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When are you planning your next vacation?

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- When was the last time you took a vacation? I don't mean simply using your leave and taking a day off work, but an actual chance to get away and relax?

I ask this question for a few reasons. First, most people know by now that the amount of leave you can carry over at the end of the fiscal year recently been reduced from 75 to 60 days. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you had carried over 75 days in October of last year you now have to use 45 days of leave before you are not at risk of losing your valuable time off.

Sure, it sounds simple to take leave; if you only use four days of leave per month for the year you have covered those 45 days and all is good. However, we are now well on our way into the second quarter of fiscal 2015 and if you have not taken any leave, there are only eight months left to use up all of that leave! It is past time to start managing your leave so you do not lose what you have earned. 

I also ask about your vacation habits because I don't think people realize how to take a vacation. It used to be a very normal thing for families to take a vacation every summer. Families would load up in the car and drive off to visit places like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone or one of a countless number of places.

Unfortunately for too many in the Air Force, I think the idea of a vacation is going "home" to visit family.

While this might be a good weekend trip, does it really give you the chance to recharge and de-stress? I'm not saying that you shouldn't visit your family, what I'm saying is that sometimes visiting family can cause a different kind of stress. If you are stressed over family issues, then you are not relaxing and getting a break from your work stressors. My recommendation is to sit down at the beginning of each year and make a decision about where to take a vacation and choose a location. This gives you time to budget, plan and start saving for the trip.

This advice is not just for those that are married either: single Airmen can get a couple of friends together and have a great vacation to a new place. Air Force Instruction 36-3003 "Military Leave Program" states that, "The use of leave is essential to the morale and motivation of members and for maintaining maximum effectiveness." Bottom line, you need to get some good, healthy fun back in your life and a vacation is a great way to do it!

One of the first thing people throw back at me when I mention taking a vacation is that it is easy for a master sergeant to pay for a vacation, but how is a young Airman with a family supposed to pay for a vacation?

A vacation does not have to be expensive to give you the opportunity to relax. Going camping at a national park is pretty low cost, and Outdoor Recreation can set up even the greenest camper with all the tools he or she needs to have a great camping trip.

Information Tickets and Tours offers tickets to a number of different attractions all around the country, and they usually offer a pretty good deal. Often times your insurance company or bank will offer discounts on hotels, rental cars and even flights.

There really are a lot of options for people to get a good break, and relax and still save money. You can also always seek out advice from a friend or mentor about what they do and see if it would work for you. I have helped a number of people by showing them some of the different services I have used to get a deal on a vacation. With that, my question is "When are you planning your next vacation?"