Still Have Unused Vacation Days? Fall Is A Great Time To Use Them

office job According to the most recent American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, U.S. employees have an average of eight unused vacation days this fall. Not only that, but 38% of workers are expected to lose them completely. While some people don’t know they can use them this late in the year, others are stressed out with work and don’t know if they can take the time away from the office.

“Many workers get caught up in their busy schedules, and before they know it, the year is winding down and they think it’s too late to use their vacation days. The truth is, it’s not too late,” Lesley Trudelle of American Express Travel explained to Gadling. “Others can feel they have too much going on to allow themselves a vacation away from work and everyday life, but it is so important to allow time away from your desk to de-stress.”

In fact, a study done earlier this year showed nearly 60% of workers said losing paid vacation time decreased their well being. Additionally, subjects reported feeling revitalized, energetic and more productive after using their vacation days. If you still have some left, know autumn is a great time to use these unused vacation days.

Why Use Them Now?

Because fall is shoulder season in most places and there are fewer crowds, travelers can take advantage of more deals. It also tends to be less expensive, allowing you to take advantage of luxurious amenities for a discounted price. Weather can be more reliable, with less rain, lower temperatures and less humidity. Although November is still fall, in many places it’s not even considered shoulder season but off-season. This means you’ll enjoy quick service, quieter sightseeing and cheaper travel, many times by hundreds of dollars.calendar How To Make The Most Of Unused Vacation Days

There are a few ways people can really make the most of their unused vacation days. For one, do a bit of research and look for promotions. Generally, the Caribbean is popular due to its reliable more mild weather and sunny days. It’s also much more private during this time, which can be great if you’re looking for a romantic getaway.

Says Trudelle, “The kids are back in school so the beaches are less crowded for fall travelers, plus resorts are offering amazing savings.”

In Europe, places such as Austria and Scotland are also popular for fall, as these two usually expensive destinations drop dramatically in price.

It can also help to be flexible with your travel dates. Of course, depending on your job you may only have a certain amount of leeway. However, if you have the ability to be flexible, check airfare a few days before and after your expected travel dates. Sites like Kayak and Spirit Airlines even show you calendars so you can see how airfare prices differ from day to day. Changing your booking by one day could potentially save you $100 or more.

Additionally, if you’re really stressed and don’t want to leave the office for too long, think about taking a long weekend. You would only have to use two vacation days, and could go to a nearby destination without feeling rushed. For example, if you live on the east coast on the United States, taking a trip to eastern Canada or the Caribbean is quick and easy.

wine Where To Go?

The study also looked at the most popular destinations for fall travel. While 37% will be traveling domestically, 7% are planning to go abroad. For those traveling internationally, 32% are headed to Europe, while 29% will be heading to the Caribbean. So, where how should you use your unused vacation days?

“A great fall destination can be different for everyone, as a traveler’s individual personality is more apt in determining the experience they are seeking than anything else,” explains Trudelle. “That being said, I’d say if you can find great deals, exciting events and festivals, activities to enjoy the outdoors, or something to see or do that is exclusive to this season, then you’ve found yourself a great spot for a fall getaway.”

Along with the Caribbean and Europe, one popular option is South America, as fall in the United States is summer over there. You can head to the beach in Brazil, enjoy up to 16 hours of daylight in Patagonia or sunny days with no humidity in northern Chile. South Africa also experiences opposite seasons, with their summer running from mid-October to mid-February, although you’ll usually still end up paying less than you would on flights June through August in November. Experience whale season, go turtle tracking, take part in a safari, hike through Table Mountain National Park or just relax at one of the many spas. And for those looking to get away from the warmth and enjoy crisp weather, head to Utah or Colorado for their ski season openings.

fall foliage If you want to do something fall-inspired, there are a few domestic destinations for U.S. travelers. Head to Napa Valley and experience the tail end of their fall harvest. There are still various events happening in the upcoming weeks, like Flavor! Napa Valley, B Cellars: Harvest Celebration and the Napa Valley Film Festival with wine and food tasting.

In Arizona, the weather cools down dramatically in November but still ranges from around 49 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, depending where you are and what time it is. It’s a great time to explore the Grand Canyon, Oak Green Canyon, Saguaro National Park and other places of natural beauty while not having to deal with unbearable heat. There are also numerous festivals at that time, including the American Heritage Festival, American Indian Heritage Festival, Arizona Wine Growers Festival at The Farm, ArtFest of Scottsdale and more. Click here for a full listing.

And, if you want to get really festive, head to birthplace of Thanksgiving, Plymouth, Massachusetts. You’ll be able to catch the end of the cranberry harvest season and tour some local farms. Additionally, the area is home to many scenic spots like Ellisville Harbor State Park, Pilgrim Memorial State Park and the nearby Ames Nowell State Park. Those interested in history will have much to discover. You can visit The Jabez Howland House, an original 17th-century two-story house where pilgrims once lived, the 1749 Court House and Museum, which is the oldest wooden courthouse and longest used municipal building in America and the Alden House Museum, where you can learn about John Alden and Priscilla Mullins who arrived on the “Mayflower” in 1620. Event-wise, Plymouth has much to offer in November, like all-day tours and tastings at the Mayflower Brewing Company, a delicious journey into the past at Harvest Dinner with the Pilgrims, a deeper look at local production with the Cranberry Bog Tour and a parade and feast at America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration.

[Images via Shutterstock]

10 Greek Islands To Visit During Shoulder Season

greece If you haven’t booked your summer vacation yet, don’t fret. While most people go away in June, July and August, a trip to the Greek Islands is actually a great destination in September and October. Visitors will still enjoy the beautiful, balmy weather and warm, azure waters while also getting away from the crowds and experiencing the destination in a more budget-friendly manner.

I got the chance to visit these beautiful islands last September. After hearing about how crowded the popular ones like Santorini, Ios and Mykonos were, I was surprised to experience the exact opposite. Not that it was completely empty, but you can visit popular sites without feeling like a sardine in a can. Additionally, while my friends who had gone in July had spent about $1,800 for a round trip flight from New York to Athens, I spent only $875 going in mid-September. Not only are flights cheaper, but accommodation and ferry tickets often are, as well. Many cruises also offer special discounts in September as they reposition their cruise season. Additionally, there are many worthwhile events to attend, and you can go without having to fight other travelers for ferry reservations.

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Aside for the Halkidiki peninsula and the islands of Samothrαki and Thαssos, most of the Greek Islands are perfect to visit during shoulder season and will still cater to tourists. While each island has something special to offer, 10 that I highly recommend are Ios, Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Crete, Delos, Corfu, Rhodes and Skiathos.Santorini

Santorini is a pristine island, often visited by those who want a romantic getaway. Visiting the beautiful beaches, like Kamari Beach and Red Beach, is worthwhile, as well as seeing historical sites like Ancient Thira, an archaeological site from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras and Ancient Akrotiri, a former Minoan outpost from the 16th century that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Additionally, you can attend the International Music Festival of Santorini in the first few weeks of September. This year’s event will be from September 2 to 16. Furthermore, 2012 will also offer the Santorini Bienniale, an art and culture event, which runs from now until the end of September.

Crete

Crete is an island with a lot to see and do. Some of the great beaches include Elafonissi, Falasarna and Preveli. If you don’t mind putting in a bit of effort, Balos Lagoon in the Kissamos area is difficult to get to, but well worth it for the crystal warm water, white sand and rugged beauty. If you like animals, Aquaworld Aquarium is a popular site, which can be visited until October 31. They have a large variety of marine species, and only take in animals that are in need of care. For a scenic experience visit Samaria Gorge National Park, often said to be one of the most beautiful national parks in Europe. In early September, you can attend the Labyrinth Musical Workshop with classes and events to learn about local and world music. Furthermore, in mid-October you can celebrate their annual Chestnut Festival, a fun day honoring the arrival of fall and chestnut-inspired foods.

ios greece Ios

While known as a wild party island, Ios calms down considerably by September. That’s not to say there isn’t nightlife – you’ll still be able to party and have fun – but it won’t be as crazy as when the backpackers arrive in the summer. For many, this is a blessing, as it offers a chance to explore the beauty of the island in a more peaceful manner. When I went, I stayed at Far Out, which has a hotel, bungalow and camping option literally right across from Mylopotas Beach. Ios is often touted as having the “Top 10 Beaches in Europe” when surveys are done, so exploring this and Maganari Beach is a must. Until mid-October, you’ll be able to enjoy water sports like windsurfing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, kayaking, surfing, banana boats and tube rides. Other worthwhile activities include boutique shopping and admiring the whitewashed buildings in Chora, visiting the Venetian castle of Paleocastro and seeing Homer’s Tomb, the resting place of one of the greatest Greek poets in history.

Mykonos

This cosmopolitan destination is one of the most popular of all the Greek Islands, and for good reason. Because it tends to get overcrowded in the summer, visiting during shoulder season is a good idea. Visit the destination’s iconic windmills, stroll through the charming streets and get a cocktail in Little Venice, take in panoramic views from Armenistis Lighthouse, visit the Byzantine Church of Paraportiani and get educated at the Folklore Museum. And of course, a visit to one of the many beaches, like Panormos, a quiet beach with a mountain backdrop, Platis Gialos, a beach featuring calm water and a plethora of eateries and Elia, a clothing optional beach, is a great way to waste away the days in a beautiful setting. For a fun event, the Mykonos International Gay Film Festival will take place from September 10 to 16, 2012.

Paros

Paros is the second-largest island in the Cyclades, and features unique beaches, each of which has a different vibe. For example, Santa Maria has a Caribbean Island feel, while Kolymbithres Beach is unspoiled with unique rock formations, colorful water and no music or fancy lounge chairs to take away from the untouched feel. Other fun activities include visiting the first century Panayia Ekatondapiliani Cathedral, the old-world village of Lefkes and the Marathi Marble Quarries, which features a high-quality marble only found in Paros.

beach Naxos

Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades, with opportunities for relaxation, adventure, culture and history. If you want to experience true paradise, head to Plaka Beach. This isolated beach features fine white sand, turquoise waters, barely any wind and even a clothing-optional section. For those seeking adventure, head to Agios Prokopios Beach where you can partake in water sports or sign up for a snorkeling or diving trip to see marine life and shipwrecks. For a bit of history, check out the iconic Portara, a marble gate from sixth century B.C., on the islet of Palatia in Naxos Harbor. It is the sole remainder of a temple dedicated to Apollo. And, for great photo opportunities, the Castro, or old walled city, is elevated above the harbor, awarding excellent views. Check out evening concerts at the Venetian Museum from September 1-30.

Delos

According to mythology, Delos was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, and there are many opportunities to explore this part of history. Visit the three temples of Apollo, the sacred lake where Apollo was born and The Alter of Dionysos. You’ll also get the chance to visit Cleopatra’s House, named after the two headless Cleopatra statues found inside. A theatre from the second to third century B.C., the Archeological Museum of Delos and the Avenue of Lions, a street from seventh century B.C., lined with ancient lion statues, are also worthwhile sites to check out.

Corfu

Located in the Ionian islands, Corfu has a history of being controlled by foreign powers like the British and the Venetians. Its rich history combined with its natural beauty make this a destination for all types of travelers. Moreover, the rainy season doesn’t come until November, so those looking to go in September and October will still be able to enjoy the sunny weather. During a visit to Corfu, make sure to explore the various villages on the island. There is Nymphes, full of waterfalls and legends of bathing nymphs and Roda, a mix of traditional fishing village and modern tourism. Moreover, Lakones features 18th and 19th century homes and churches while Kynopiastes has old mansions from the 17th and 19th centuries, a 17th-century monastery, a marble church and a museum dedicated to the olive tree. For something historical and peaceful, the British Cemetery offers a tranquil garden, hundreds of British graves and over 200 years of history. And, of course, the many beaches can keep you occupied for hours. Wine lovers will be able to take part in the annual Arillas Wine Festival, happening from September 7-8.

snorkeling Rhodes

One of the largest Greek Islands, visitors to Rhodes will experience beaches, a medieval town, archeological sites and a rich history that goes back to Neolithic times. This island often has more than 300 days of sunshine per year, making it a great destination even during shoulder season. Travelers love visiting Rhodes for the mix of sandy and rock beaches, all with different atmospheres. While Lindos is a sandy and trendy beach, Gennadi is a popular surf spot. Additionally, Faliraki is a mix of sand and rock and is the island’s only legal nude beach, although tanning in the nude is tolerated in some areas of Tsambika. For some adventure with stunning views, climb to the top of Mount Attavyros. The climb takes about two to three hours and will take you up 3,986 feet in elevation. Moreover, some historical sites of the island include the Acropolis of Lindos, the medieval fortress and city sites of Ancient Rhodes, the Church of Panagia and the Palace of Grand Master of Knights. Some events to check out include Timiou Stavrou, a Greek dancing festival taking place from September 13 to 14, and the religious festival of Aghios Loukas on October 17.

Skiathos

Part of the Sporades Islands, Skiathos is a mix of cosmopolitan luxury and medieval history. While the main strip is more loud and boisterous, the other areas feature great hikes and quiet retreats. For some medieval history, visit Kastro, which was the largest medieval town from the 12th century until 1830. It was built upon a cliff sticking out into the ocean at the north end of the island, and although today the site is mostly ruins, it still offers expansive views of Skiathos and its surroundings. For a bit of relaxation, head to the beach. A beautiful sandy beach that allows nudity is Banana, which is actually composed of three beaches – Little Banana, Nameless Banana and Big Banana. Moreover, Koukounaries is the most popular and thought to be the “best in the Aegean,” Kanapitsa is good for water sports and Asselinos is quiet and romantic. My personal favorite beach on the island, however, is Lalaria. It is only accessible by boat, and features gray marble pebbles, unworldly rock formations and crystal clear water you can see through even in the deep areas. From September 19 to 22, visitors can attend International Festival Burtzi Skiathos, a Mediterranean folklore festival.

[Images above via Big Stock and Jessie on a Journey; Gallery images via Big Stock]

Photo of the Day: Getting cozy in the snow

Photo of the day
Most of our favorite travel memories are from summer: school’s out and the days are long, you can hit the beach, sit in a park, or people-watch at a sidewalk cafe. Spring and fall are great shoulder seasons for lower prices and fewer crowds, but winter tends to be underappreciated for travel. Outside of visiting family for holidays, winter travelers generally head to the ski slopes or Caribbean islands to escape the cold. But winter can be a lovely time to travel, whether you are enjoying the museums and bathhouses of Moscow or taking a country walk through the snow in an English village. Today’s Photo of the Day by Flickr user Kumukulanui is from St. Ann’s Well and Cafe above the spa town of Great Malvern, England. The snow outside makes it even more picturesque, inviting you to get cozy inside with a hot cup of tea and savor the long nights of winter.

Add your favorite winter scenes to the Gadling Flickr pool and you might see it in a future Photo of the Day.

Perfect timing

I’m playing around the with idea of a trip. Oh, who am I kidding — I’m always playing around with the idea of a trip, even if it’s just a weekend getaway. But I’ve been thinking seriously about heading to India this year. I’m thinking I’ll have to wait until October though — Summer is Monsoon season and right now it’s super-hot season.

The point I’m getting at here is how to figure out the timing of your vacation. Being from Canada, a place where there’s a very small window of tolerable weather, I’m usually quite careful about making sure that when I take a big trip, I make sure to visit that country during it’s nicest season. But I think we Canadians sometimes assume that if a country doesn’t have snow, it’s nice to visit any time of year–an assumption that lead me to Thailand during monsoon season (good thing I like dancing the rain) and to Greece with nary a sweater in spring (nights can get damn cold there!)

MSNBC recently did an article on timing your vacation well. Their tips?

  • Don’t go when the locals are heading out. Because there’s a reason they’re leaving.
  • If you’re trying to save money, don’t go during low season — opt for shoulder season instead. It’s worth it.
  • Seasons can change between ZIP codes, so do your research on that exact spot.

Want to know more? Click here.