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by Mary Kate Sheridan | August 28, 2018


Photo by Riccardo Bresciani via Pexels

Imagine digging your toes in the sand for as many days as you want each year. Sounds like a dream, but for some, endless beach days—or ski days—are a reality through their companies’ unlimited vacation-day policies. When limitless vacation is ingrained in the culture and employees are trusted to balance their work and vacation time, this perk can provide amazing flexibility and autonomy. But boundless vacation can also lend itself to uncertainty about how much time off is acceptable, and employees may be nervous about actually using this time. Don’t let your vaca go to waste—take ownership of your me-time with the below advice.


It seems like the most obvious answer, but as you plan out your unlimited vacation time, you should ask HR, your supervisor, and your coworkers their recommendations on taking time off and what the general practice is in the office. It’s possible they’ll advise you to take as many days as you see fit, however. If asking around doesn’t provide clarity, rely on your own observations and reasoning to shape your time off.

Understand the Culture

As you integrate yourself in the day-to-day aspects of work, pay attention to the atmosphere. Are hours stringent or flexible? How much does your employer value face time? Is it a work-hard-play-hard mentality? Do others seem supportive when colleagues take time off? Observing the mentality on work hours can provide greater insight into the general outlook regarding time off.

Determine a Reasonable Balance

The most difficult aspect of unlimited vacation is knowing how much time off is acceptable. If you take too much, you may be deemed a slacker. But if you take too little, you are short changing yourself. The bottom line is that your employer has entrusted you with this flexibility. So ultimately, you must decide how to use it. Determine ahead of time what a reasonable balance of work hours vs. vacation would be. As a starter, you may consider the number of vacation days held by employees in the same field in similar roles. You also may want to map out the year in terms of busy times, slow times, and important work events and figure out how many vacation days would be reasonable for each quarter of the year. Yet another tool is to consider how many days you would allot to someone in your position if you were their boss.

Schedule Vacation in Advance

Scheduling vacation days in advance has a major benefit. Aside from giving your team notice of your absence, planning vacation ahead of time forces you to actually take that vacation, which is so important when you feel uncertain about the limitless nature of your time off.

Don’t Take Advantage

Endless vacation time gives employees autonomy to balance their work lives and personal lives and demonstrates an employer’s trust in its employees. As you shape your PTO for the year, respect the freedom you’ve been given. Resist the urge to sneak in as many days as you can. Instead, be thoughtful in planning a schedule that signals to your employer that you are committed to the job.

But Don’t Be Shy

Being committed doesn’t mean working non stop, though. Refusing to take any vacation time in hopes of impressing your boss with your hard work will likely just lead to you burning out. Instead, show your boss that you’re capable of organizing your time, prioritizing work when needed, and making decisions.

Instead of being nervous about your unlimited vacation days, use the policy as an opportunity to take initiative and show your decision-making abilities.