would be unheard of for me to go long enough to accrue 294 hours without taking any time off, unless I had dropped dead or something. lol! 😅

  • Reply Amy June 30, 2022 at 6:44 am

    My work situation is pretty different (I’m functionally self-employed and can take off whenever I want, but if I don’t work I don’t get paid) which definitely creates stress when planning time off! I build it into the year and assume I will only work, say, 47 or 48 weeks out of the year rather than 52.

    Skiing in Montana, though, that sounds amazing!

  • Reply Katie June 30, 2022 at 6:49 am

    I’m so glad you’re using that time off. I think it is a particularly American thing to feel reluctance to use that time off and it seems (to an outsider) as if there’s a sense of that being frowned upon somehow?

    I also love the EC paper. I don’t use their planners but LOVE their notebooks for that reason.

  • Reply Laura June 30, 2022 at 7:19 am

    I know myself – if I had a more typical job with PTO, I would want to build it up and never use it, just so I had a cushion for…something. Like an emergency fund I guess. As it is I take a lot of time “off” but not totally off. I travel multiple weeks per year and do random off days but almost always do about an hour of work on weekdays that are “off” if that makes sense.

  • Reply Keren June 30, 2022 at 7:22 am

    The company I work for has adopted a limitless vacation policy this year, I’m still having hard time to adopt to it, before I had a set amount of vacation days and I felt entitled to them, also it was more than enough days and you could accumulate up to 33 days from one year to the next. Behind the scenes we are still entitled to same number of days, since it has to match the country’s laws, only now days can’t be accumulated, so I feel I must use my yearly allowance. Since vacation days can be cached for money in case of terminating your employment they definitely feel like part of my benefits package and giving them up will be like giving up part of my salary.
    The strange thing is that the company has announced this policy after checking vacation usage and most employees took less vacation days than what they were entitled to. during covid we were forced to take most of our vacation days and use them and now there are still quite a few mandatory “shutdown” days that everyone has to take.

    • Reply Keren June 30, 2022 at 7:23 am

      All that being said I am taking a week off next week😊

  • Reply Carys June 30, 2022 at 8:19 am

    I’ve been using google sheets to calc my vacation days for over a decade. I also used them when my husband worked a regular job with vacation to calculate his as well. We both accrued monthly and at the beginning of my career I got only 2 weeks so I used them to bank time and coordinate years with bigger vacations planned. I still use it.

  • Reply Brooke June 30, 2022 at 8:34 am

    Iceland is amazing! Definitely put it on your bucket list. It’s also pricy – I was glad I went on a work trip and wasn’t paying myself 🙂

    Do not feel guilty about taking vacation. I’m a manager and I tell my employees the same thing. I also strongly encourage them to disconnect when they take PTO, whether for vacation or sick leave. I’m constantly coaching my upper management to do the same. I really try to practice what I preach as well. With very few exceptions, I don’t check email when I’m out. Time off – truly off – is necessary and restorative.

  • Reply Alyce June 30, 2022 at 8:41 am

    My job comes with the ability to earn “credit hours” for the times that I work more than 8hrs per day. You can bank up to 24 hours at a time, and of course I’m routinely banking extra hours. When I hit the ceiling, it’s a built in reminder that I’ve been working too much and I should take a couple of days off. If I don’t, I don’t get any compensation for overworking, even though I theoretically could have. Psychologically, missing out on credit hours makes overworking feel even worse than it already is/ would be if credit hours didn’t exist. But having credit hours means that I can routinely take a day or two off when things are quiet without eating into my annual leave. We can’t carry over more than 30 calendar days of annual leave a year (so 6 business weeks), so many long time feds build up to the 30-day max. They only use the new leave they wouldn’t be able to carry over over the course of the year. We don’t have short term disability at the Federal level, so many people hold onto their 30 days of leave as an emergency buffer. Between covid and not wanting to travel with a toddler, I’ve definitely rebuilt my leave (after depleting it for maternity leave, which wasn’t a paid benefit for fed employees 3 years ago, but is now, thankfully), and can maintain it, even with multiple week long vacations every year. But no one feels guilt about taking leave in my office. There’s very much a culture in my immediate office that your leave is yours and you’re entitled to it. My immediate supervisor would never hesitate to take a 2-3 week vacation, so the culture setting starts at the top. Between the two of us, we have grand dreams of one day being able to take monthlong sabbaticals. We like to dream big.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 30, 2022 at 10:44 am

      “My immediate supervisor would never hesitate to take a 2-3 week vacation, so the culture setting starts at the top.”
      My division chief is wonderful and supportive and I love her, but she is allergic to taking vacation. However, to her credit, she has NEVER said anything negative about me taking mine!
      (Meanwhile at Duke our division chief would often spend months in France on sabbatical! Hey, he earned it!)

  • Reply AnnaM June 30, 2022 at 9:14 am

    I tell my team that not taking their fill PTO is tantamount to refusing part of their paycheck – PTO is their benefit and they are entitled to it! I studiously plan and use every single one of my 35 days (yes! And I’m in the US!), and it is a huge factor if I were to ever switch companies.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 30, 2022 at 10:46 am

      love this take!!

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns June 30, 2022 at 9:29 am

    My company has the same set up as Keren’s above. We went from a set policy to unlimited in 2020. I took 4 extra weeks of maternity leave when I had both kids, but had an easier time doing it in 2018 because I had a bank to draw from. When it’s not as set in stone, I felt more weird taking the extra time in 2021 but my boss told me not to worry about it – it was something I was worrying about for no reason! We could only carry 5 days over and they had to be used in the first quarter, so my company never really had to pay out huge balances but the change was definitely made out of a recognition that people rarely use up all of their PTO. Which is a shame because it’s a benefit everyone should utilize, like healthcare, etc. I never feel guilty taking time off. I do track it even though it’s “unlimited” so that I make sure I’m using the 6 weeks I previously got before the change to unlimited. We are in a different season of life so we aren’t taking many trips – just a Feb trip to AZ and then we take 4 days off for a trip to my parents lake home in August. So much of my days off end up being used to care for a sick child or when I am sick. But I know that will change as our kids get older and get fewer bugs.

    I would think you need less “margin” since your kids are older so probably/hopefully sick less often!

  • Reply Marie June 30, 2022 at 9:46 am

    Where in Montana are you going skiing? I grew up there and learned to ski at a community mountain outside of Bozeman… beautiful, great snow, but cold!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 30, 2022 at 10:46 am

      Big Sky. We are going to freeze, but for December skiing apparently it’s a really good option!!! (Josh’s cousin also lives there and she helped give us the idea!)

      • Reply Marie July 5, 2022 at 10:49 am

        Enjoy! It is wonderful. And hand and foot warmers make a huge difference!

        If you have a day where you don’t feel like skiing, Old Faithful in Yellowstone is ~2 hours away from Big Sky. Yellowstone is super cool in the winter, with the geothermal features (hot springs, geysers, etc.) contrasting with the snow on the ground. Museum of the Rockies (in Bozeman) also has a great dinosaur exhibit that the kids would probably like as well.

  • Reply Connie June 30, 2022 at 10:24 am

    I was in a meeting recently where someone said ‘let’s normalize taking time off that we have earned”. That stuck with me.

  • Reply omdg June 30, 2022 at 10:36 am

    Heck NO I feel no guilt about taking my vacation days! I work all the damn time including on vacation so there is no reason to feel guilty about this whatsoever.

    And thank you for the reminder for me to book next Summer’s weeks off, and to start thinking about planning conferences and trips for 2023. Just booked a week in July and a week in August of next year. 🙂

    • Reply Gwinne June 30, 2022 at 11:59 am

      This is all fascinating. I’m an academic on a 9 month appointment. So in some respects I have all summer off. BUT also literally don’t get paid….but need to work on research/ writing projects that dint really fit during teaching heavy semesters. During the 9 months for which I am contracted there are also some days off such as winter break and spring break although some of that needs to be spent in preparation for teaching Etc. And we have absolutely no sick time other rhan fmla which clearly can present an issue when short term illnesses arise. All this is to say I find the possibility of having to schedule one’s own vacation time fascinating

      • Reply omdg June 30, 2022 at 12:55 pm

        My current effort at work is 40% clinical and 60% non-clinical (research), but I actually spend about 30-35 hours per week in the operating room or on call, so the remaining 60% of time actually accounts for every single other hour of the week that I am not sleeping! Scheduling vacation time basically means that I can’t be put scheduled to staff an operating room that day, or be scheduled for a late or call shift. In theory when I have non-clinical days that are not vacation days I still have to be in town so that if the operating room needs me, I can come in, but in practice that almost never happens (I am not planning on testing the limits of this policy, ha). Often I end up doing work that day, but I really try not to have meetings. Interestingly, I have to use vacation time to go to conferences also. It sort of stinks, because most places have dedicated conference time. But it’s also nice because there’s no limit on the number of conferences I can go to. Interesting to see how faculty appointments vary across dept and institution!

  • Reply Amy June 30, 2022 at 1:45 pm

    We have accrual based PTO so I have an ongoing Excel spreadsheet to track my time. It’s been really helpful to plan out how various trips, etc. impact my remaining hours.

    Healthcare in general should treat their employees better with more time off. I’ve changed jobs multiple times in the last few years & none are willing to negotiate PTO. It’s purely based on years of service with no credit given for past experience. And the totals are significantly lower than other industries, not even considering the lack of paid parental leave in most healthcare organizations. One more thing contributing to the exodus from healthcare…

  • Reply Sophie June 30, 2022 at 3:32 pm

    Planning out vacation is one of my favourite activities! I don’t feel guilty at all (taking leave is normal and encouraged in Australia – if we don’t take it we get paid out those days when we leave the company, which companies hate because it effects their bottom line). We get 20 days per year so I love to plan out two longer breaks and then some random days off and long weekends. I do like to have a handful of days up my sleeve at any time for future planning. I work in academic research though so I don’t need to arrange cover for me or anything, so that makes it a lot easier!

  • Reply Leah W July 1, 2022 at 12:23 pm

    Sorry if you’ve answered this before, but how is your daily planner usage different from what you’re putting in your Hobinichi Cousin? I’m a Full Focus planner user and very tempted by this EC Daily, can’t wait to see how it works for you.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 2, 2022 at 8:17 am

      Hi! I’ve actually been out of the Cousin and into a weekly Hemlock and Oak (highly similar layout to Cousin, but no daily pages) since May, and I’m loving it. So I have a separate weekly + daily and it’s been working really well for me!

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