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How to maximise your annual leave allowance for 2024

How to maximise your annual leave allowance for 2024

It’s that time of year again, when we start to reflect on 2023 and look forward to 2024. If you’re anything like us, a recurring daydream is maintaining a life of perpetual travel with your family; no work, no mortgage, just trip after trip, returning home only to check-in with the real world and plan the next adventure.

Alas, for the majority of us, it’ll remain just that; a daydream (reminder to self – must buy a lottery ticket this week). Even if you’ve managed an extended trip for six months or a year, there comes a point where you’ve put down some roots, found a proper job and started earning money again to pay for ‘grown-up’ things like mortgages and pensions. Throw the kids into the mix and suddenly the likelihood of upping sticks, tearing up roots and disappearing for never-ending travels becomes even more complicated.

One day we’ll become digital nomadic homeschoolers right? 😉

In the meantime, what’s the best way for employees in the UK maximise their annual leave allowance, squeeze every last hour out of the calendar, and live the nomadic lifestyle one trip at a time?

Annual leave allowance varies across different jobs, roles and professions but we’re focusing here on the ‘standard’ employee who gets twenty-five days of annual leave, plus bank holidays (there are eight of these in 2024). With a little bit of juggling and compromising, it’s possible to turn those days into something substantial.

And if you’re travelling before the kids start full-time education, you have the flexibility to travel during the school term when most travel and accommodation is cheaper. Read why preschool is the best age to travel with kids.

We travel a lot as a family and even though our work as a blogger is flexible, the boys are still in full-time education. The two most frequently asked questions we receive are:

  • How do we afford to travel so much – click here for our answer to that one
  • How do we find the time to travel so much
Tanzania itinerary with kids
A long term travel adventure: 101 days overlanding Africa in a Land Rover.

However kids in the UK do actually get A LOT of holiday time. I think it’s about 13 weeks, and we are happy to take them out for the odds days here and there during school term for travel. So it’s more likely that your main time constraints will be your annual leave allowance in 2024.

Managing annual leave allowance has seemingly become an artform, so I thought I’d share our tips with you.

There’s no magic wand unfortunately. Pretty much all of our suggestions are straightforward, but hopefully there is something here you haven’t thought of, even if you work in education, have school-aged kids and are limited to travel during the expensive school holidays.

Poon Hill with kids
Standing on top of the world at Poon Hill (3210m) in Nepal’s Himalayas.

Make use of Bank Holidays

Those bank holiday days are free holiday days! Use them. Take the four days off after a bank holiday Monday and if you leave on the Friday night before, and return the following Sunday, that’s a 10 night holiday.

I’ve been looking at dates for next year and you can take an 11-day holiday by booking 5 days off (28th March and 2nd – 5th April). This nicely coincides with the school holidays.

If you aren’t constrained with school terms, you can enjoy the two bank holidays in May (6th and 27th in 2024). This lets you take a full week off for just four days annual leave or, if your work allows you to take more than two weeks allowance at a time, you can take 14 days annual leave and have an epic 24-day holiday between May 4th to 28th (taking 7th to 24th May as leave).

And this is one a year from now, but you can take an 12 day holiday by booking 5 days off between 21st and 31st of December 2024!

It may be more expensive to travel at this time, but if more holidays are what you’re after, then every day counts. But if you’re in the UK, there is always the option of loading the car with camping gear and getting the ferry across to France for the May bank holidays.

river beach in France and two boys
May bank holiday in the French Dordogne.

Depart and return from your travels at the earliest and latest opportunity

Have the bags packed and everyone ready to go so that when you finish work, you can be on your way. This requires forward planning and organisation earlier in the week, but it’s worth it. It’ll open up lots of possibilities for sneaking extra time at the beginning of the trip.

Or perhaps catch that early morning flight you’ve always ignored by leaving for the airport the night before and staying in an airport hotel (sometimes it’s not much more expensive to stay and park at the hotel versus long-stay parking at the airport). Of course, if you’re looking for last minute airport parking, then do your research to help find the best possible prices. If you’re taking a driving holiday it just means you’re on your way sooner.

For the return journey, consider arriving home the morning you’re due back at work. This sounds rather hardcore, but we’ve found it works with a bit of organisation; make sure the kids’ school stuff if ready to go and don’t plan too much for the following days on return.

Book a few long weekend breaks

It’s amazing how much you can fit into a long weekend by only taking off one or two working days either side; it can be just as restorative and exciting as a two week long holiday. Although you may want to limit travel time to a 2 hour flight or 3 hour drive, so as to maximise exploring time.

boy jumping at Puy du Fou
A short weekend break to Puy du Fou in France. We left on the Friday night and returned on the Sunday.

Take annual leave days from the following year

It means you have fewer days the following year but if you find yourself booking a holiday somewhere amazing and thinking, ‘I wish I had just a little more time there’, then many companies are open to borrowing a few days from the following year. Also consider taking unpaid leave if the company allows it and you can afford it.

Book your annual leave as early as possible

This increases your chance of having annual leave dates approved by the boss. Many companies only allow you to take two weeks off at a time but if you give them enough notice (perhaps a year), they may be open to you taking three or four weeks in one go. Whilst this means you are using most of your annual leave for one trip, the reward is that you can explore a destination in more depth, go even further off the beaten track, or travel to the other side of the world and have time to properly get over the jet lag.

overlanding Africa with kids
Hiking Mount Mulanje in Malawi.

Book your travel as early as possible

Early booking usually means you have first pick on the best deals for airfares and accommodation, and also provides better choice on travel dates. If you are following some of the tips above, it’s likely that you are going to be very specific on the dates and times that you can travel and won’t have as much flexibility.

Utilise your shared paternity leave (SPL)

SPL was recently introduced in the UK to allow parents the right to share up to 50 weeks of leave after the birth or adoption of a child. It means that a couple can split the time how they wish, taking it together or separately. For SPL to start, the mother must end her maternity leave (more information can be found here). Some parents are even overlapping Mum’s accrued annual leave with Dad’s SPL. What better way to bond as a young family than travelling the world (or at least some of it) together?!

Unpaid parental leave

A while ago, the UK government introduced an unpaid parental leave scheme which is both incredibly useful to parents, and (seemingly) not at all well known. Jay took unpaid parental leave in 2023 to enable us to spend ten weeks backpacking around Southeast Asia. When we spoke about it on the blog and to other parents, we were surprised how few people knew about it.

Do keep in mind that the leave is unpaid, so you’ll need to decide and budget accordingly. However, if it is something you’re able to do, it’s an incredible opportunity, and releases so much pressure on your ‘normal’ annual leave allowance.

There are a few pre-requisites, mainly that you’ve been working for the company for a year, are employed, have parental responsibly for the child, and the child is under 18.

Each parent is allowed to take 4 weeks leave per child, per year, up to a maximum of 18 weeks before the child reaches 18. your employer cannot refuse the request, they can only ask to delay it for up to 6 months if there is a legitimate and significant reason. You also have to give them 21 days notice.

Do check out the government website for all the information, we also have a blog post giving lots more information on unpaid parental leave.

You may also like to read:
How we afford to travel with kids
Family adventure travel ideas
12 New Year’s travel resolutions for 2024