going on vacation during a job search

A reader writes:

My current (temp) job is ending in a week. I have the good fortune of having enough saved up that I don’t need to worry for several months, and I’d been hoping to take 2-4 weeks to travel and unwind. My trouble is, I haven’t found a new job yet, and I’m getting scared that if a good opportunity comes up while I’m away, I won’t be available for an interview. This area isn’t lacking for jobs, but it is lacking for ones that I’d be a great fit for and could build a career out of.

I still haven’t scheduled flights or anything since I’m not sure what to do. Should I line up a job before vacationing? Can I apply, leave, and then let any callbacks know I’ll be back in a couple of weeks? Should I mention in a cover letter that I’m out? Do companies generally toss your resume once they find out you can’t interview for a while? Or should I just enjoy myself and deal with job hunting afterward?

My instinct is to hop on a plane and worry about jobs once I get back, but I’d appreciate your opinion.

The biggest factor here is your financial situation and how quickly you need to find a job.

You say you don’t need to worry “for several months,” but many job searches these days are taking far longer than that. What happens if you come back from vacation, job search for a few months, and still don’t have a job? You’ll need to factor in how long you can support yourself without work. If you can live for a year without working, then delaying your search by 2-4 weeks isn’t likely to matter. But if you only have a few months’ worth of living expenses saved, using one-third of that time vacationing probably isn’t wise.

Regarding the concern about companies that contact you while you’re away:  Different companies move at different speeds. An employer you apply with today might contact you for an interview tomorrow, or you might not hear from them for two months.

As for being able to just explain you’re away for a few weeks, once you’re invited to interview, most companies don’t have a lot of flexibility on their timeline; if they’re doing interviews during a specific week, that’s when they’ll expect you to be available. You might be able to delay by a week, but it’s often harder to delay longer than that. Some employers do have more flexibility, but that’s less common. The more senior the jobs you’re applying for, and the more sought-after and hard-to-find your skill set is, the more flexibility you can ask for. But if you’re one in a sea of well-qualified candidates, they’re probably not going to hold up their hiring process to wait for you to return.

What all that means is that if you’re going to go away for 2-4 weeks during a job search, you need to be comfortable with the prospect that you’ll lose your chance at a particular job if you’re invited for an interview and aren’t available. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that — unless your financial situation is tight enough that you can’t take that risk.

And in this job market, with some job searches taking a year or more, you want to make that calculation really carefully. If you’re still unemployed in March, are you going to regret taking the vacation?

{ 50 comments… read them below }

  1. Malissa

    If this were me I’d go on vacation and just apply for job online from where ever my beach chair happens to be. Chances are that calls and interviews can be scheduled for when you return. If you’re worried about it keep the vacation under two weeks. You’ll be back before most places move from the application process to the interview process.

  2. Michelle

    “Most companies don’t have a lot of flexibility on their timeline”

    A few weeks ago I was contacted by a company that wanted me to come in for an interview the very next day (this invite was sent by email). In big, bold, red letters at the bottom of the email they wrote that under no circumstances would they reschedule interviews. If you weren’t available, tough luck. I declined the interview because I had meetings at a customer site that I couldn’t cancel and said that I hoped we could work something out. A week later they called me back and asked if I could come in (again with less than 24 hours notice). Of course the timing was bad for me *again* and they ultimately decided not to interview me at all. I was ok with this – it wasn’t my dream job.

    Like AAM said, just keep in mind that scheduling is difficult and you have to be ok with missed opportunities. Personally, I’d still go on vacation, although I’d probably shorten it to 10 days or split it up into two shorter vacations. I’d also check my email/voicemail often.

  3. Natalie

    My partner and I just recently made a similar call – we were planning on traveling internationally (for a week) this month. In September, when it became clear he was going to be looking for a job for a while, we decided to postpone our trip until the spring. It’s pretty hard to get phone calls from potential employers when you’re out of the country.

    We did take a couple of shorter trips around our region during his job search period – he actually did a phone screen during one of those. A week before our original travel dates, he got an offer for what is essentially his dream job and started that week. So all in all, it’s probably a good thing we didn’t buy plane tickets. :)

  4. laura

    I think I’d look at my finances and make the call from there, but I think it can be hard to take a vacation once a new job starts. Having the freedom of being between jobs, and the security of a nest egg, is a pretty good situation.

    If I were you, I’d take the trip!

  5. Your Boss

    I absolutely agree that your financial situation is a huge defining factor here. Can you afford to go on vacation, come back and live comfortably without a job being lined for a year or a year and a half? I, honestly, would not go on vacation without a job. It is of course up to you to decide what you can afford or not. From my own selfish perspective, I hate when people start a job and come to me a month later, asking for time off.

    1. Jamie

      I wouldn’t be able to do it either. I’m not judging – everyone is different – but I’d never be able to relax between jobs and it might balloon into full blown panic if I was spending more money than necessary.

      That’s me though, I’m a very cautious person. I would feel like I was somehow tempting fate if I was banking on finding something before my money ran out.

      I guess if I didn’t find something and things got very tight I would want to know I did everything I could to stretch my savings. Again – that’s a totally individual thing and some people are a lot more comfortable taking risks.

      1. A Bug!

        I’m with you. I absolutely wouldn’t be able to unwind at all if I had no income and limited savings. Every dollar I’d spend would be a dollar I wouldn’t have later when I might need it. But I go into “austerity measures” mode at the drop of a hat and I know that doesn’t work for most people.

      2. Kelly O

        I’m with you on this one too Jamie. I don’t know that I could take two to four weeks to relax without spending the whole time worrying about the job search coming up.

        Personally I might consider a couple of long weekends instead, but that’s my normal vacation preference anyway – I like taking shorter trips more frequently. There are fewer scheduling worries that way too, and you get more flexibility.

    2. AnotherAlison

      ITA with Your Boss & Jamie. I’d find a job and try to negotiate a later start date or a preset vacation ~2-3 months after starting instead.

      A friend of mine knew in late 2008 that she would be laid off due to some government regulatory changes & decided to use her unemployment and severance to take some “me time.” Her job ended in February 2009. It was 2011 before she found something, even though she had a solid resume and fell into the “perfect” not-too-old/not-too-young employee age group. She had to bartend for a while after her money ran out & she wished she had been more conservative, but admitted she never imagined it would take two years to find a job.

      1. AnotherAlison

        (I meant I’d negotiate to take the vacation 2-3 months after starting, not that I’d wait 2-3 months and then ask for vacation time.)

    3. Anonymous

      Life is not about work, it’s about enjoyment. I’ve been out of work for 18 months, and I still haven’t found a job, but I still dont put my life on hold because of it. Enjoy life, because when you get old, you wont care if you went to work everyday. You will wish that you had enjoyed life a little bit more.

      1. Jamie

        This philosophy is great if you have the luxury to afford not to work. But it minimizes the struggles of the vast majority of people who face financial ruin and real devastation if they are out of work too long.

        That aside – I’ve never agreed with that whole “you won’t be on your deathbed wishing you worked more.” If you didn’t work enough to take care of yourself and your family, maybe you will.

        Sure – plenty of workaholics may regret not taking time to smell the roses, but I bet people who lived without financial security due to lack of effort might very well regret not focusing more on earning a living.

  6. A Bug!

    Is a “staycation” out of the question? Or travelling somewhere nearby so you can still apply for jobs and be able to cut your vacation short and come home for a possible next-day interview?

    1. Lynn

      Yes, take a week and relax at home. Visit museums, the zoo, take in a show, see friends for lunch, or go to the movies.
      Watch your finances – the search could take much longer than you realize. If you luck out and find something quickly, take a week’s vacation somewhere fabulous to celebrate after you get an offer and before you start the new job!

    2. OP

      Well, the reason I want to go out of country is I want to visit family and friends in EU and Japan. Otherwise I would definitely just lounge around. :)

      1. A Bug!

        It just boils down to your priorities. Look at your planned vacation, and price it out, with transportation, room and board, entertainment, etc. Take that amount out of your savings, and determine how many months you can live on the remainder. Then look at how many more months you could live if you didn’t go on the vacation.

        With those numbers in mind, you’re in position to make an informed decision with consideration to your risk and your priorities. If the trip is worth the increased risk of running out of money before you have another job, then there’s your answer!

        Of course, you can always play around with the numbers by adjusting your itinerary, but the above is the bare-bones of what I would factor in when making a decision like yours.

    3. BW

      My thoughts exactly…staycation! I have a year’s worth of living expenses saved and my only debt is my mortgage, and there’s still no way I would be paying all kinds of money for an extended vacation anywhere while I didn’t have income actively coming in. Relaxing at home or near-by also means being available for interviews.

      I don’t know where the OP lives, and what the options are, but s/he might be able to go someplace within a couple hours’ driving distance for a long weekend if s/he truly just wants a refreshing change of scenery entirely.

      Someone else mentioned going on vacation between getting a job and starting. I think that’s another good option if you are able to make plans quickly.

    4. nyxalinth

      This! I rushed through my job search and was on the edge of burning out recently. Forced myself to take a break finally. Mind, my career path isn’t anything cool or exciting, and call centers hire almost constantly.

  7. Ellie H.

    To me it sounds like what you really want to do is go on vacation now and then throw yourself into job searching when you get back. So I’d do that, if I were you.

  8. Bridgette

    I would take an economical vacation, like to somewhere close or cheap or try to do it on a very small budget. Also, just make it a week. You get the happy brain chemicals from taking a break, but then you don’t spend too much money or make yourself unavailable for too long.

  9. Jennifer

    Just checking: are you going to be on unemployment after the temp job is over? You get in trouble if you go on vacation while you are taking unemployment money. And in general I don’t think that you should be blowing money on a good time when god only knows how long it will take you to get employed again. Could be years these days. But as for the question you asked otherwise…

    I think these days you can still job hunt anywhere with an Internet connection and they can call your cell phone to let you know. And given how slow most places are to get back to you about anything, I think you might be able to gamble and assume that you will probably not get called while you are gone. However, on a freak chance that you do get a call, can you afford/manage to cancel the rest of the trip at the last minute and fly back for an interview?

  10. some1

    Most employers allow a two-week window between the offer acceptance and the start date to accommodate notice to the previous employer. Even at my current position, where they knew I was unemployed, I was offered my job on the 8th of the month to start on the 19th. So waiting to get an offer and asking to start in two weeks is an option to take a vacation, although if you want to fly somewhere it will probably cost more.

  11. sab

    I agree with the idea of taking a more practical vacation. Over 2 weeks is a long time to be away (to me, a 4 week vacay sounds good in theory, but exhausting and money draining by the end of it) — the OP could shorten it 1-2 weeks tops, preferably somewhere close or financially reasonable to spend money on a plane ticket (as an aside, Southwest is having a 40% sale that ends tonight — granted, it’s for flights for certain dates, but I figured I’d throw it out there). Personally, I think just shortening the vacation is a win-win: less money spent out of the savings and less time being away to worry about interfering with job interviews, etc but the OP still gets the time to get the head clearing and relaxing done.

    1. Jamie

      This isn’t directed to the OP – as I know there are a lot of people who feel this way about vacations clearing ones head, but personally I wouldn’t see the value if you’re not working.

      Unless you are going somewhere specific to see someone – which is different – but just to go away for the sake of unwinding…it seems to me it would be better to do that when you have a job so you have something from which to unwind.

      I have a feeling this is one of those things which is just me – the rest of the world is normal and I’m sitting here pretending I understand the concept of a vacation.

      If I had two weeks I had to take, and money/logistics were no object and I could go anywhere and do anything but I had to pick the most relaxing thing to me…it would be two weeks at home. Putter around the house, rearrange the furniture, nap a lot…organize stuff…nap some more. Leaving the house as little as possible – just hanging out with the family (2 and 4 legged) at home.

      So while I’m not an expert on vacations I am glad I rambled on in this post because it prompted me to pull up a vacay form and maybe take Friday and Monday. I could use a long weekend. You guys are a good influence on me.

      1. Anon

        For me, the kind of vacation I’d take for four weeks between jobs (and have, in fact, taken for four weeks between jobs) isn’t an “unwind and getaway” type vacation. It’s an experience new things and meet new people type of vacation. Those are the types of vacations I often come back exhausted from anyway, and it’s nice to have some time to unwind from said vacation afterwards. (Which is not to say they’re not worthwhile – I have a great time and learn and experience many things which stick with me for the long haul; but they’re exhausting and it can be tough to come back and go immediately back to work.)

      2. AnotherAlison

        I’ve been thinking about taking a couple weeks to plow through two 600-page books. One is a book about an area of my industry that I don’t know much about and another would be to teach myself some software. I can only get through about 2-3 pages a night with the kids, housework, etc. and the material is too intense to go over during my lunch break (aka right now).

        But otherwise, I only take two weeks to travel to faraway places. I only took 4 days off when I moved a 4 person household, so I can’t imagine needing that much time to organize, and I definitely couldn’t veg out at my house for more than a day. It’s nice, but I have a productivity thing that makes me do stuff like seal granite at 10 pm on a Saturday. If I didn’t leave town, I’d go back to work. : )

  12. Mary

    In my experience, it is possible to interview and get a job while on vacation. I worked at a job that lost its funding and announced on a Tuesday that they were laying off everybody. Since I already had a month-long vacation scheduled, I got on my plane on Friday as planned. While overseas, I was contacted via e-mail for an interview, and conducted it a week later (at midnight local time on a dodgy Indian cell phone). I got the offer when I returned home.

    So, not utterly impossible. But YMMV. Will you be able to check e-mail regularly? Will you have access to a telephone during the trip if you are asked for a phone interview?

  13. Dukebdc

    Before I found out I was being laid off, my husband and I planned a two-week vacation that was partly international, and partly domestic. The trip was non-refundable, and we had plenty of cash in reserves, so there was no reason to cancel just because I was job searching. While I was out of the country, I had an automated message on my email account, giving the dates I was not able to check email, just so any potential job leads didn’t think I was blowing them off. And I left a similar message on my cell phone. Once back in the States I checked both every other day to stay on top of everything. For me, nothing happened on the job front, but I felt better knowing I had a contingency plan. And don’t underestimate how much time it might take to find a job–I am 12 months out and still looking. I was lucky to get a part-time job, but full-time work has been elusive.

    And for what it’s worth, have a plan for your job search. This is/was mine:
    0-3 months out: apply and interview for jobs I want
    3-6 months out: apply for jobs I want AND jobs I am qualified for in other areas
    6-12 months out: continue to apply while considering bigger changes like graduate school, going freelance, or a relocation to another job market

    Good luck!

    1. OP

      Yeah, I’ll definitely have some sort of auto-responder. And I like the idea of a job search plan! I think sometimes I spread myself too thin, considering jobs I don’t really want too early on. Thanks!

  14. OP

    Thanks for the great comments. I should clarify that the primary point of the vacation would be to visit family and friends in EU and Japan, who I haven’t seen in years, so it’s not just an exotic getaway. :)

    I do have enough for a year or so afterward if I’m careful, and I don’t think I’d have a problem getting another temp job if I had to *knock on wood*.

    I like the idea of splitting it into two shorter trips though. That would be less stressful and less likely to miss an opportunity.

    1. BW

      Hrmmm…if the point is to visit family and friends in totally different parts of the world, “staycation” probably isn’t going to cut it as an alternative. :D Maybe you could do one trip after you leave your current job, and then the other trip in the weeks before you start a new job. Price it out both ways, one where you see everyone in one trip and on where you take 2 trips, and see if there is much difference. If it’s much more expensive to take 2 separate trips, you might want to stick with one longer trip, and try to keep up with any responses to your search online. You could use a free Google Voice number to give to prospective employers. This is actually what I have done, because everything is accessible anywhere you have internet. You’re not tied to any one location, and don’t need to be in the same country or continent or even have a real phone to make and receive calls. Other people I know who have traveled internationally have done this so they can be more easily reached and/or call home in case of emergency.

  15. kdizzle

    Go and have a great time. Just adjust your voicemail message to say that you’re currently out of the country, say that you can be reached by e-mail, and then check your e-mail everyday.

    I’ve done plenty of phone interviews on the beach or at a golf course. I’ve skyped interviews from France before coming in for an in person interview two weeks later. There a a lot of employers who are very flexible about these things.

    Sure, there are employers who want you to interview the next day, and will bristle when you can’t rearrange your life at the drop of a hat. I had one who just couldn’t push back an interview from Thursday (giving me less than one day’s notice) to Monday. Honestly, if they’re that desperate for an employee, I’m not sure that I’d want to enter that situation.

    We should rearrange our lives to accommodate friends, family, and experiences…not hypothetical job interviews.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Sure, but it’s not unreasonable if, say, they have two weeks marked out for interviews and can’t wait four weeks, because they need the person to start and be trained before someone else leaves, or before their big annual event, or whatever.

      It really comes down to whether you have the luxury of missing interviews or not. Some people do, and others don’t.

      1. Kelly O

        After seeing this is a family visit, I tend to agree with this perspective.

        If you’re willing to potentially miss out on an opportunity, that’s your decision and what works for me or anyone else will not necessarily be applicable here.

  16. Elizabeth West

    I took a couple of trips after I got laid off, but I had my computer and phone with me and both trips were short. I was still available by phone or Skype if anyone had been so inclined, and I was able to fill out apps remotely. I think it’s fine to take a short trip, but as AAM said, you don’t know how long it will take you to find something when you come back. If you’re going to take the trip, keep it short.

  17. Sharon

    What if your job search ends up taking a year or more–will your savings carry you through until then? What if you have an expensive emergency that you can’t afford to take care of because you spent that money on your vacation?

    If I were you, I’d either take a 2-4 day trip instead of a 2-4 week one or wait until an offer comes up and take a vacation during the week or two between accepting the offer and starting the job.

  18. Maire

    The OP specifically stated that money isn’t really an issue in her decision and her question isn’t related to that. She is asking about the etiquette of going on holiday whilst applying for jobs.
    Personally i think if you can’t go on holiday when you’re not answerable to an employer, when can you go?
    It seems like the perfect opportunity to me.

    1. fposte

      She didn’t exactly say money isn’t an issue; she said she has enough for several months. People are rightly pointing out that if her job search takes her longer than several months, she may wish she had the travel money back.

      But since this isn’t just a jaunt but an actual visiting of family and friends she might not be able to see for a while once she’s hired again, I’m much more inclined to support taking the trip. However, I’d be inclined to go right now, like get out the day after your job ends, enjoy your trip, and then start the job hunt when you come back in a couple of weeks (go for the slightly shorter trip). I think trying to combine a job hunt with this kind of travel is doable but it’s really not ideal–it undercuts the aim of the vacation and the job hunt, and it creates the risk that you can’t respond in the relevant window. You can start filling out applications or sending resumes in toward the end of the trip if you like and then be home in time to act on any followup requests.

  19. NicoleW

    OP – since you’ve updated with your savings and that this is a family trip, I would definitely go. In the 8 years that I’ve been employed full time, I have never been able to take a vacation longer than 9 days (other than maternity leave which was NOT a vacation – that’s for sure!). This is your chance to visit friends and family you might not get to see for awhile once you get a new job.

    As another poster said, price it out as two separate trips and as one big trip. If it’s nearly the same price, arrange for a week or two between the trips, where you’d be home and available for any interviews. If it’s a lot cheaper to do one big itinerary, then go for it. You may miss an interview opportunity, but it sounds like you are okay with that.

    1. OP

      Yeah, part of my worry was definitely that I might not get another chance for a while. I’m not really “ok” with missing an interview, but I do think friends/family are more important than a job, so I suppose I’ve answered my own dilemma.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  20. Dan

    I did the vacation/interview thing back in 2008, and managed ok. I do a lot of traveling with frequent flyer mile points, so my airfare and to some extent hotels were covered. Back then, I booked the trip when I was still working, and unexpectedly let go. I was planning on doing a bit of Europe and then heading on over to Nepal. When I lost my job, I had to cut back the Europe portion (it is expensive over there) and suck up the lost non-refundable intra-Europe airfare that I had.

    But I did spend two weeks in Nepal. Nepal is cheap, I think my time there cost me a whopping $1k. My thought process was that if the job search dragged on long enough where $1k made or broke something, I had larger problems.

    I kept up with the job hunt via email and using phone cafes to check my messages. For some reason, I don’t think I had discovered Skype then. But I survived.

    1. OP

      That’s true; if a couple k is make/break, there would be more important problems. It’s reassuring to know others have succeeded at this.

  21. Anon

    My friend went on her honeymoon, and in the meantime her sister took all of her phone calls (being clear that she was the sister) and scheduled interviews for when the applicant would be back. It worked out well for her.

    1. OP

      That’s an interesting strategy. Unfortunately my sister would be one of the people I’d be visiting, so I can’t do that :) Thanks for the tip!

  22. PeterM

    My contract ends in 3 months and earlier than expected, so need to be looking, but have already got flight tickets for a 3-week vacation that me and partner never had. The tickets themselves are a good proportion of a monthly wage, and if I were to cancel I’d lose more than half of what the tickets are worth, not a pleasant hit.

    Probably got enough savings to pay the bills for another 12 months or more, and the main concern is lost opportunities while traveling in a totally different time zone. Email and skype are fine every 3 days or so.

    Is March the busiest hiring month?

    I have traveled a fair bit in my life, but still can’t clearly answer “what’s in it for me”, but loving it, expensive kind of hobby. I’m guessing there must be a tangible benefit from experiencing different cultures, so need to understand what it is exactly and how it compares to the prospect of finding a new job. (PS I do office jobs that involve zero travel, which sucks, but don’t have a strategy to change that. Must be plain lazy).

    Ok, so no one can see what the future has got for me, and, likewise, no one but me and partner can make a final call, however I’d much appreciate any views on the circumstances where forgoing holidays as well as pre-paid airfare would be justifiable. Thank you.

  23. Tasha

    I’ve been looking for a job for about a month and I recently got an interview. The problem i’m suppose to go on vacation with my family for about 4 weeks and I really don’t have a choice. My question is should I let my employer know that I won’t be available to work immediately during the interview or should I let them know if I’m hired?

  24. Barbara

    I was asked about a week and a half ago to come in for an appointment early that next week; unfortunately, I had a vacation already arranged and payed for. I said that I would be available anytime this week. The employer said that she had to schedule others and that she would call me and leave a voice message to reschedule. I have not heard as of today. Did I ruin my chances when I disclosed my vacation plans? I’ve been unemployed for some time, have had many interviews none of which have proved to be a job. Others I have applied, and simply never heard. So I naturally assumed that I would not hear from this company either, then they called the day before I was leaving. I am confused as to what choice I should have made. I mean does it ruin my chances if I ask for a later interview date and time?

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