How Much Vacation Time Is Necessary?

How Much Vacation Time Is Necessary?


When I was living in the United States, we had 2 weeks off per year as standard vacation time – although I did work somewhere where we only had 1 week off.  Not so in Europe.

Many countries there give employees 5 or 6 weeks off per year.  The argument for more time off is usually supported by the fact that everyone needs time to:

  1. Rest
  2. Be with family
  3. Enjoy a hobby (or whatever activity makes one happy – skiing, surfing, etc.)

Those who support less time off have argued that with too much time off, people cannot concentrate once they’re back in the office.

So, are you for more or less time off for vacation?  How much time do you need to recharge your batteries?


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Freelance writer, translator and copyeditor currently living in Amsterdam. Former stressed-out marketing and public relations person in NYC. Likes languages but really doesn't like flowers. Contact through GreenRabbitTranslations.com.
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Discussion

  1. Ron Rowland on the 15th July

    I know I need one whole week just to decompress before I can really enjoy the second week. I think we know when we’re rested when we can start to look forward to returning to our homes and our responsibilities. I seem to think the Europeans have this in so much better perspective than we do here in our driven culture.

    • Kyle on the 18th July

      Agreed. I have over 3 weeks vacation now where I work in the U.S. – but, like most places, staffing is so short due to the economy that we usually can’t take more than one week at a time.

      But what is worse, we have to request vacation for the entire year on January 1. It is impossible to plan vacation time this far ahead when you have children or young adults you are planning around as well. We don’t know in January what school or other unexpected related activities are going to come up late in the year.

      This new policy has effectively ruined our family vacation time. This year, we sit at home while the rest of the family we normally vacation with (one is a teacher, the other unemployed) frolics for over 2 weeks at this very moment. One of my coworkers was denied every day she requested for the year because of “scheduling”. And the employers in the U.S. know they have you over a barrel because of the unemployment rate, so the attitude is “our way or the highway” because they know that no one is going to leave because there are no jobs.

      Morale is terrible everywhere, but they figure you should just be glad you have a job. I’ll be interested to see what happens when/if things improve – I know that the employees here will be moving on like a herd of buffalo, and they will have a hard time gaining new employees, with that attitude.

  2. Revsunk on the 15th July

    In NZ the minimum is 4 weeks. My employer gives me 6 weeks plus 2 weeks sick/ personal leave.

    I heard some of the labour laws are pretty sad in the US.

    • Dean on the 18th August

      It’s funn how citizens from so many other countries seem to bash the U.S. – even on vacation time. Educate yourself… I work for a small city 96hours of PTO (personal time), vacation time depending on tenure ( 1-5 years 2 weeks, 6-10 3 weeks, 11-15 4 weeks, 15-20 5 weeks, and 20+ 6 weeks), plus 11 governmental holidays. We also have the Family Medical Leave Act that protects our job if we have a family member that we need to take an extended period of leave to take care of. Plus we are truly FREE to live like we wish – not under government control like so many countries across the globe.

  3. Melanie Brooks on the 15th July

    A month. There are trips I’d love to take without worrying about not having enough vacation time to spend with my family at the holidays.

  4. Jason on the 15th July

    I get 2 weeks/year + sick days. I could really use another week, but I’d rather negotiate for it, then have some third party (government, labor union, etc) mandate it. Once it gets mandated, I know whats going to happen to my salary.

  5. Ilija Susa on the 15th July

    In Serbia the minimum is 4 weeks, but most employers give 5 weeks. Number of days of sick leave is not limited but in this period you receive a reduced salary.

    For me the ideal is 5 weeks annual holiday – 2 weeks for a longer holiday at summer, and the rest for a few small vacations during the rest of the year (skiing, mountaineering…)

  6. Derya on the 16th July

    I think continous 4 weeks is somewhat too much as it will make you lazy and when you get back, you will have a hard time concentrating. ı would rather take 2 X 2 weeks to spend the 4 weeks.

  7. Steve on the 16th July

    Most employers of grads in the UK will give between 5-6 weeks p.a. Just about to head off for a 3 week break soon ;-) Have found that it takes at least one week to truly relax without thinking about everything that needs doing in the office. Can then really enjoy the remaining time with the family.

    Don’t know how you folks in the US survive with only 2 weeks – you need some quality down time to stay productive throughout the year – at least in the knowledge economy.

  8. Monsieur J on the 16th July

    Hi there,

    I’m french and we have pleeeenty of vacations :
    5 weeks
    + 14 days off per year since the 35 weekly hours law. :)

    Anyway I agree with Steve : you need at least 5 days to switch off from work and its habits and start to relax and enjoy vacations.

    Then yes, it is hard to come back to work.
    But I would never give up my 3 weeks summer vacation, even if it is hard to come back.

    And maybe one day I will never come back ;-)

    • Dean on the 20th August

      You pay for those 5 weeks of vacations with the 3rd highest taxes of any country. France’s taxes are over 50% compared to the U.S. at less than 30%. I can take 3 weeks of “unpaid time off” and have 5 weeks off and still come out ahead of those who live in France and get 5 “paid” weeks of vacation. if France was sooo great, the U.S. would not have so many French nationals that have migrated to the U.S.

  9. enderFP on the 16th July

    I get one week, 0 sick days, 0 personal days. We also observe 6 holidays.

    When I had surgery, I had to take my vacation time, take one week unpaid and then two weeks of about 1/4 my take-home page — only because I bought into the short-term disability insurance (otherwise I would only have gotten paid for my “vacation” week).

    Particularly as a creative, it’s a terrible grind getting through the year and then trying to plan those five precious days into relaxing enough to recover. Unfortunately, it usually means that I cram as many overdue home projects or personal projects into that week and go back to work more exhausted than before. I *really* wish the U.S. would recognize all of the research that has proven over and over again what so little down time does to producing quality work.

  10. Bret Juliano on the 16th July

    I wish that the US would adopt this policy for vacations from everywhere else. Four weeks in 2 sessions would be much more productive for everyone. And I am sure it would return more positive feedback.

  11. Samoth Notron on the 16th July

    I think people have missed a trick here. I am in London and get 5 weeks paid leave per year. If I am sick I get paid too. But most places wouldnt allow you to take more than two weeks off in one go before getting written permission.

    I am really not sure about the US because I know most of Europe, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have an average of 4-5 weeks paid leave per year. Maybe somebody could let me know if in the US the two weeks excludes time off over christmas?

    Maybe it is the cost of living the American Dream?

    • Ana da Silva on the 22nd July

      Most places in the US do not give time off between Christmas and New Year’s so it’s 2 weeks off per year and that’s it (except your work place might decide you cannot take 2 weeks off together so then it would be 1 week + 1 week).

      Then there’s sick/personal time which usually is some 5 to 10 business days (not necessarily paid). I loved living in New York but after doing my American Dream math I moved to Europe. I hope my American friends will get better vacation time so they can come visit me!

  12. Greg on the 16th July

    Here in the states 2-3 weeks seems standard. The company I’m interning for only gets something like 10 days and my supervisor feels more time is ridiculous. While I see the perks of more off-time, for an 11-person graphic design company I find it reasonable to keep vacation to a minimum as most of them work from home, the environment is relaxed to start with, and if 2-3 people are vacationing it’s putting a lot of load on the other employees.

    With remote work being more and more popular it seems, there isn’t as much “vacation” as there is “time out of the office” which to me, is equally as enjoyable.

    It’s just more important to find ways to enjoy the weekends and every weeknight if possible. A family dinner and a movie on the weekend with the girlfriend tends to do enough for me.

    • Ana da Silva on the 22nd July

      I agree that being able to work from home or remotely (from anywhere in the world) helps. A person could be working by a beach in Tahiti then go swimming after doing his or her shift. Better than sitting in a windowless office with fluorescent lights!

  13. Danni on the 17th July

    I just got back from two weeks vacation. Traveled, spent time with family, ate great food and screamed as I rode various rollercoasters. I think vacation time is so underrated here in the US and I envy other countries. I believe this vacation actually added years to my life.

  14. Kate on the 18th July

    The situation in the US seems absolutely crazy to me. I get 27 days of paid leave per year in the UK (plus 7 public holidays), to use however I like – a girl in the office just had 3 weeks off at once, but I use mine in dribs and drabs for gigs and rehearsals as I have a secret second life as a musician. And I can roll a maximum of 5 days over from one year to the next – this year I’ve got 31 days off!!

    Also, we don’t have a sick leave allowance. After a certain amount of time you need medical certification, and then after that you get less pay. Having a set amount seems ridiculous – how can you know how sick you’re going to be in any year?

  15. Sugarenia on the 18th July

    I’m now a freelancer, but my previous employer (and most employers in Greece, since it’s mandated by law) give 4 weeks of vacation each year. I think it’s absolutely essential to have more than 2 weeks of vacation – seriously, how do you live through your work year like that?

    What’s funny is that since I started freelancing in January, I never got any “real” vacation – so I decided to take the whole of August off. Let’s see if this works.

  16. Dean on the 19th July

    That sounds crazy that US only get 2 weeks holiday! How can you relax with so little opportunity to persue personal ventures? I’ll keep my 22 days paid vacation + 9 national bank holidays thanks :D.

    The one constant we have among every single person in this world is we all want to be happy, and if the one thing that takes up most of our waking hours doesn’t give us time to do just that then I’m out!

  17. Luna on the 20th July

    I work in the UK and receive 21 working days holiday per year with bank holidays included. Only getting 2 weeks is insane!

  18. Lance on the 20th July

    One advantage of freelancing is that you can choose your own amount of holidays. I take about three months a year. Effectively the school holidays. That works out really well, as I get to muck about with the kids when they’re home.

    I just budget this into my rate etc. So there’s no financial hit.

  19. Luce on the 22nd July

    Wow you guys have a lottttttttt of days off.

    I come from Quebec, Canada, and I can’t say exactly how many weeks we have because it differs from a company to another.

    E.G. where I work you have one week the first year, two weeks the second year and three weeks the third year and that’s it. You can have a maximum of 3 weeks paid in a year and we have NO sick days paid. If you’re sick / have an appointment or something you’re not getting paid. We’re not paid but we can take those little days off when we want. So it’s not thatt bad.

    I have to mention that those 3 weeks exclude the Holiday one. Our company is closed for one week around christmas, so you decide if you want to be paid or not…(taking on your vacation time or not).

  20. KFaye on the 22nd July

    Reading all these comments is painfully depressing. I just left a company who offered a minuscule 5 vacation days and 5 sick days. All you readers are emphasizing how absolutely horrible the US vacation policies are. I love my career, but I also love spending time with my family and travel. It depresses me that I’ll spend a huge majority of my life under stress rather than doing the things I love.

  21. Darius on the 29th July

    I am from Lithuania – europe. There we also have month per year. But salaries are so little there. so many people don’t travel, they do something to make an extra cash during hollidays. I hope one day we will be rich so we will not need to worry about cash :D

  22. Darius on the 29th July

    But I don’t understand how such rich country like USA have only 2 weeks holidays. For me even one month is to little – when I was in school I had almost whole summer of holidays and I think how will it be enough fom me only one month per year.. And yet – as I said in previuous comment – salaries are little, so if I want buy let’s say a decent car I probably will have to work on hollidays :(

  23. John Caprez on the 11th August

    As long as one’s occupation does not feel like work, vacation is not necessary. Thereafter it is up to the individuals motivation to stay in that situation or seek for the next challenge in life … vacation is a side product of civilisation.

    • Jen on the 30th August

      Well, since every day is a vacation for you, you should feel comfortable giving your vacation to someone else would you appreciate it and actually use it.

      Not everyone has the opportunity that you have to find the perfect job. Maybe you should try to see things from their point of view.

  24. LS on the 21st August

    I wanted to reply to “Dean” but i can’t directly. Yes it’s true that the UK and Europe have longer holiday time than the US but we also pay higher taxes. Dean is also forgetting that our higher taxes pay for welfare and universal healthcare which is free at the point of need. Therefore we have longer holidays and the likelihood that everyone in the nation gets proper medical care, unlike the US where there are still thousands of citizens without adequate health cover. Dean is also forgetting that there are numerous Americans living in Europe, due to our better standards of living for everyone. So even with higher taxes, everyone is better off.

    • Jen on the 30th August

      Agreed, LS. I would have liked to reply to Dean as well.

      My fiance and I are strongly considering a move to the UK for several reasons, including but definitely not limited to vacation time. Aside from being so close to so many other beautiful countries and getting to meet all kinds of people. Our aim is to be there within the next 3 years. Maybe I’ll even meet you somewhere along the way, LS. :D

      DEAN: I live in Canada and I only get 2 weeks vacation. Yeah, Canada, that place just north of NY. No, it isn’t another state. Maybe you should look it up in an Atlas. Wait, they don’t exist in the US do they because no other country is important, right? Right, glad we got that out of the way.

      With the company I work for vacationg time increases after 3 years but whether or not it increases after time isn’t the point. The only problem with this is that a former co-worker who just quit to move on to “bigger and better things” was with this company over 7 years. He had 4 weeks of vacation time. However, just because he was with the company that long doesn’t mean he deserve the time he was given. After he left it turned out he did almost NOTHING for the last 5 years. We discovered the lies he was telling the boss about things that couldn’t be done and weren’t possible just so he could sit behind his cubicle and do nothing but watch movies all day long. How is it that I, and the rest of my dept works their behinds off and only gets 2-3 weeks vacation but this guy, only because he’s been able to fly under the radar for so long, was “entitled” to 4 weeks? Increasing vacation time after years worked isn’t a compromise. The turnover rate in this company in every department is VERY high with most people leaving within the first year for jobs that all have more vacation time.

      So DEAN, you might want to actually get some travel time in to see how the rest of the world really lives and maybe learn to think critically and, as you say, EDUCATE YOURSELF instead of just taking whatever the republicans say as gospel. As far as your “freedom”, you’re fooling yourself if you truly believe that you have any at all. Do you remember the artist in NYC who put up a showing o George W Bush as a monkey and he was forced to take it down? So much for your FREEDOM of expression…

  25. Darrell Cassell on the 3rd March

    My employer gives me 160 hours of payed time off (PTO). This means, wether or not im sick, on vacation or whatever, it all comes out of the 160 hours. I think 4 weeks is enough for me. A week every 3-4 months seems to make the year a little easier to get through.

  26. Bryan on the 13th October

    I get 3 days my first year. 5 days per year after that. I am greatly saddened by this.

  27. william on the 31st January

    I work in the US and work for a company that starts employees off at 18 days PTO (vacation and sick) and peaks at 25 after several years, provides 10 holidays, and has a 9/80 work schedule (work 80 hours over 9 days instead of 10 days – effectively provides 26 additional days off). In effect, every other week is a three day weekend. Sum it all up and that is 25 + 10 + 26 = 61 days off per year. We are allowed to carry over PTO from year to year. This allows time to recharge batteries on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis. Family medical leave act and other leaves of absence are allowed, although not encouraged. Some employees (i.e. mothers) work part time – maybe 24 or 32 hours per week (fewer projects, less responsibility)… providing them 3 or 4 days off every week to tend to their families. All is not dismal in the US for vacation time.

  28. April on the 5th February

    For those in the U.S. who are getting over a month’s vacation/AP, etc, where do you work?
    I have been at my company 7 yrs and we’re only given 2 weeks a year until our 8th anniversary, then it’s 3 weeks. We can rollover some AP time, so that helps. Trouble is, this is basic data entry work, not much room to develop genuine job skills. I graduated from university 8 years ago, but I doubt I’ll ever use my degree, especially since I have no desire to return to school. I am taking some online courses in the near future in hopes to actually develop new skills without wasting $1000s more on tuition. Other suggestions?
    And of course, I’ve considered moving to Europe many times, but I don’t know who the heck would hire me since I don’t have any “skills.”

    • RJ on the 7th March

      I agree with April, where are these jobs with 4+ weeks of vacation per year? I have been in the manufacturing industry for almost 30 years, and some companies you start with zero vacation, and most you get 1 week (40 hours) after the first year. But then you hear people saying, they get 5 weeks like it is nothing. Where are these jobs, and how is it that I have never seen them! I know top management gets those long holidays, but not the workers. And always check with the company that you plan to work. Find out what they require to get hired and promoted! Good luck April!

  29. rain purce on the 21st February

    Got a q for anyone who can answer it: were could i go to find out how much vacation time the mid west the asians and the south americans get per year. :D :{)

  30. rain purce on the 21st February

    :)

  31. Chuck Rodgers on the 7th March

    I live in Maryland and have for 4 years worked for a small Hotel.
    I get 0 sick days 0 Vacation days and 0 Holidays.
    We also have no company insurance so I depend on the State for that.
    Everyone I know in this area gets about the same ( a week off for some companies) so there is no competition for employers to change.

  32. Peter on the 7th May

    Wow.. I just stumpled over this board, because I was talking with some colleagues about one of our old colleagues who moved to New York to work for a few years. We kind of envied him, but then we started talking about work hours and vacation. In Denmark, we work 37 hours per week, and get 5 weeks paid vacation + 11 official holidays (4 of them are on specific dates, and therefor some years are on saturdays and sundays). We also get paid on sick days. I love travelling and even though I have a good job, where I can also work from home a couple of days each week if I want, I must say, that I couldn’t live with only 2 weeks vacation. My girlfriend even 6 weeks paid vacation, so I’m kind of envying her. Remember to enjoy life, and not just work all the time! And remember life isn’t all about money and big houses and big cars.. TIME is much more precious :-)

  33. Jim Waters on the 9th May

    Well, I get 3 weeks / year where I work. We start at that and that is what we get. We can roll over 1 week from year to year to have a max of 4 weeks in a year. We also get 9 company holidays and can work from home if we are sick.
    Frankly, I can’t stand it when people go on vacation (myself included) because it unfairly impacts everyone else’s workloads. While I understand the need to be rested and enjoy life, a company has to be able to get its business accomplished in a more competitive and efficient manner than its competition.
    Additionally, at most places I have worked in the past, having vacation hours and taking vacation are two different things entirely. Just because you CAN take 3 weeks of vacation does not mean it is in your best interest. Employers frown on that and if they find someone willing to work and not take such a long absence, it is better for their business and they will be happy to replace you. In the US, most folks are willing to work for the reward of having a good job, better life, promotions, recognition, etc. That said, there is always someone willing to work a little harder and replace you if you like to enjoy your vacation a little too much.
    SO, do I take my vacation? Heck no. The longest vacation I have taken is 1 week and that was 14 years ago for my honeymoon. Do I wish I could take one? Not really. I’d rather keep up with my work and provide for my family instead

  34. Charlie on the 11th May

    I work in the US and my employer recently changed its time off rules for full-time employees. I now get 6 paid holidays and 23 days of PTO, and that’s for the first few years. I believe it climbs to 28 days of PTO eventually. We used to be able to carry over some of it, but not anymore. The company has come out directly and said that they’ve made it “use it or lose it” because they want us to actually USE our time off.

  35. Matt on the 7th June

    It’s the same here in Canada as in the U.S., we only get 2 weeks of paid vacation a year and 3 weeks after working 2 years, however if you quit a certain job and start a different one you are back to your 2 weeks. I envy Europeans so so much, not only is everything closer in Europe but they have do much more freedom to go to places because of the amount of vacations they get, most of my relatives live in Austria and they go to Italy at least twice a year and Croatia and Egypt. When they heard that I only get two weeks a year they were surprised, most of them wouldn’t want to move here because they would really have to adjust how much you have to ‘slave’ work here for only a 2 week vacation….north America is all about profit not about balance of work and free time to yourself… Same goes with full time hrs. In Canada it’s 40 hrs a week, and in Austria it’s 38.5 last I heard….they also have more stats and most businesses over there are closed on Sundays!!!

    • Shannon on the 16th July

      Matt, I live in the province of Manitoba (Canada) and the breakdown is as follows:

      First year – no vacation, no sick time, no benefits
      After one year – 2 weeks paid vacation
      After FIVE years – 3 weeks paid vacation

      The sick days and benefits are solely up to the employer. I’ve worked for places that have (as much as 6 per year) and some that have none.

      I’ve never worked for an employer who offered up more than the mandated minimum vacation time. Really sucks here.

  36. David on the 17th July

    I’m in the UK and have 5 weeks vacation – I think this is the perfect amount of time for R&R as I often work 45-50hrs/week unlike my US counterparts who have much less vacation but often appear to work less hours to compensate

  37. M on the 22nd November

    In Peru is 1 month and it’s cool to have that time off. I don’t know why in Canada and in the U.S. people have to wait so long to get a month vacation! That really needs to change!

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