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Five ways to save yourself from lost vacation days

SmarterTravel

Hard as it may be to believe, Americans will receive, but never take, an estimated 421 million vacation days in 2005. For a variety of reasons, we lose an annual average of three vacation days per adult. To enjoy the many mental and physical benefits of time off, follow some or all of our vacation-saving suggestions below.

Escape for a long weekend

If you can’t steal away from the office for an extended period, try expanding your weekend. Instead of thinking about a vacation as a full week off work, skip work on just a Friday and Monday. This will set you up for a double-long weekend with minimal work time lost.

If you’re the spontaneous sort, check SmarterTravel.com’s last-minute airfare database to see which destinations are on sale for travel over your weekend off. Or, bundle accommodations with your airfare in a Site59 package, which comes with a $25 discount for SmarterTravel.com subscribers. For more ideas on what to do while you’re away, visit our Weekend Getaways section.

Take a midweek break

While weekends are typically associated with time off, there are definite advantages to getting away during the week, too. For starters, due to reduced demand, there are likely to be lower rates for lodging, airfare, and other travel expenses. And, the decreased number of travelers means smaller crowds at attractions, more availability at hotels, and the convenience of not competing with other tourists for space on the freeways and in parking lots. Another factor to consider is that taking a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday off means still being able to do at least a portion of that week’s work on Monday and Friday.

Bring your work along

If the pull of your job means leaving vacation time on the table, technology may provide a solution. Now that many hotels and resorts offer wireless Internet access, it’s easy to pack a laptop and get some work done while you’re away. While working on a holiday isn’t necessarily an ideal vacation, being close to a beach, spa, or ski slope will allow you to make the most of (hopefully frequent) breaks. Alternatively, if you’re determined to get away from work as much as possible, but still need to stay tuned into office developments, having the computer along will ease your guilty conscience while you play. For a list of hotels that are equipped for wireless service, visit the Wi-Fi Free Spot website. For smaller properties, BedandBreakfast.com allows users to search for properties with in-room data ports.

Request time off early

A good way to make sure vacation time is used up is to plan ahead and request time off in advance. This is particularly useful if your boss is inflexible about when people can be out of the office. Even if you don’t know exactly where you’ll be going yet, setting the time aside and starting to think about how you’ll spend it will help ensure that it happens. Also, if you clear it with your employer early enough, you should avoid any conflicts that might arise with later requests.

Stay local

For those who feel nervous about an extended break, taking the occasional personal day can be a relaxing and fruitful experience. On the simple end, you may just decide to run some errands and treat yourself to an extended lunch. Or, if you want to make the most of your mini-vacation, you could explore your city or local area and play tourist for a day. ThingsToDo.com is a good general resource for finding attractions and fun activities across the country.

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