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Career Advice

How Soon Should You Put In For Holiday Vacation?

Posted by Julia Malacoff

Last Updated November 10, 2016
|4 min read

One of the best things about the holiday season is getting to finally score some much-needed time off. The only problem? Everyone wants to take the same days to spend with their family, go on vacation or to simply relax.

If your company doesn’t give the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, those are prime time vacation days that everyone wants to take off. If you’re making specific plans during this busy vacation season, it’s hard to know exactly when you should bring it up with your boss. After all, requesting them too soon might make it hard for them to give you an answer, but if you wait too long you run the risk of others on your team getting their days approved before you do and getting stuck in the office when you really want to be on vacation — putting you in the opposite of the holiday spirit.

[Related: 25 Highest Rated Companies for Vacation & Paid Time Off]

We tapped HR pros to find out how and when to ask, as well as what to do if you miss the boat on the best time to make your request.

When To Ask
“It’s always best to plan ahead when it comes to taking time off,” says Denise Bukowy, Director of HR Services at kCura. “This is especially important around the holidays since your manager is likely juggling numerous time off requests, trying to ensure that work will be covered, and very likely hoping to take time off himself or herself.” Yup, managers need vacation too, so their own plans are likely to factor into their decision about your desired time off. Basically, the sooner you let your manager know you want to take certain days, the more likely it is that your request will be granted.

[Related: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job Search Over the Holidays]

“Your manager understands that many of their team will plan to travel or spend time with family during the holiday season, and in most cases, they likely won’t have a problem with it,” she adds. It’s true that managers and HR expect people to take time off during the holidays, so don’t sweat it too much. Just be up front about what your ideal timing is and be open-minded about making small adjustments to ensure that your team or department has coverage if it’s needed.

[Related: 7 Ways to Manage Employee Time Off]

Too Early vs. Too Late
You may wonder if it’s ever possible to ask for vacation too far in advance. For example, if you ask for holiday vacation in December over the summer, will it come off like you’re trying to “get ahead” of other people’s requests? According to Robin Goldstein, career counselor and founder of JobSparker, “it really depends on how your company schedules vacation.” She explains that some time off request software, which many companies utilize, won’t allow requests that are super far ahead, for example a year in advance. “That said, it really varies based on how your company schedules vacation and how far in advance they can identify the business needs for their team. If you are not sure if a request is too early, the best thing to do is to ask your boss.” When in doubt, just check in with the person who approves your vacation, since it’s better to know than not know, right?

[Related: 7 Companies Hiring Seasonal Workers]

What To Do If You Wait Too Long
So it's November, is it too late to ask? At this point, you need to just go ahead and ask your manager. “I would also recommend volunteering to find someone to cover for you,” suggests Goldstein.  If you can provide a solution for your manager, they’re more likely to agree to give you the time you want. If you aren’t able to find someone to cover for you, “see if you can figure out an alternative that allows you to meet both work and family responsibilities,” suggests Bukowy. “For example, ask if you could work remotely for a day or two if you need to travel home for the holidays, or see if you could shift your hours earlier or later one day so you can make a family obligation.” In this situation, it’s all about negotiating in order to find a plan that’s workable for both sides… and next year, you’ll know to ask sooner!