The Hacks That Will Get You The Most Out Of Your PTO In 2023

Even though 2023 just started, it might already feel like everything is moving so fast now that work has officially started back up. If you took time off work at the end of 2022 for the holidays and the new year, by now it probably already feels like you can't remember a time when you were on vacation. While it's just the start of the year, it's still important to remember to use the PTO you received from your job.


That can sometimes be easier said than done, though. If you don't have unlimited PTO, you have to be very conscious of how many days you take off. Seeing that you have two weeks off per year can seem minuscule in the grand scheme of 365 days. Even if you have more than two weeks, planning when to use PTO can be stressful. But luckily, you don't work all 365 days per year. Between weekends, other standard days off per week, and holidays, you already have time off that you don't need to use PTO for. And when it comes to using vacation days, we have some hacks for you to get the most out of your vacation days.

Plan all the vacations you can at the start of the year

It's a great idea to look ahead at the months to come when you start off the new year and see what you want to do and where you need to use your PTO. "The single best thing you can do for yourself is to plan ahead," Katie Denis, Project: Time Off's chief of research and strategy, told Condé Nast Traveler (CN Traveler). Project: Time Off was an organization created by the U.S. Travel Association that conducted research and studies about PTO usage in hopes to change how Americans use their vacation days.


One person told CN Traveler that a great tip is to plan out every vacation you want to take that year with your significant other or travel buddy. She said this makes it easier to definitively know how many days you're going to take off in the year from the get-go. You don't even need to book these trips yet. But just penciling them in will allow you to know how many days you have left for impromptu days off or other days you'll need PTO that aren't vacations.

Vacation without needing to use your PTO at all

It's easy to get swept up in figuring out when to use your PTO. However, while planning, you should also think about all the vacations you can do without touching a paid time off day to do it. To do this, Essence suggests weekend getaways that don't use up any time off because, well, it's just for the weekend. While you can do this over any weekend, we, of course, suggest taking advantage of three-day weekends.


"I think part of the reason people don't take their vacation time is that there is always a lot of work to do and it feels like things never turn off," Christine Amorose Merrill, an account executive in podcast ad sales, told CN Traveler. Shorter trips can be relaxing as well, and any time away from work is good for your mental health. So instead of just turning off Slack notifications and silencing your work email every weekend, maybe venture out or book a staycation in your city without dipping into your vacation days.

Try the piggyback method

Of course, you can't book all your vacations on weekends, nor should you. Again, taking time off is good for you and part of why they're offered, so you should use them. One way to take full advantage of a limited number of PTO days is by using the piggyback method. Basically, you're being strategic and choosing paid vacation days already baked into your job's calendar (typically bank holidays) and requesting days off at the beginning or end of them. Instead of just doing a long weekend, you can add a couple more days to travel further away or have a proper getaway.


Even being strategic about what part of the holiday you take off is important too. USA Today suggests using PTO the day after a paid holiday. If you do this, the shorter work week when you come back is a little gift in and of itself. You'll really feel a lot more rested and like your mini vacation did something for your mental health and stress. It's also not as popular to request off after a holiday, so you might have better luck getting it approved.

Make sure to you know the best months to use the piggyback method

Using the piggyback method, as USA Today calls it, is nothing short of brilliant. And in order to do that, you're going to want a good roadmap to when holidays in the U.S. fall and which months are best to get the most out of your limited PTO. Fortune reported on a now-viral tweet by @afashola_ that laid out all of the best months to piggyback your vacation days. The best months to do this in 2023 are January, April, July, November, and December. There are of course other bank holidays you'll be paid for, but @afashola_'s handy list gets you "46 days off using 18 days of PTO." Eighteen is a pretty common number of PTO days people have, and doubling them without doing anything other than planning is genius.


"There are no-brainer vacations when the annual calendar is released," Kelly Graham, former global marketing director at Unilever, told CN Traveler. She shared that planning around holidays gave her so much extra time off one year. "I look to see when public holidays fall and add vacation days before or after. Last year, two public holidays fell really close together — Easter and a public holiday in early May — so I put vacation days in the middle. It was nearly three weeks of vacation but I only had to take nine days off."

Take advantage of unlimited PTO, too

Just because unlimited PTO includes the word "unlimited" doesn't necessarily mean it's truly unlimited. While there are definitely limits to how "unlimited" that type of PTO is, the culture that comes with having seemingly limitless paid time off actually stops people from taking days off work. "I think it's easier to take time off when you feel like you've actually earned it," Christine Amorose Merrill told CN Traveler. It's really common and easy to become a workaholic without even meaning to. So taking mental health days and time off for relaxation is important.


"People like to know the speed limit of the road they are driving on. The same goes for unlimited vacation," Katie Denis adds (via CN Traveler). She recommends being upfront with your boss about PTO and your vacation expectations, as well as not feeling bad about using PTO. "I don't think I realized at the time but I had a lot of power as an employee... I just never spoke up. If we don't talk about what's expected or acceptable, all of these assumptions and inferences are made."