Open Thread: Vacation Time

Vacation Time | CorporetteAs the close of 2015 is almost upon us, here’s a question: did you use your vacation time? If you did (congratulations), please regale us with stories — wheredja go, whadja do, how’d you find the time to plan/schedule it, which app/service would you recommend, etc. — but if you DIDN’T (which historically was me), why not? Did you just have too much work? Did you not feel comfortable scheduling something with your work calendar? Was it a budget/priority thing? For everyone — do you have any big plans for 2016?

For my $.02 — I almost never used all of my vacation time, and looking back it was largely because I worried it would reflect poorly on me at work. I also was worried that I would spend all this time/energy/money researching a vacation only to have it cancelled at the last minute due to work. I felt pretty comfortable in BigLaw scheduling trips to see my parents, both because we had religious reasons (Christmas, Easter) for the trips, as well as because I knew my parents had good Internet service and would understand if I had to turn it into a working vacation. And of course I would tack on a day or two here or there if I was traveling for a friend’s weekend wedding or whatnot.

But in terms of fun vacations, particularly in places without reliable Internet access? The stress usually stopped me from going. For example, my now husband took me to Paris a few months after we started dating, and I was terrified the trip would be cancelled, that there would somehow be a disaster ON the 5-day trip (I had nightmares of having to find an “Internet cafe” to work in for hours, paying in 15-minute increments with a dial-up modem). I worried that when I left I would be working without sleep to get all the work done — and I worried that when I returned there would be a mountain of work waiting for me. The trip turned out fine, of course. (Ok, I got food poisoning, which was less than awesome for a romantic vacation, and we totally failed to make it to Reims because I misunderstood the train schedule, but workwise it was fine.)

Another reason I didn’t travel much while working in BigLaw: I could never get the timing right to travel with friends, and I never dated anyone seriously enough to even ponder a vacation together (until I met my husband) — and I was hesitant to travel by myself as a single woman. In my non-profit job, I didn’t have nearly as much vacation time, I didn’t have seniority to choose when to take it, and we didn’t have the budget anyway to take vacation without some serious sacrifices.

How do you decide when to take your vacation time and how much to take at once? What are you hoping to do with your vacation time in the near future? Where would you like to go? Do you use up all your vacation hours by the end of the year or do you typically have a bunch of hours roll over?

In the past we’ve talked about taking vacation time (without losing your mind), how your office handles vacation timehow your office handles the holidays, and vacation horror stories — several years ago we also did a poll on how much vacation time readers actually take.

Further reading:

  • How Comfortable Are You Taking Vacation? [Forbes]
  • Are You Suffering from Vacation Deprivation? [The Street]
  • Are the People Who Take Vacations the Ones Who Get Promoted? [Harvard Business Review]
  • How to Stop Worrying About the Consequences and Take a Vacation [Fast Company]

Pictured: Wine Glass 12, originally uploaded to Flickr by David.


N.B. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course we highly value all comments by our readers, we’re going to ask you to please keep your comments on topic; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. Thank you for your understanding!


  1. I take all my vacation because I do not work for free. I am not a lawyer.

    • I agree 100%. I don’t give back part of my paycheck, so why should I leave my vacation on the table? I take every single day available to me. This helps me be a better employee becaues I come back refreshed.

    • I am a lawyer, and I did NOT get to take all of my vacation. I am suposed to get 5 week’s paid vacation plus 11 holiday’s, but as it turned out I onley have taken a grand total of 8 day’s off (other than the national holiday’s). The manageing partner insists that I bill 7500 hour’s a year so it is dificult for me to take 5 week’s off w/o doeing any billeing’s! I challenge the HIVE to show me how they can take 5 week’s off and bill 7500 hours. Now, I am workeing a challenge for an extra 500 hours whic of course mean’s NOT takeing time off. FOOEY! It is very dificult for singel girl’s like me to meet men, especialy b/c I have to bill so many hours. I wish I were NOT such a sucessful law firm partner. If I just married a guy, I could let him bill while I watched the E channel all day. That is what I should be doeing! DOUBEL FOOEY!

    • I’m a new in-house lawyer and was told to never leave it on the table by my supervisors. Everyone here takes all of their vacation. The only people that don’t have more than 6 weeks a year and they all try to take all of it. I still struggle with taking the vacation days mentally, but I’m not going to let them go to waste.

    • Maddie Ross :

      I don’t think it’s unique to attorneys that they don’t take all their vacation.

      • I agree. I have coworkers who do not take all their vacation. Our managers all the way up the line want us to take all our vacation.

        I was just specifying because Kat seems to think that the people who read this site are Lawyer and Other. I am Other.

      • Anonymous :

        I do think there is a problem that is mostly unique to lawyers (and consultants?) though with the billable hours. I have lots of friends who have Big Jobs in finance, tech management, medicine and other professions, and even though they may work as many hours as I do and get as many middle of the night emails as I do, it’s easier for them to take vacation because they don’t have to hit an hours minimum.

        • S in Chicago :

          On the flip side, you’re getting “credit” for time spent working. I go many years without a vacation and during the few I have taken, I have been called on “emergencies” for the day because of unforeseeable issues with a client. While the rest of the family is at the beach, I’ve been chained to a laptop for 12 hours. And the true sting is I’m technically on “vacation” and getting no extra compensation for that.

          • Anonymous :

            True, but this also happens to lawyers and we don’t really get any extra compensation. It’s pretty common for a vacation day to not count as a vacation day if you bill a certain number of hours, but many firms don’t allow vacation days to rollover/don’t pay accrued vacation, so an extra vacation day doesn’t ultimately affect your compensation.

    • Not a lawyer. Not American.

      I take all my leave every year, have never failed to do so. For 2015:

      2 weeks in Italy at Easter
      4 day weekend in Maldives
      2 weeks in NZ in dec
      1 week in India

      Snorkelling was the best!

  2. MissMiffed :

    Sorry for the thread jack but I have a question about something that was said during my year end review.

    I was given a glowing review. My praises were sung, they only said good things and it was made clear my work is good and everyone is happy with it. I was given a substantial bonus, twice as much as we were led to believe. I was not even given a single thing to improve on.

    The only critique I was given is that I am “too ambitious”. I wasn’t sure what to say because I was a little shocked so I asked for clarification and all I was told is that I’m a great team player and not a suck up, but too ambitious.

    This was yesterday and I slept on it but I’m not sure what to think. They went on about what a good lawyer I am and I was told they see me going far. This is my first job out of law school so I’m not sure if this is normal because this was my first review from this job. I don’t know how to bring up the “too ambitious” thing to get clarification without seeming like I am grateful for the positive things and the bonus,

    • Diana Barry :

      Honestly, it sounds like a s*xist critique to me. Who would ever say that to a man? FOOEY.

      However! This may be an office culture thing – where if you are junior, you can’t seem to have your eye on the big prize. Might be something that you can bring up with a mid-level person with whom you get along – see if you can pick a mid-level who is seen as a rising star in the firm, particularly if that person is also a woman.

      • Meh, chalk it up to having to find something to critique ans First Year points out below.

        One of the partners in my department shared how she was told the same thing when she was a junior lawyer and she’s built her own department at our biglaw firm.

    • First Year Anon :

      A few thoughts- it might be they were struggling to find a critique because they are required to give everyone something to work on, so this is what they chose (kind of like the “I am a perfectionist” answer when asked what is you flaw in interviews).

      OR since you are just one year out, you may be overstepping more senior associates and it’s rubbing some people the wrong way. Law firms are very hierarchical so you have to know when you can pip up and take charge in a situation and when you need to act like the junior associate and just take notes/listen intently/do as told.

    • R in Boston :

      Don’t talk about how you are definitely making partner when you are only a year out, but assuming you aren’t doing that, I think your colleagues have just noticed that you are female and that always squicks out the old white male partners. Welcome to the club, there are many of us. Check out the be more assertive/don’t be more assertive comment thread from a couple of weeks ago.

      • MissMiffed :

        Thank you for all the replies and advice. I do appreciate it so much.

        I thought it could be about me overstepping but before that during my review I was told about great discretion and tact I have and how I am a good listener who never interrupts. I also follow directions well and ask for guidance when appropriate while being independent.

        Me going far or being a partner was all them. I have never mentioned it because I feel like that would be overstepping. My firm is overwhelmingly white men. I don’t look white so it may be something they are not used to. I do try be assertive and not apologize or be overly grateful for things I have earned. I will see about finding a woman who is mod level that I can speak with about this. I will also check out the thread about being assertive.

    • Anonymous :

      Don’t being it up or try to clarify! Just listen.

    • Although sadly I agree that it’s probably a sexist critique, I can think of one reading of “too ambitious” that doesn’t come across that way. Is it possible that by “too ambitious” they meant that you take on too much work or too many projects at once? I.e. “wow, she’s planning on filing a motion to dismiss, doing a mediation, and representing a pro bono client in court in the same week – that’s ambitious!” This might also go along with you stepping on the toes of more senior folks if they feel like you are gunning to take on more work than is appropriate for your level. Your firm might prefer that you take on fewer things at once and focus very hard on those (I know mine does).

      Based on your summary of your review, it doesn’t sound like this is the case, but I would definitely ask for clarification. Hanlon’s razor – never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity. It’s possible this was just sloppy wording or shorthand for an entirely different critique and wasn’t meant as a criticism of your future goals.

      • Anonymous :

        To me, this is like asking the professor why you didn’t get an A+. It comes across as delusional and tone deaf.

        • I think there are ways to approach this that don’t come across as “why didn’t I get an A+” or “why didn’t I get a perfect review.” Just asking “why did you say I was too ambitious?” given all the other positives would might come across like that, but as a first year given an area to improve on, I think it’s important to show that she’s willing to make those improvements.

          Casually knocking on the door of a midlevel associate or a friendly person who gave her the review and saying “Hey, I was thinking about my review and I wanted to get a little more guidance on what I can do to not come across as too ambitious, since that was my only critique. Do you have any thoughts on what I should be doing differently – should I be managing my workload differently, or communicating in a different manner?” is a thoughtful and non-whiny way to approach the issue. If no one can give her specific examples, then it’s time to shrug it off and chalk it up to a random, not well thought out critique, but since she was taken off guard I think a little more investigation is wise, especially since it’s so early in her career.

          • Anonymous :

            Like, the overly ambitious critique to me means don’t be such a kiss up, so doing this would irk me.

      • Anonymous :

        This is a very good point. I think it’s likely this critique is rooted in sexism, but I did get a similar comment on some early reviews as a first year associate, and they didn’t mean I was bragging about how I was going to make partner, they meant I was taking too much on and not managing it quite as well as I could have been. I feel like “work on being more proactive [or communicative]” is a very common criticism when the review is basically all positive and they’re looking for something to critique and I can see “you’re too ambitious” as a comment along those lines.

    • “Ambitious” could mean they’re worried you won’t stick around but will move on to greener pastures after a couple of years. I’m at a small firm in a midsize city and we always worry about our “good” associates moving to a bigger firm after we train them (it has happened). If you are already in biglaw, probably does not apply, so nvm.

    • Amelia Bedelia :

      I’m not too sure this is sexist. We have a male associate (only second year) who recently had the same critique. It was born from a few repetitious actions on his part and really meant he was too aggressive in a way that felt like he was aiming to “steal” clients from partners by “brainstorming” on ways to get more business. Also, he would speak about the loooongterm future a bit too much in a weird way. It was like he was already planning to serve on the Board (talking about good changes to make) even thought that’s a good 20 years away for him!

      It’s hard to pinpoint. It wasn’t what he said as much as the way he said it. And a lot of partners got that vibe from him. It’s like he was planning to take over the firm — and not in a good way.

      I’d just examine the comments you make and the way in which you make them. Make sure you are offering comments as a team player and not as a future boss!

      • +1. First congrats on a stellar review. We don’t know you, don’t know your firm so it’s a shot in the dark but I’ve seen all of these: women held to different standards than men, The Powers That Be looking for anything they/we can use to offer something to work on, and young people who are ambitious in a way that makes the rest of us uncomfortable. I’ve also seen the latter in both men and women. There is a certain intensity in them (us, if I’m going to be honest) that makes a person seem too ambitious. And unfortunately when you’re in that mindset you don’t see it and you don’t understand why it makes other people uncomfortable. Been there, done that and now that I’m older, I cringe sometimes when I see it from the other side of the fence.

  3. I try very hard to take all my days. We are a small department and I have been here for over 6 years, my boss and coworker usually take a huge chunk of days off for Christmas through new years and I am usually left “holding down the fort”. Their claim? that I am not Christian, and from a different country and most of my family is there so I don’t celebrate Christmas or may travel like they do. But do I get my religious holidays off? Of course not.
    This year I was firm and am taking off the last week of the year. I need a break really badly from work.

  4. I try to take all of my holiday time but it is stressful because there is so much work to do before and after. I am a family lawyer and some clients do not seem to understand that we all need time away from the office and from work. I invariably have some kind of “emergency” to deal with when I’m on vacation, although on the two occasions where I have not had access to the internet while away (for up to 4 days), no real disasters happened and my colleagues covered for me (which I pre-arranged). Now that I am a few years into my career and have more autonomy at my firm, I am more able to take vacation because I don’t have senior counsel getting annoyed when I’m not there. I think that it is a very good thing to take a few vacations a year because a) it gives you a break which hopefully is refreshing and b) in the weeks leading up to the vacation it forces you to tie up lose ends.

    All that said, I hate planning holidays (decision fatigue from work I think) and I really prefer to use my vacation time by having a few days off here and there at home, although that often ends up in me working a bit from home or cancelling the day off all together.

  5. Sydney Bristow :

    I’m just now getting vacation time with my permanent position. I fully plan on using it all and already have most of it allocated for vacations planned before I accepted the job. My husband gets 2 weeks more than me and always uses it and so far my firm seems to encourage people at my level to use it. So I plan to!

  6. Both my husband and I are in finance and were not great about taking vacation until we both got promotions and felt more established/settled in our roles. Now we take one big 10-12 day trip per year (we wrap weekends or holidays into it, so we really only take 6-8 days out of the office) and save a few days for the holidays. We are currently having a “Year of Fun” before we start trying for a baby, so our priority is on big international trips that we won’t be doing with a baby. Once we have kids, we’ll probably aim for two shorter domestic vacations a year.

    I usually end up using most of my paid vacation each year (I don’t get all that much to begin with, so it’s pretty easy to go through). My husband’s firm is more generous with the vacation time, so he normally rolls over a few days each year (lucky!).

    • Anonymous :

      Curious to know what you’re doing on your Year of Fun and where you’re traveling. I think that is a great idea and am in a similar boat so looking for inspiration :)

      • Thanks! Our big trip for ’15 was Bora Bora and our big trip for ’16 will be Italy (hopefully – we haven’t booked anything yet!), focusing on Rome, Florence, and little towns in Tuscany. We live in California, so we’ll do a trip to Napa over President’s Day weekend and probably another local/short flight getaway over another long weekend near our anniversary. I read a book about New Mexico/the history of the American southwest recently that I really enjoyed, so I think it would be fun to go see and explore that area a bit.

        The “Year of Fun” also extends to things we keep meaning to do/see but haven’t made it to yet, or things we love doing that we want to fully enjoy pre-baby (beyond wine and sushi). For example, I asked my husband for tickets to a musical for my birthday, because I love seeing shows but never seem to follow through with buying tickets. We’re also going to host one or two big parties/get-together at our house for our friends, because we love hosting and realize our ability to have big groups over might be compromised (at least initially) with a baby around. I recently read about a “champagne and donuts”-themed party and I am now dying to throw one of my own.

        • Anonymous :

          Awesome! Sounds like a lot of fun. I have no idea what a champagne and donuts party is but it sounds like something I would like to attend. That exact Italy trip was one of our “big trip before baby” contenders but didn’t make the cut (we’ve planned another big trip for 2016 and are going to try after that). It might be too ambitious but we’re going to try to do Italy with a ~1 year old (hopefully!) in 2018. Or 2017 if it takes longer than we’d like to get pregnant.

  7. Senior Attorney :

    I have a government job and the rule is “use it or lose it,” and the culture is that everybody uses it. In 2015 I used it for several long weekends, a week-long trip to Quebec, a week in San Diego with my son to find him an apartment for grad school (and then hang out and have fun after that was accomplished), and scrambling around to get my parents moved to assisted living on an emergency basis. I have a few days left over, so I’m taking Dec 23, 24, and 31.

    For next year Gentleman Friend and I have three big trips planned and it’s gonna be tight making it all come out even!

    Anecdote from my law firm days: I never took all or even most of my vacation when I was an associate, so when I made partner I had, like, five or six weeks in the bank. Under the law of my state, vacation time must be paid when an employee terminates his or her employment, which is essentially what happens when one goes from being an associate to being a partner. But when I made partner, poof! That vacation time (which was worth thousands of dollars) just disappeared. I mean, sure — supposedly as a partner I had unlimited vacation time, but the reality was I couldn’t take it as a junior partner any more than I could as a senior associate. Gah. It was almost 20 years ago but I’m still irked. I feel like at least they could have applied it to my buy-in, or something. But that was the way they’d always done it, and who’s gonna make waves about a thing like that? Nobody. Or certainly not me.

    • What are said big trips?? Let me live vicariously through you! That, and I need ideas for a trip myself!

      • Senior Attorney :

        LOL, happy to talk about them! Going to New Orleans in February (note to self: see if we can meet up with NOLA!), Korea and Cambodia in May (Rotary International convention plus a side trip), and Sicily (bike riding trip!) in late September.

        Southeast Asia is amazing — can’t recommend it highly enough if you are interested in something off the beaten path.

        • Anonymous :

          I love SE Asia but I think it’s hardly “off the beaten path.” It seems like it is actually a super trendy place to go right now, especially Thailand and Cambodia.

    • Ooh, Quebec! That’s on my list – I drove through it several years ago to get to Maine and was intrigued. What sorts of things did you do? Montreal or elsewhere?

      And btw, I’m in the ‘take all my vacation’ camp but try not to leave it all til the end of the year. I feel better if I spread it out evenly taking some each quarter.

      • Senior Attorney :

        We did three days in Montreal (fab!) and four days in Quebec City (SUPER FAB!). The basilica in Montreal is just gorgeous, and we did the art museum and a bicycle tour of the city, which was a great way to see it. In Quebec City we stayed at the Fairmont Hotel Chateau Frontenac with was just fantastic and which I can’t recommend highly enough. Again, bicycle tours — super fun and great way to see the city and environs. And OMG SO MUCH FRENCH FOOD!!

  8. Just want to jump in here and advocate solo travel. It’s SO freeing to not have to compromise and adjust your trip for someone else. I am saddened that you were hesitant to travel as a single woman. For international trips maybe, but to LA or Miami or Chicago etc? I travel solo all the time – both domestically and internationally and I encourage more people to try it! If you really feel unsafe you can certainly take precautions. But you should never let someone else (or the lack of someone else) hold you back from doing what you want to do!

    • +1. I’ve been to Colombia, Chile, Scotland, Portugal, and Argentina as a single woman, as well as lots of US destinations. I looooooooooooove traveling alone, and I’ve never felt unsafe.

      • Anonymous :

        What did you do in Colombia and Chile? Was it more than just a beach vacation? I’m four continents down, and am seriously considering crossing off South American next.

        • Colombia was a weekend trip to Cartagena, so I did mostly city touring and a day boating around the Rosary Islands. I spent a month in Chile, traveling south from Santiago to Tierra del Fuego. I spent about 4 days in Santiago, a few days hiking/playing around Pucon, hopped out to Isla Chiloe, and then took a ferry through the Patagonian channels to Puerto Natales. Spent five days hiking in Torres del Paine, and then a few more days touristing around Punta Arenas (penguin colonies, hiking, visiting Tierra del Fuego, etc.). I also went to Valdivia at some point. Chile has TONS of stuff to do, both natural and cultural – I would definitely go back to Patagonia, and would love to visit the observatories in the Atacama, see Valparaiso, and beach it up in Vina del Mar.

          I’d also love to go back to Colombia – I hear amazing things about Bogota.

        • Also, depending on your preferences, consider Peru. I didn’t travel there solo, so didn’t list it above, but really loved it and want to go back. Nice people, amazing food, so much stuff to see (cultural and natural) that it’s kind of overwhelming. Internal travel is a bit sucky (you have to fly from city to city; buses take approximately 1 million years), but if you’re thinking about only visiting one South American country, I’d consider Peru.

          • Anonymous :

            Thanks for the info! I prefer spending a lot of time in one or two countries at a time to really get a feel for the place. I will obviously go back the South America, but I am having fun crossing off continents first.

      • Brunette Elle Woods :

        I love traveling, but I need to become more comfortable with the idea of going around a city alone, eating dinner alone, etc. Any tips on fighting that awkward feeling when traveling alone? I can’t wait around for a man to come along and most of my friends are married.

        • I do a lot of guided day tours (I did a motorcycle sidecar tour of Lisbon, for example, and a cool walking tour of Edinburgh). It helps get me to places I might otherwise be nervous about visiting alone (or where the logistics are daunting) and I’ve learned a ton from my guides.

          For dinners, well, for me, that’s an awesome opportunity to dive into a book and to order the wine that *I* want, rather than the wine someone else wants :-) For Thanksgiving one year, I did a prix-fixe menu with wine pairings at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Porto, totally solo. Got tons of attention from the staff, learned a bunch from the (female!) sommelier about Portuguese wines, and reflected on the awesomeness of being a woman with the financial and legal independence to be in that place at that time. It’s a pretty unique moment in history that we live in, in which a woman would have sufficient autonomy (legal and financial) to be out traveling around alone. I feel really lucky.

        • I think you just have to do it. The more you do it, the more comfortable you get with it. I go to the movies, dinner, vacations, etc., by myself. It’s freeing and awesome being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, without having to discuss, consult, or worry about what someone else wants to do. Maybe you can try to reframe how you think about it?

    • YES! I went to Europe by myself this year for the first time, and it was awesome! Going again in April!

    • Anonymous :

      YES solo travel! I took a few days after a longer trip with friends to travel alone and it was so so good to not have to worry about anyone else’s schedule or needs.

      Vacation: Government lawyer, and I can only carry over 5 days so if I don’t take the rest I lose it. It’s mostly meant that I end up taking a week in March to make sure i don’t get screwed, but with some trial collapses this year and a move to a new non-litigation role, I’ve taken or scheduled all but 3.5 days.

    • YEAAAAAAAS. I love solo travel.

      I have to use it or lose it where I currently work, which is NBD as everyone takes all of their vacation (at least in my department/group). Last year I went on a true vacation. This year, I am using it to take long weekends to visit my LD boyfriend.

    • I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile. When I finished, I came back to the US by land, traveling by myself from Chile to Texas. I have traveled alone in Europe as well.

      Don’t know why anyone wouldn’t do this. It’s easy.

  9. Anonymous :

    I took two weeks in between jobs and it was amazing. My usual travel buddy has been laid up with injuries most of the year, but next year I’m planning a week off in May and a week in August, and the week btwn Christmas and New Years.

    Lawyer who happily transitioned from big law to a regional firm this year.

  10. Anonymous :

    Midsize firm. What are vacation days?

  11. I work for a large firm in a secondary market, and I struggle to use my vacation days. (But I also won’t put in a vacation day if I bill any hours, so that helps.) I get 4 weeks. For my first 3 years of practice, I really only traveled home for holidays, with an occasional wedding. The past 2 years, I’ve made an active effort to take vacations. I am generally able to plan ahead and make sure everything is covered. That being said, I’m not a litigator, so my schedule is a little more flexible.

  12. Anonymous :

    I used a couple of vacation days to go to Kauai over New Years with my family. I would have taken a summer vacation, but left Big Law (with almost my max three weeks accrued – not so much because I didn’t use it, but mostly because it had been a year since my last big vacation requiring a lot of vacation time) and haven’t used any days since starting at my new job since I’m not eligible yet. I did have about a month off between jobs but the timing with my husband’s schedule and various obligations didn’t work out for an international trip. We did squeeze in a lot of domestic travel, some in my month off and some over holiday weekends, mostly to see family and for friends’ weddings, including Vegas, Maine, Boston, and Florida. We have two weeks in Thailand on the docket for this spring and I am SO EXCITED. Would love recs if anyone has been!

  13. Not a lawyer, not in the States. We get six weeks a year (plus up to six weeks sick leave in one go), and get strongly encouraged to take it, and in chunks. It rolls over until September the following year, so sometimes I do that and take a very long break (am off for five weeks in March! And can still take three weeks in summer!)

    I travel alone all the time, particularly to cities – I’m not really into adventure travel under any circumstances. I spent a week on a city break by a lake on my own this year, as well as a week at the beach – I did meet people, but I could relax at my own pace – priceless.

    There are definitely compensations for a not-as-high-powered job and pretty high taxes!

  14. I always take all my vacation time. I never consider not taking it.

    This year was awesome for vacations for us. At the end of June we went camping as a family (Radium BC) and had a great time in spite of the heat. In July dh & I went to Montreal with my brother & sil to go to Just for Laughs and to celebrate my 40th birthday. And in August it was an Alaskan cruise with everyone from 3 generations on my side of the family – 24 of us all together. It was a blast. Sadly I doubt next year will come close, but that’s OK. We’re planning a road trip to South Dakota. I’ve always wanted to see Mount Rushmore.

  15. I am not a lawyer. I do take all my (generous for the US) vacation days. My company has a policy that unless there’s some specific business need, no vacation can roll over from year-to-year. Managers are supposed to be proactive in assuring that employees take most of their vacation. Sometimes that means the people I work with are basically out of the office after the first week in December, making it pretty quiet this time of year for those of us who spread our days out. I have way, way more vacation than my husband, so I’m the one who takes school holidays/in-service days off with the kids. Next year we are going on a big family trip to Ireland with my extended family & my husband is going for 1 week while I get to go for 2 weeks with the kids. I do anticipate bringing my laptop & doing some catch-up at night whenever I have hotel wifi, however.

  16. AttiredAttorney :

    I took three weeks of vacation leave scattered over the first two months of 2015 (every Wednesday off and one full week) to study for and take the bar exam in my state. I passed, so it was officially the best worst vacation ever.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m taking unpaid leave to do this soon and am so happy it won’t eat all my vacation time. Hopefully you at least got a mini-vacation or staycation afterwards!

  17. BankrAtty :

    Government attorney here. My DH and I went on a two week vacation this year–the longest we’ve ever taken–and toured of Southern Spain and Lisbon, hitting up all the Moorish castles and fortresses we could. Specifically, we started in Malaga and then made our way to Grenada, Seville, and Lisbon (with a day trip to Sintra), spending about 3 days in each city. Seeing the Alhambra was on my bucket list, and it did not disappoint! We did an excellent food tour in Seville that I would recommend with absolutely no reservations: Devour Seville. We also did a food tour in Lisbon that was more meh, but helpful because it lets us get our bearings in quickly. The Spaniards we met were warm and friendly and seemed honored we were visiting their country.

  18. Diana Barry :

    I don’t think I take all my vacation because hours. If I were further ahead on hours I would take more vacation.

    I effing hate hours. I wish I could get collections-only comp instead.

  19. I’m a lawyer but I work for a Big 4 Public Accounting Firm. I get 5 weeks plus the time between Christmas and New Years off (the office is closed). We are encouraged to take all of our vacation time. I have a Senior Associate who works for me who was able to use his vacation time to take the entire month of December off. Within the next 6 months, my family has 3 trips planned (2 shorter — 1 to Colorado and 1 to Disney) and then a bigger trip to Italy. I’m not worried that I’ll have to cancel or shorten any of these. Yes, I might have to find a way to get a bit of work done while I’m gone but it’s a small price to pay. I used to work in big law and lawyers didn’t have a specified number of vacation days. I always found this harder — I took much less vacation then than I do now (and it isn’t because I was busier then than I am now). I had friends who always thought it was so great not to have a specific number of vacation days — it sounds much better than it actually turned out to be. I always felt guilty taking time off

    • Anonymous :

      “No set amount of vacation” policies are the wooooooooooooooooorst. The literal worst.

    • Anonymous :

      Do you mind sharing more about your law>Big 4 experience? I’m a JD/CPA and it’s generally been described to me by friends with similar backgrounds that Big 4 for lawyers is the same expectations with lower comp and lower institutional respect, but I don’t get that vibe at all from your post. Do you think it’s different because you’re (what sounds to be) fairly senior?

      • I’ve had a great transition but to be fair, I was looking to leave law for 2-3 years. I do not have a CPA but work in a fairly specialized area of tax incentive / project development which seemed to have more opportunities outside of the law firm world. The transition has been great for me. My compensation didn’t suffer and I now work for a company that respects its employees. I have much more flexibility (I have a 4 year old son) and the work/family issues that I felt in big law are basically gone. While I face similar pressures in terms of business generation and utilization, I feel like I now have better resources behind me. I am fairly senior and moved over to Public Accounting as a Director, only 2-3 years away from partner. Long term, this was a great decision for me.

  20. I generally use mine, I think I might end up rolling over a couple of sick/personal days into next year. We have separate vacation and sick/personal days (which I think is dumb, but whatever).

    This year I took a couple of long weekends to hang out with my husband. I also went to California to visit a friend, plus a shorter girls’ trip to New Orleans. With all of my trips, I added an extra vacation day after I was home (ex: got home from girls’ trip on Sunday, took Monday off). I think I will continue doing this in the future, it was great to not have to go right back into work mode! I could unpack, do my laundry, run some errands and feel very refreshed when I got back to the office!

    Next year my husband and I have a week-long trip planned. We are going to Jamaica for our 10 year anniversary! I am so excited already. :) I also get an extra week of vacation beginning next year (hit a milestone anniversary at work).

  21. Senior associate in a large firm in a secondary market. I’ve found that that pressure not to take vacation days varies wildly from partner to partner and department to department. I have made it a habit to take at least one long (is 9-11 days, incl. weekends) international vacation every year. I plan my vacations early, give notice far in advance, and take a cell phone with an international plan with me and respond to emails 2-3 times a day and phone calls immediately. I also frequently talk about how important travel is to me. I’ve built up good will with other attorneys in my department by approaching them the week before they take any long vacations to ask what I can take off their plate to help them get out of the door on time and what I can cover while they are gone to minimize interruptions. Of all of these tactics, giving notice far in advance seems to help the most. I have never had to cancel a vacation, although I came close once; I like to think my willingness to cancel without hesitation helped me down the line when asking to take longer than normal amounts of time off (i.e. 11 days instead of 9). Some of the partners I work for grumble on occasion, but I’m willing to put up with that because vacations are so important to me. Also, the grumblers are the ones who hate their families and are generally miserable people, so I don’t put much stock in their grumbling. The only time it was raised in my review was when I took two weeks for my honeymoon as a 3rd year; I responded with a laugh, pretending it was a joke. It hasn’t been mentioned since (although I haven’t take two weeks since then either). Otherwise, I have high billables, and that seems to keep TPTB placated.

    • Anonymous :

      I can’t believe they gave you grief for 2 weeks for a honeymoon! That was the one thing that was sacred in my Big Law firm, even among the super grumbly partners. I heard of people getting grief for three weeks, and someone asked to take a month off (some of it unpaid I think because we didn’t get that much vacation time) and that definitely got talked about, but two weeks was totally the norm for honeymoons.

      • That is why I treated it as a joke. The comment came from the grumpiest of the several partners in my department, and the rest of them looked askance at him for saying it, so I always took it as an outlier.

  22. New Tampanian :

    In house attorney here, 2 person legal department. I am fully encouraged to take all of my vacation days. Our office shuts down for the week of July 4th so that alleviates most of the pre/post-vacation catch up. My other days I’ve taken sporadically through the year. We don’t roll over unless you are at a specific management level and even then it’s only 5 days that can be rolled over.

    I have technically never been on a real vacation (non-event or family obligation vacation). It is a major goal of mine for 2016. I am single so I may do some solo travel as you all are suggesting. Any specific places y’all recommend?

    • What do you like to do? Are you a sightseer or a beach layer? Warm? Cool? Nature? Museums?

    • Anonymous :

      If you’re new to solo travel, I’d recommend the US or Canada for your first trip (or going on an organized group trip somewhere else). I love, love, LOVE Europe and have traveled there solo quite a bit, but your odds of getting in an uncomfortable situation there are quite a bit higher than in US/Canada, so I’d recommend staying closer to home for your first trip. What do you like? Food? Beaches? Arts?

    • If you want to relax on a pretty beach that is safe to travel solo, I would say Cozumel. We go almost every year. Very safe. We stay at the El Cozumeleno. If you decide to go that route let me know if I can help you with any questions. I always book it myself on I actually just booked our Feb trip to there last night!
      I have a friend that backpacked Europe by herself this summer! She just took trains everywhere after she got there. I’m not that brave but it’s an option.
      Good for you and have a great time wherever you go!

  23. I take every day available to me that doesn’t get rolled over. I tend to roll over the max allowed (5) if I don’t otherwise have a big vacation planned that gobbles up those days.

    SPEAKING OF WHICH, I need vacation inspiration for me and DH for some time in late 1Q/early 2Q. $5k-ish budget from major east coast city for 5-7 days. Warm weather a must, and sitting on a beach all week is fine by us. Thoughts???

    • Puerto Rico?

    • Anonymous :

      PR is cool, but to me it’s not worth the added cost over South Florida, because they’re pretty similar. The one exception would be if the Bioluminescent Bay is of interest to you, because that’s really cool and very unique.

      Tops on my Caribbean to-do list are Antigua, St. Lucia and Turks and Caicos. I also think Hawaii is worth the haul from the East Coast if you have seven days.

    • anon a mouse :

      In your situation I would start by looking at which Caribbean islands you can get to with a nonstop flight, and then limit your search based on those islands. Depending on which city you’re coming from, Turks & Caicos, Aruba, St. John would all be high on my list.

    • Aruba! Best beach ever and a hop/skip from the East Coast. They take the dollar and the food is amazing. Kind of a cultural backwater but the weather and environment (beautiful, beautiful beaches) cannot be beat!

    • Hop down to Belize; fly into Belize City and take a quick (20 min) flight to Ambergis Caye. It’s beautiful and inexpensive.

  24. Anonymous :

    I took every drop of mine – I have one day left as of Sunday, which I’m saving for a wedding early next year. Iceland plus multiple trips up and down the coast and across the counter to see family.

    Earning is pretty meager, 15 days per year (no sick leave/no telework). Most of it next year is for travel weddings + one trip to Thailand/Hong Kong/Vietnam.

  25. Clementine :

    2 1/2 weeks vacation plus 1 week personal time. Not a lawyer (although my employer likes to think I am too often), working in government.

    I used my vacation this year having an impatient baby who was born 8 weeks early.

  26. I don’t use much vacation time; vacations are expensive and I don’t want to waste my vacation time sitting at home doing nothing.

    • Staycations are awesome though! I use some of my time off to take off every Friday during the summer so I have a summer full of 3 day weekends. I don’t do anything special but it feels nice to sit around. I like sitting around.

    • The worst day at home sitting around doing nothing (or reading or binge-watching “The Good Wife” or baking or having lunch with your friends) is better than the best day working.

  27. Engineer here – I take ALL OF MY VACATION TIME. I get 21 days per year and can roll over a maximum of 10 days per year up to my total allotment. I always mean to carry over a few days but somehow, without fail, I reach Nov/Dec with only one day left and I hoard that precious baby over into the new year. I take one big international trip and 3 smaller domestic trips per year.

  28. shamlet96 :

    gov’t lawyer here, so also part of “use or lose” culture. Most people in my office take most, if not all of their vacation time. I did a 2.5 week trip earlier this year with my now-fiance to South Asia, and it was scary since that’s the longest i’ve ever been away from work. Everything worked out just fine, however. Am now hoarding my time since we hope to have a baby in the near future.

  29. Anonymous :

    I work for a company that has unlimited PTO. I have taken 5-7 random days (long weekends etc), a full week beach vacation, and a bunch of time off for appointments/childcare issues etc.

  30. I always always take every drop of my vacation time. One of the good things about my company is that they totally expect you to do so, and if you aren’t taking it, they will send you nagging emails reminding you that you really need to use it.

    I travel solo with about half of it, I’d say, and use the rest with my fella or other friends/family.

  31. Currently in a use it or lose it job and it’s hard to get my mind around. I kind of feel like I should be saving for a rainy day, but can’t. With two very small children (who don’t really get anything out of travel and are a huge pain to travel with), we’ve been enjoying taking days off and letting the au pair work her normal schedule. It’s like a day-long date night!

  32. Anonattorney :

    Lawyer at boutique law firm. I get three weeks vacation, but only took three days this year because I had three months’ paid maternity leave. In order to meet my pro-rated billable hour goal, I couldn’t really take additional vacation. I used the days to have long weekends and do some “staycations.”

  33. I started in BigLaw out of law school and knew several attorneys older than me who were either in BigLaw still or started in BigLaw. The best advice I got was take your vacation from the start. As long as you do good work that is what matters and people will be used to you taking vacation and accepting it. I followed that advice and used the majority of my vacation every year and it was never a problem. In fact the managing partner also liked to travel and we never had as long of conversations as when I had an upcoming trip and we were discussing the location and tips on places to see. I have since gone in house and vacation is definitely not an issue.

    As for travelling alone I love it! You don’t have to worry about making sure everyone is on the same page for plans, you can do your own thing when you want to. When travelling alone in Europe I have had better conversations with locals than when I am with others. Many European countries have communal seating in restaurants and cafes and people and are used to striking up conversation with table mates. The one draw back is if you like to have a lot of pictures of yourself in the travel locations you do not have someone to hand the camera to whenever you want a picture.

  34. Paging Basically Trash or anyone else who knows —

    I’m curious about what was the thread that started this whole thing, with BT. I suppose I’m just bored, and it’s something that I’ve been wondering for the last few weeks when I read this blog.

    Does anyone know?

  35. Judy Jetson :

    I’m planning to buy a Lo&Sons Pearl bag as an Xmas gift to myself but can’t decide between the Saffiano leather or the Napa leather. I’m worried the Napa will scratch more easily, but I find some other Saffiano bags to be too stiff when I am trying to hunt around in them for my wallet, keys, etc. Does anyone have one or the other and want to weigh in?

    I’m leaning towards black but would love to hear votes for another color as well.

    Thanks all!

    • I have the Pearl in the black Napa leather and I love it! Works great because sometimes I make it into a not-that-fancy evening out bag, which I’m not sure I would do with Saffiano leather.

  36. TO Lawyer :

    I have about a week left for this year I think that I’m not going to take. I honestly find it really hard to take vacation at my firm. We’re small and busy and even though I theoretically could, there seems to be too much going on with my files and there’s no one to really cover for me when stuff comes up. Plus my boss makes snarky comments about it which stresses me out.

  37. I’m in asset management. The first five years out of school, I barely took any time – long weekends at the most. This was partly because I got less time/had less disposable income and partly that no one wanted to stray from their desks during the financial crisis. For the past few years, it’s been a personal policy to take an annual two week vacation to maintain my sanity. Admittedly this is easier to schedule if there is a wedding or other non-flexible event baked into the plans. I’m single, don’t have to travel for holidays, and don’t take off during school vacation weeks (when the majority of my team is out). At this point I feel that I’m established enough to point those facts out to anyone who might balk at my trips.

    +100 to solo travel. Sometimes I’m with friends, sometimes no one can take off at the same time – don’t let that stop you from exploring. If you’re really worried about safety or feel too awkward dining alone, look into singles tour groups. My friends tend to use and like them when venturing far off the beaten path.

  38. I have 10 weeks of vacation after I write the bar and before I start working. Does anyone have any suggestions as to interesting places to go in April and May? I’d really love something a bit more structured – going somewhere and exploring a region, maybe while working or volunteering. I’ve done (western) Europe, Canada, Eastern US and Australia. Preference to the outdoors as opposed to a city. I’m thinking of a long-distance hike or cycle-tour.

    • That’s enough time to trek the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal which is amazing.

    • I like doing “journey” type trips at big life transitions. I climbed Kilimanjaro (and did a safari and went to Zanzibar) between work and grad school, and hiked 200 miles of the Camino del Santiago through northern Spain between my masters and doctorate, ending at the westernmost point in Europe (Fisterra–past Santiago de Compostela). I am not religious at all (and am not Christian) but found the Camino to be a very centering an spiritual experience. I did it by myself and met tons of people along the way–speaking Spanish helps. I have also done Habitat for Humanity builds in Africa and South America and its an amazing way to see a place or culture that’s inaccessible to the average tourist or traveler.

    • I have not yet done the Camino de Santiago de Compostela but I second that recommendation if you’re willing to do something in western Europe again. There are several routes (“vias”) to choose from, depending on the amount of time you have and which parts of Spain you’d like to see. I have big ambitions of doing the Camino when my husband goes on sabbatical in a couple years.

  39. Edna Mazur :

    We have no paid maternity leave and are required to use any PTO during FMLA. So I hoarded most of my ten paid days off and used them when I had a baby.

    This year I’m up to 15 days PTO and I intend to use it all (we can’t roll over days) here and there hopefully taking a whole week off in the summer or fall to relax at home. Shooting for no baby in 2016.

  40. My company is generous (by U.S. standards at least) with vacation time and I take full advantage of it. I’m finishing the year having used all but 3 of the 22 days allotted to me and am rolling the remainder over to use in January. Not using it is equivalent to walking away from money in my eyes. I will say that it was a lot harder to take time off when I was in private practice because there was so much pressure to be in the office for face time and to get your hours in/work done. One thing that really helped is taking vacations where there is not reliable cell coverage. It takes me a day or two to stop freaking out about not being able to check email but it allows me to really enjoy the location and my travel companions as opposed to constantly looking at my phone.

  41. I used ALL of my vaca this year :) My husband and I are huge travelers. The first half of the year my Bank converted its core system and being on the loan conversion team, I could not take any trips the first part of the year. I made up for it the 2nd half. We went to Colorado on motorcycle in June, went to Costa Rica in August, visited a friend for a quick trip in Florida, and finished out a fabulous year with our first trip to Europe in October (Rome Italy, train hopping Switzerland, and one night outside of Athens Greece).

    My go-tos for travel are:
    —Trip Advisor – I ALWAYS consult them before staying at a hotel/resort/etc. I also use them to just book flights as they compare all the sites for me and it’s so quick to do on my phone app.
    —Travel.State.Gov to register my location when traveling abroad and to get notifications of any warnings in the areas I’m staying and research any potential trip destination sites.
    — to book my Caribbean trips
    — to book my European trip(s). I booked it all on my own by referencing Trip Advisor for the hotels. It is so fun.

    Hope you all use ALL of your vaca time and have a blast doing it!

  42. I have used all my holidays this year on: mini break in Edinburgh, girls spa weekend, 10 nights in Cancun, a week in the West Country for an extended family holiday, a wedding, and now I’ve got two and a bit weeks off for Christmas.
    I work in technology not law, and everyone is expected to use all their days.

  43. I’m a baby lawyer and have been practicing for over two years. It took me 2 years to take a whole week off. The only reason I took that time off is because I was lucky enough to have a week off between my old job and new job. I had so much vacation time! Never again!

  44. Not a lawyer. Our vacation is use it or lose it after 18 months, and I lost almost half of my time this year. (I was able to donate it to a general fund for people having family emergencies who had exhausted their leave, so at least someone benefited.)

    This was due to a combination of major projects going on that made me feel like I had to be on the ground and having to rescind planned vacation days due to work “emergencies”. There was a whole string of Fridays in June where I had to not take the day at all or cut my plans short.

    I’m definitely resolving to take it all in 2016!

    • Anonymous :

      For one of the first times, I used all of my leave and then some. I am not a lawyer, but did just make VP (in an org where that means something). I went to Florida to watch my daughter play in a field hockey tournament, attended the ACC tournament (big sports fan!), spent two weeks in Italy, and took 2 weeks of medical leave for an elective medical procedure that I’ve been dreaming of for years. All in all, a great use of my leave. And work survived without me.

  45. I am passionate about people taking their vacation and encourage all of my employees to do so as well (American, not a lawyer)! I am also a proponent of taking 4-10 business days at a time. Numerous studies show that vacations, specifically week-long vacations rather than the random day here or there, are good for both the employee’s well-being and their productivity. Anecdotally, I also find that, if I take a long weekend, I’m super stressed. It’s difficult to “unplug” and I come back to such mountains of work that I almost wish I hadn’t taken time off. When you’re gone for a week or more, though, people see your out-of-office and figure they can’t wait that long so they think of alternative solutions–ask someone else, make a decision themselves, etc.–so you come back to about the same amount of work as the long weekend.

    When I first started, it was really difficult b/c my boss never took more than a day or two of vacation at a time and always rolled over her full amount (10 days). The boss set the tone for the office, so there really wasn’t a culture of vacation-taking and my initial vacations were approved begrudgingly. The culture has changed but I am still very conscientious to plan vacations during the slowest times to minimize the workload passed off to colleagues, avoid vacationing when my back-ups or boss are, and bring back something edible to the office when I can. Last vacation was Jamaica but I’ve done OBX, India, Iceland, Bahamas, Toronto, and Ireland over the past 5 years. We do one big international vacation every other year or so.

    Bottom line: I think it’s healthy to be reminded that there is no essential staff member. It’s both humbling and a relief.

  46. I moved from a mid-size firm to state government earlier this year. I used all of my vacation days on maternity leave. So, no vacation for me until next year, when I’ll take a few days in May and September to go to the beach with my family.

    I took a few half days off at my old firm, because we didn’t have any paid leave (sick, vacation, or maternity). I tried to convince my husband to take a three-day weekend trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, but he hemmed and hawed and we took a disastrous trip to Virginia Beach instead. Not the same.

    Travel now, with a baby, will be more difficult, but easier because I have a generous paid leave policy. Here’s hoping I take advantage of it.

  47. BigLaw attorney. I find the best time to take vacations is around a firm holiday when other people are going away too. Our firm has no set number of vacation days. This year, I took two (international) weeklong trips plus a few long weekends. Work hard when you’re at the office, but then make time for travel!

  48. Public interest lawyer here. My office was so understaffed that people could only take a few days of vacation every year even though we were allotted a fair amount. I think I took the most vacation time, which ended up being about seven days. I felt like the office asshole, but it didn’t really make sense not to take it. It’s use it or lose it time. Sorry I’m not sorry for taking a week off…not consecutively mind you. A week total.