Use Your Vacation Days, Save Your Money: 5 Tips for Planning Your Trip

The average American worker receives anywhere from 10-14 days of paid vacation in one year. That's not a lot, especially if you compare it with what's typically offered to workers elsewhere around the world.

Austrians, for example, can expect a minimum of 22 paid vacation days, plus an additional 13 paid holidays. In Australia? You'd get 20 paid vacation days along with 8 paid holidays. Meanwhile, Brazilians enjoy 30 paid vacation days on top of 11 paid holidays.

So, yeah, Americans are lagging behind in the vacation department.

And worst of all, of those piddly 14 days Americans are given, 54% didn't even bother to use all of their time off, resulting in a whopping 662 million unused vacation days!

These vacation days are yours to take and doing so can boost creative thinking, prevent burnout, and reduce stress. Still, most Americans feel that their workplace reputation may suffer if they are perceived as being away too often.

The trick, some say, is planning. Tuesday, January 30 is National Plan for Vacation Day, and the folks behind this movement encourage us to set aside some time to familiarize ourselves with workplace vacation policies, our time-off allowances, and plan in detail how and where we want to use this time. Sharing this info in advance allows your coworkers to better prepare for the days you'll be away.

So where do you want to spend your days off in 2018? Wherever it is you wanna go, it doesn't have to cost a fortune. Again, planning is key. And the less you spend on your plane ticket, the more you can budget on hotels, dining, and shopping.

Consider the following as you plan your flights:

1. Europe on Your List? Look for Cheap Transatlantic Flights Anywhere

Florence? Vienna? Dubrovnik? These cities tend to be a tad expensive if flying from the United States. Meanwhile, it's much easier to find a cheap flight to Milan, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Paris, or London. Use these cities as a jumping off point for your vacation and then book a cheap budget flight onward to your first choice city. Think of it as two cities for less than one. Check airlines such as WOW air, Norwegian, Condor, Level, and Primera. Do keep in mind that these low cost carriers charge extra for bags, which can sometimes negate any savings.

2. Travel Off-Season

Check out some of the not-as-popular off-season destinations that still offer great activities and tolerable weather. Since thousands of tourists won’t be flocking to those locations, prices for hotels, transportation, and everyday activities will be lower. Plus, crowds will be much smaller. And don't forget, summer lingers on long after Labor Day, when airfares and hotel rates drop. Have a look at discounted rooms currently spotted by Hotelwatchdog.

That said, peak summer sales do happen and it's best to book quickly when they do. Currently, Southwest has a summer sale for travel from June through August (ending tonight!). And if you're holding out for international deals, WOW air has reduced summer fares to Iceland

3. Consider Alternate Airports

A lot of major cities have more than one airport to choose from. In London, flights to Gatwick, Stansted, and London City often cost less than flying to Heathrow. In Tokyo? Haneda is closer and sometimes cheaper than Narita. And if you're searching for flights to New York City, there's always Newark, and even Trenton and Long Island. They all offer transportation options into the city.

4. Search Often. Seriously, Check All the Time. And Strike Fast When a Deal Pops Up.

Fares come and go throughout the day, and you can never be sure what may suddenly pop up. That $1,200 summer fare to Barcelona may drop to $432, but only for a few hours. That's because the number of seats offered at the lowest fares fluctuates. Someone could be holding the only seat at the lowest fare but decide not to book after all. And when it goes back into the inventory, if you're paying attention, you can snatch it up. Of course, we're happy to do all the digging for you. Sign up for our free airfare alerts.

5. Compare Consolidator Fares but with Caution

Yes, you can find some incredibly inexpensive fares available on consolidator sites, just as you can often find heavily discounted fares directly from the airlines themselves. Just remember, these extra low fares come with additional restrictions. If something should go wrong, you may be without all the rights and protections of a full retail fare. More on this here.

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