Our time away from work is a precious resource, so we’ve put together a handy guide on how to use public holidays to boost your own adventures.
We’ve all been there, desperately trying to juggle annual leave days, begging for flexi-time from your boss, or getting in trouble because you forgot to book the day off for your partner’s big birthday celebration.
The truth is we don’t get enough time to do exactly what makes us happy. Most of us are tied to our jobs for long stretches of the year. Even the best holiday packages still limit you to a few trips a year, and many jobs are so intensive on individuals that booking an extended period off work can be a logistical nightmare. Have you ever booked two consecutive weeks off? I bet you’ve never done three in a row, unless you went all out on a honeymoon once.
So we’ve been thinking about how Culture Trippers can squeeze that extra bit of joy from their travels by getting the most from their annual leave. No more rushing around on your city breaks trying to fit everything in, or ruing the fact you have to leave your sun-glazed pool a day earlier than you’d like.
The best way to beat the system is simple – use public holidays to your advantage.
Every year, in England and Wales, we get eight public holidays throughout a calendar year. The Scots are blessed with an extra day off for St Andrew’s Day (30 November), while in Northern Ireland there are two extra days – one commemorating St Patrick’s Day (17 March), the other the Battle of the Boyne (12 July).
2023 includes a bumper bank holiday to mark the coronation of King Charles III on Monday 8 May – how generous!
The standard, year-by-year list of UK public holidays includes Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, as well as Good Friday and Easter Monday. Then there’s the early May bank holiday, the spring bank holiday (usually late May) and the summer bank holiday (usually in August).
We often treat these just as a bonus day, a rest bite, perhaps a chance to sit in the sun and drink copious amounts of alcohol. The cunning ones among us, however, don’t waste these bonus days off in Wetherspoons, they use them as a chance to extend their holidays.
A Monday bank holiday means that – if you work a standard Monday-Friday job – you only need to use five days of annual leave to get 10 days off. Easter travels might cost a little more thanks to the school holidays, but taking off the two weeks either side of Easter means taking just eight days of annual leave for a whopping 16 days off!
While many can’t, or wouldn’t want to, travel during the festive season due to family commitments, it offers incredible holiday potential. Three bank holidays in the space of a week gives you a lot of wiggle room, even if you’ve only got a few days leave left. In 2021 Christmas, Boxing Day and NYD fell on weekends, meaning the bank holidays pushed back into the week, meaning you get 10 work-free days for just three days annual leave!
Enough number crunching, you get the gist. Planning your travels during public holidays is the way to make your getaway that day or two longer, or even to squeeze in an extra trip each year.
So let’s take a look at which of Culture Trip’s small-group adventures conveniently depart over public holidays in 2023 and 2024.
This year’s early May bank holiday trips might be an unrealistic turnaround, but if you do fancy booking a last-minute getaway to coincide with the three-day weekend ending on 29 May, we have three trips that overlap, all of which are also currently discounted.
Our Greek Island Odyssey trip has a guaranteed departure from 21-28 May, leaving you an extra day to recover from all that feta. Our Laid-Back Baja California Sur Mini Trip in Mexico runs from 25-29 May, meaning you only need to take two days off! Finally, you only need seven days of leave for our 12-day Epic Majestic Turkey trip, which has a guaranteed departure between 20-31 May.
For the summer bank holiday on 28 August we have a beautifully eclectic selection of options for you. First up is our 10-day Soulful South Korea trip, departing on Sunday 27 August. There’s also our exotic five-day discovery of the Galapagos on 26 August, which only requires two days of leave. Or you can keep it in Europe with Coastal Croatia, an eight-day Epic that ends on the bank holiday itself.
If you’re looking to get away this Christmas then how about the adventure of a lifetime in Southeast Asia? Our 11-day Sublime Southern Thailand trip starts in Bangkok and ends in Phuket, with island adventures, longtail boat rides and a sunset cruise along the way. This year Christmas and Boxing Day fall on Monday and Tuesday, so that’s four free days off right in the middle of our trip.
We have a huge selection of trips departing in 2024 that take advantage of both the Easter four-day weekend (29 March – 1 April) and the May bank holidays (6 & 27 May).
Over Easter you could maximize your time off work with our Epic Morocco trip – 11 days using just five days of leave – and Discover Jordan, an eight-day extravaganza in the Middle East that starts on the Easter weekend, meaning you only need to book four days off work. Both of these trips also have May departures.
We also have two trips in India that run up to the Easter weekend, Regal Rajasthan runs from 24 March to 2 April, taking in the Taj Mahal, the Amber Palace and Jaipur. Meanwhile Captivating Kerala, in India’s glorious southern countryside, runs from 23 March to Easter Sunday.
Other springtime trips that take advantage of both March, April and May public holidays include Soulful South Korea, Belize and Guatemala and Secrets of Sri Lanka, an incredible value-for-money Epic Trip in one of Asia’s most underrated countries. 12 days of ancient temples, jungle waterfalls and elephant-spotting, for a bargain price in pounds and in precious annual leave.
If you’re targeting May 2024 then we suggest Europe or Southeast Asia. Escape the summer crowds by joining our Greek Island Odyssey on 26 May, or see the blossoming beauty of the rugged Scottish countryside on our Wild Scotland trip, departing on 4 May in the Hebrides.
Then there’s our holy trinity of Southeast Asian destinations – Thailand, Bali and Vietnam – all of which have convenient departures on 18 May. Tropical Northern Thailand is a dreamy jungle escape, featuring elephants, waterfalls and sunrise hikes. Ten days of adventure for just five days annual leave. Blissful Bali and Vibrant Vietnam are both 12 days. The former is designed as a soul-soothing detox trip, utilising Bali’s calming waters, mountains and remote islands for a slice of pure escapism. The latter explores the joyfully multicoloured cultures of Vietnam, stopping off at Hanoi, Halong Bay and Hoi An.
Blissful Bali and Tropical Northern Thailand also have departures that make the most of next year’s 28 August bank holiday. As do Coastal Croatia and our Greek Island Odyssey – visiting in spring might help you avoid the crowds in these European seaside spots, but going in the heart of August allows you to fully embrace the glory of a Mediterranean summer.
Last but not least is our 12-day Majestic Turkey Epic, departing on 16 August. Experience the bazaars of Istanbul, the unique rock formations of Cappadocia and the golden beaches of the Turkish Riviera, all for just seven days of annual leave. System, beat.
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