How to Make the Most of Your Holiday Time

Less time in front of a laptop, more time exploring the world
Less time in front of a laptop, more time exploring the world | Pavol Svantner / Unsplash
Gethin Morgan

Content Editor

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.

This article focuses on public holidays around the world, but we also have guides to making the most of your vacations in the US, as well as bank holidays in the UK.

We’ve all been there, desperately trying to juggle paid 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 work-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.

Why can’t we spend an extra day or two enjoying this view?

The best way to beat the system is simple – use public holidays to your advantage.

Most countries have a number of public holidays throughout the year, with most of them signifying a well-deserved day off work. These may be driven by religious observances, days of independence, memorial or remembrance, as well as any other occasion commemorating something specific to that country or culture.

But these can be so much more than just a bonus day off. Use them wisely and they can help extend your holiday, or even allow you to book a whole new trip. All you need to do is combine the paid leave you can request from your employer with the public holidays set by your government. Many of these are on a Monday or Friday, extending the weekend, so booking five days off work could get you 10 days without working!

When you book obviously depends on where you live, so we’ve put together a handy guide to some of the most common public holiday dates, as well as some specific to countries around the world. If we don’t cover your country in this article, then be sure to find out your public holiday dates and come back to browse our full collection of authentic, immersive small-group adventures.

Christmas & New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day is the single most common public holiday around the globe. People from almost every country on Earth will be enjoying a day off on the first block of their new calendar. Meanwhile most countries, certainly in Europe and the Americas, will also get a day off on Christmas Day. Most of Europe also treats 26 December as a public holiday, as do South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria and more.

While many wouldn’t want to travel during the festive season, it does offer incredible holiday potential. For many people that’s three public holidays in the space of a week, giving you a lot of travel wiggle room, even if you’ve only got a few days paid leave left. In 2021 Christmas, Boxing Day (26 Dec) and NYD all fell on weekends, meaning the bank holidays pushed back into the week, and people got 10 work-free days by booking just 3 days of paid leave!

If you’re looking to get away this festive season then we suggest 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.

Get your glad rags on for sunset cocktails in Thailand

Easter

Easter is another huge day on the public holiday calendar, with almost all of Europe and the Americas, plus sections of Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands, all enjoying a four-day weekend, from Good Friday to Easter Monday. This means that you can get 10 days off with just four days leave or, if you really want to go all out, a whopping 16 work-free days by using just eight of your designated leave days – now that’s beating the system.

We have a huge selection of trips departing in 2024 that take advantage of the Easter break (29 March-1 April).

You could maximize your time off 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. The best part? Since both are Islamic countries, everything remains open.

Discover the ancient city of Petra with Culture Trip next Easter

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 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.

International Workers’ Day

Taking inspiration from more modern societal developments, almost every country on the planet takes a day to celebrate the rights of workers by, quite aptly, taking a day off. Most countries use 1 May as their regular public holiday. This includes Brazil, China, Egypt, France, India, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and many, many more. Even North Korea celebrates May Day!

The UK gets its day off on the first Monday of May, while dates vary by state in Australia. In the US and Canada it’s known as Labor Day, celebrated in September, while New Zealanders have to wait until October for their day off.

In Japan there technically isn’t a day off on 1 May but, since it falls during Japan’s ‘Golden Week’, which features multiple public holidays, many people do take it off too.

We have a range of trips that fall over the early May period in 2024. Join us on the coasts of southern Europe for a taste of the Mediterranean lifestyle with our Greek Island Odyssey and Coastal Croatia trips. Both feature island hopping, pristine beaches and incredible cuisine. Plus, if you visit in May you’ll be avoiding the summer holiday chaos.

Experience beach bliss on our Coastal Croatia trip

Alternatively, book a trip to Southeast Asia with us next year. We have departures for Sublime Southern Thailand, starting in Bangkok and ending on the stunning beaches of Phuket, as well as Blissful Bali, an epic 12-day escape from the stresses of work – snorkel with sea turtles, hike a mountain at sunrise and do yoga on the beach. Finally, just a little west, is the aforementioned Secrets of Sri Lanka.

Other Public Holidays in Australia

Every 26 January is Australia Day and, since 2024 sees the date fall on a Friday, our Aussies readers can look forward to a three-day weekend. That means you could join us on our 20 January Tropical Northern Thailand trip and enjoy ten days of jungle trekking and elephant spotting using just five days of annual leave!

This could be you if your join us in Southeast Asia

Other Public Holidays in South Africa

South Africa has a variety of public holidays commemorating various points in their history. This includes Youth Day (June), Heritage Day (September), Human Rights Day (March) and Freedom Day (April).

So, South African readers, let’s start with Youth Day on Friday 16 June. One of our most popular trips, the dreamy Seductive Southern Italy, starts on Saturday 10 June and ends on the 19th, meaning you only need five days paid leave for ten days of classic coastal Italy – now that’s la dolce vita.

Then there’s Heritage Day on Monday 25 September. This aligns perfectly with a couple of our trips in 2023. First is Georgia and the Caucasus, a nine-day Epic sampling wine and sulphur baths on the continent-crossing mountains of one the planet’s most underrated destinations, departing on the 24th. And there’s our fantastical Scottish Rail Trip, which departs on Heritage Day and takes you on a dreamy locomotive adventure through Scotland’s mesmerizing countryside, including a ride on the real-life Hogwarts Express.

Is there a more iconic train route on the planet? The Jacobite steam train, or Hogwarts Express, is also one of the most picturesque

Other Public Holidays in Canada

Canada Day is on 1 July every year. This year that’s a Saturday, so most workplaces will give their employees either the Friday or Monday off. This aligns nicely, particularly if you get the Monday off, with our Epic Morocco trip departing on Canada Day itself. Canadian Culture Trippers can enjoy 11 eclectic days in North Africa, from bustling bazaars to desert dunes and majestic mountains, for just six days of annual vacation days.

Embrace the vibrant souks of Morocco on our extensive Epic Trip

Other Public Holidays in Europe

Many of Europe’s catholic nations, such as France, Italy and Spain, even some regions of Germany, celebrate the Assumption of Mary every year on 15 August. Think of it as a kind of Easter but for the Virgin Mary and, in Spain and Italy, it marks the start of the summer holidays. This aligns nicely with our Tropical Northern Thailand and Blissful Bali itineraries, which have August dates ending on the Day of Assumption and the day after respectively.

For something different, check out our Adventurous Ecuador trip, from 12-19 August, which will only set you back four days of paid leave. Not bad for the trip of a lifetime in South America’s most underrated destination.

Will you have a go on the Swing at the End of the World?

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