How to turn 20 days of leave into 49 days of holidays

Fancy a getaway . . . or five? Make the most of your annual leave in 2017 by strategically planning your days off.

 Max Leave (a) credit Shutterstock

Four weeks of annual leave – it’s still not nearly enough, right? Well, if you’re smart about it, you can make those 20 days go the extra mile so you can travel a few extra miles yourself. By taking your days off around public holidays, your four weeks leave can blossom into 49 full days of holidays in 2017, like a caterpillar blossoming into a jet-setting butterfly.

Max Leave Calendar

Oh, and this plan only includes the most common public holidays – national holidays on Australia Day, Easter, Anzac Day and Christmas, plus Monday 12 June and Monday 2 October, which are days off for most Australians – and doesn’t even account for all of the weird and wonderful public holidays that dot the calendar in various states and territories (we’re looking at you, Northern Territory Picnic Day).

Now that you know when to take your 20 days of leave, where should you spend your 49 days of holidays?

26-29 January – four days – Canberra 

You’ve probably already planned your Australia Day long weekend this year, but if you’re not heading to the nation’s capital, you’ll be a little bit jealous you missed out on the brand new ‘Australia Day at the Capital’ event at Regatta Point on Lake Burley Griffin, when indie rockers British India and a spectacular fireworks show will commemorate our national day with a bit more energy than the old event on the lawns of parliament house. 

Max Leave Canberra credit Visit Canberra

Swapping a straight-laced ceremony for a trendy band sums up the transformation that’s taking place in the capital, which used to be reserved for boring school excursions but is now crawling with hipsters sampling the city’s boom café and cultural scene. If you still think Canberra’s boring, you’re fast becoming one of a small minority. 

14-30 April – 17 days – USA 

The proximity of the two Easter public holidays – Friday 14 April and Monday 17 April – to Anzac Day (Tuesday 25 April) this year means you only need to invest eight days of annual leave to nab a 17-day stretch out of the office . . . certainly enough time for a big-ticket overseas holiday.

With plenty of direct flights from Australia and spring weather in the air, West Coast USA is the perfect destination. You’ll probably fly in to Los Angeles but escape to NorCal and SoCal to see the best of the Golden State, lapping up the unique vibe of San Francisco and chilling out in sunny, laidback San Diego. 

Max Leave San Francisco credit Shutterstock

Hipsters should also venture further north to Portland – the fantastically weird home of craft beer, lush urban gardens, and a wonderfully off-beat cultural scene – while sun-seekers can stop off in Hawaii on the way home. 

Max Leave Portland credit Tourism Portland

This plan includes nine-day breaks around public holidays in June and October – but if you take four days leave away from one of those dates, you can extend your April break to 23 days at the cost of only 12 days leave. Perhaps enough to convert that American holiday into a full-on European backpacking trip?

10-18 June – nine days – Queensland

As the winter chill starts to bite Australia’s southern states, it’s time to migrate to warmer weather . . . the only problem is your bank account might still be recovering from your overseas trip just a couple of weeks earlier. Solution? Book a budget getaway to sunny Queensland with YHA – and with 14 hostels sprinkled all the way up the Queensland coast, we’ve got you covered wherever your winter wanderlust may lead.

Max Leave Magnetic Island credit TEQ

Noosa, Airlie Beach, Cairns, Port Douglas – there’s no shortage of choice for a mid-year injection of Vitamin D, but it’s hard to go past the tropical treats of Townsville and Magnetic Island. Spend a couple of days at Rambutan, a Townsville glam-packers boasting a rooftop pool, bar and restaurant, before catching the ferry to Magnetic Island for a stay at the Bungalow Bay Koala Village, the only resort in Australia with its own on-site nature reserve and just a stroll from the golden sands of Horseshoe Bay. 

30 September-8 October – nine days – Queenstown 

You get the best of both worlds when you visit Queenstown in spring: the ski fields are still open, but the longer days, bluer skies and smaller crowds make the adventure capital of New Zealand a breezier place to visit than in winter. Rounding out the longest ski season in the Southern Hemisphere, Mt Hutt and Cadrona will both be open until Sunday 8 October, while other high-octane activities like rafting and jet-boating are a bit more enjoyable without the wintry sting in the water.

Max Leave Queenstown credit Sara Orme

If you prefer the mellow buzz of a glass of pinot noir to the adrenaline shot of extreme sports, Queenstown is fast earning a reputation as a quality niche wine-producing region, while the scenic walking tracks and biking trails around the Wakatipu Basin are perfect for non-thrill-seekers. Early October is also the best time to see flowers blooming on the road to nearby gold-mining town Arrowtown, as well as the dazzling pink-purple lupins that illuminate Lake Tekapo, three hours north. 

23 December-1 January – 10 days – Western Australia

Get away with the family over Christmas with an escape to the West Coast. Well, maybe ‘escape’ isn’t the right word to describe your stay at Fremantle Prison YHA – which, as you might be able to figure out from the name, is built in a former prison. If you’re travelling with the kids, book one of the beautifully restored 19th Century guards cottages overlooking the historic port city, while there are modern private and multi-share rooms in the former women’s wing of the prison itself, including twin and double ‘cells’. 

Max Leave Fremantle

Don’t miss out on the chance to catch a ferry and cycle around the white-sand beaches of nearby Rottnest Island, or the opportunity to discover some other corners of this vast state. Margaret River, three hours’ drive south of Perth, is a compulsory stop for its world-class wineries, mouth-watering local produce, and wind-swept beaches.

Stay at these YHA hostels

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    Canberra City YHA
    Canberra, ACT
  • 87%
    $27
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    Magnetic Island YHA
    Magnetic Island, QLD
  • 90%
    $20.50
    per person
    Townsville YHA
    Townsville, QLD
  • 79%
    $29
    per person
    Margaret River Backpackers YHA
    Margaret River, WA
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