Make the Most of Your Time Off

Make the Most of Your Time Off

Your vacation is a two-week reward for slaving away the other 50 weeks of the year. A Monster poll asked, "Are you satisfied with the average two weeks' vacation per year?" Ninety percent of you responded, "No, I wish I had more time." Until this wish becomes a reality, how can you make the most of this precious time off?

In the book Vacations That Can Change Your Life, author Ellen Lederman describes more than 200 adventures, retreats and workshops that can turn your next vacation into a life-altering experience. If you want to return from your next trip with more than a killer tan or better golf swing, check out some of these options.

Photo Safaris

Your coworkers will actually want to see pictures from your vacation if you take this trip. Travel with professional wildlife photographers to the world's most scenic locations to photograph exotic animals. Upcoming tours could take you to Alaska to see humpback whales, Zambia to catch a solar eclipse or Manitoba to chill with the polar bears.


New York Film Academy

Do you have an inner Steven Spielberg just waiting to come out? If so, check out the workshops offered at the New York Film Academy, where you can write, direct, shoot and edit a series of short film projects of your very own. By the end of the first week, you'll already be making a movie.

National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

If your idea of a fun vacation includes camping in the snow, carrying a 70-pound backpack or honing your survival skills, join other outdoor enthusiasts to test your skills in one of many wilderness classrooms offered by NOLS. Who says spelunking or sea kayaking can't go on a resume?

Camp Winnarainbow

It's not too late to run off and join the circus after all. This vacation will find you learning to juggle, walk on stilts, ride a unicycle and swing on a trapeze. The director of the camp, 60's icon Wavy Gravy, promises "big fun" or your money back.


Earthwatch allows volunteers to assist scientists on environmental research expeditions throughout the world. You could spend your vacation floating among the mangroves of Belize to collect data on endangered manatees, researching the wild dolphin societies in Florida or bushwhacking through the backcountry of the US Isle Royale to learn about moose and wolf populations.

Global Volunteers

Make the world a better place with this vacation. According to its Web site, Global Volunteers wants to "wage peace worldwide by helping to establish mutual understanding between people of diverse cultures." Traveling with this group allows you to contribute to human and economic development projects across the globe.

Iowa Summer Writing Festival

Stretch those creative muscles in this festival's workshops on writing poetry, fiction, plays, screenplays, children's literature and more. Who knows? Maybe you can quit your job to write the great American novel after this vacation.


If you want to return from your vacation relaxed, refreshed and recharged, try going for a holistic experience. This retreat center, located along the coastline of British Columbia, promises a warm, supportive environment for relaxation, experiential learning and creative self-expression.

Power Places Tours

This spiritually oriented tour company allows travelers to experience many mystical places. Upcoming trips include seeing the Sphinx in Egypt at sunrise on the Equinox and experiencing the June Solstice at Machu Picchu in Peru.

Trying a unique vacation experience requires a certain degree of risk. After all, those two weeks are precious, and if your choice ends up not meeting your expectations, you may regret it. But returning to your usual vacation spot will probably only result in your usual vacation. Consider taking the road less traveled the next time you take time off. You will undoubtedly learn something new about yourself, which may result in going back to a new job altogether.

Before You Go

Start your vacation worry-free by taking care of these details first:

  • Determine who will handle questions or problems in your absence. Meet with this person briefly before you go to provide a status report of where projects are, who might be calling and why.
  • Set a reply message on your email notifying people you are out of the office, when you will be returning and who they can contact in your absence. Record a similar message on your voice mail.
  • Remind your boss, coworkers and/or clients that you will be on vacation a week before you leave to find out if they need any assistance now rather than on Friday as you are walking out the door.
  • Clean up your workspace before you go. Nothing kills a vacation buzz like returning to an avalanche of papers, mail and files on your desk.
  • Vacate! Leave the cell phone, Palm Pilot and pager at home. Resist the urge to call and check in with the office. If possible, avoid giving the office your contact information. No one wants a call from the boss while at the pool.

Additional Articles in This Feature

Your Well-Deserved Vacation home 

The Importance of Vacation

Contractors Deserve Vacations, Too

Pleasures and Perils of Paid Time Off Plans

Your Vacation Splurges

Get Back from Your Vacation with a Bang