Holiday vacation days: 4 smart ways to get time off

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Depending on your company, getting time off around the holidays can be a super simple exercise -- say, a a company-wide shutdown during Christmas week -- or a complicated, sticky situation (a request system marred by politics or favoritism).

Wherever your firm falls on this divide, here's how to get a few choice days off this winter. Because that's something to be thankful, merry and happy about.

1. Ask for specific days really early

How early? A year in advance if you can do it, says career strategist Laura Rose. Not only will it ensure you'll get choice days, but both your manager and your family can plan around them.

Once you've put those dates in the books, avoid changing them for small work fires. "Eight times out of 10, those issues will change and you'll have altered your plans for nothing. You have already set the teams' expectations appropriately by planning, publishing and getting approval your dates well in advance," says Rose. 

2. If time off is impossible, ask for flexibility

A flexible schedule could mean working from the comfort of your home, with your laptop lit by a glowing fire, a Christmas tree or a menorah (or all three). In the time you save on your commute, you can enjoy your friends and family (and free time) just a little more.

"Another option is to find out if your boss would be open to you having either a compressed work week or even work day schedule," says Samantha Zupan of "For example, perhaps you could try working four [longer] days a week and take Friday off, or you work part of the day and leave a little earlier." 

3. Prioritize your projects

You can't take holiday time -- even if you have the time off booked -- if you get stuck in the office facing down a deadline. Planning out your projects ahead of time can help prevent that.

"Make an immediate priority list and an 'it doesn't matter if this happens in January' list," suggests Tiffani Murray, author of Stuck on Stupid: A Guide for Today's Professional Stuck in a Rut. "If it isn't mission critical, the deliverable probably won't be missed if it waits until the first of the year."

4.  Show gratitude to those who cover you

From your manager to your assistant, those who pick up the slack deserve some thanks for covering your clients while you're cruising the Caribbean. "Come back with token gifts of appreciation. They don't have to be expensive -- just a small gesture of thanks for covering for you," says J.T. O'Donnell, CEO of

Next year, the person in charge of creating a holiday schedule may remember that small token.

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including, and and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit