You’re winding things down at the office for the end of the year. There are i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed. You have holiday cards to send to your favorite clients and Secret Snowflakes to organize for your coworkers. You have an out-of-office message to put up and an inbox to clear out. Until you finish your to-do list, you know you won’t be able to fully enjoy the days you have off for the holidays.

As you’re getting things organized at work, you realize that you have a few vacation and personal days left to use. If you don’t find a place to slot them in by the end of the year, you may even lose them! Regardless, you deserve to take advantage of them, and doing so doesn’t need to require a lot of time, money, or advance planning. Keep scrolling for nine easy, practical ways to use that last-minute PTO.

couple relaxing at home

1. Finish holiday preparations. Feeling overwhelmed by the number of gifts that need to be purchased, packages that need to be wrapped, and cookies that need to be baked? Turn down the intensity on your seasonal stress by setting aside a vacation day to accomplish everything on your holiday to-do list. It tends to be easier to get things done during the daylight hours when stores are less crowded and you have more energy, so you’ll free up time to actually enjoy yourself at night!

2. Gather friends to give back. There’s at least one other friend in your group who is also trying to make good use of their end-of-year PTO. Coordinate your calendars and make a plan to do a little holiday volunteering before December is out. Chances are that there are plenty of organizations looking for extra helping hands, and they have shifts that need to be filled throughout the day. Why not be the ones to step in?

3. Clean and organize for the new year. If you know that you have a messy apartment or a closet full of clothes that need to be sorted and donated before you can really embrace the new year, you may feel like you have a dark cloud hanging over your head throughout your holiday celebrations. Get ahead of those icky vibes by cleaning and organizing now. If you use a personal day to do it, you can really enjoy the process in your cozy winter pajamas and with your favorite shows on TV.

4. Treat yourself to a holiday movie marathon. Make a list of all of the movies and holiday specials that you like to watch before January rolls around, then see how many you can binge in a day. It’s tough to really enjoy all the festive programming you love when you’re juggling a busy evening calendar of holiday parties and shopping, so make the time to wind down during the day. You never know what other new favorites you’ll find with a little channel surfing!

5. Spend pre-holiday QT with family. Even with your best efforts, it might prove a challenge to see all of your loved ones in the few days that you have off for the holidays — and even if you do see them all, you may not feel like the time you spend is meaningful. Spread out your family time by making a date with a relative or two on a vacation day. The time will feel more special, and you won’t have to spread yourself quite so thin later in the month.

6. Go sightseeing in your own town. How often do you think to really enjoy all of the special sights and activities that your area has to offer? We’re gonna guess that your answer is, well, never. Spend your last-minute PTO exploring that independent bookstore down the street, hopping from one coffee shop to another, or driving through the neighborhoods that are known for the best holiday decorations.

7. Set your resolutions. Call them goals, resolutions, intentions, or anything else you choose. Regardless of word choice, you’ll want to start the new year feeling confident and ready to accomplish some meaningful things. It’s easy to get so caught up in the holiday shuffle that you don’t have time to consider what those goals look like, so make the time now to both reflect and look ahead. With a full day to focus on them, your resolutions will be more likely to represent what’s really important to you.

8. Pamper yourself. Take yourself on a mini-shopping spree, go to the spa, or whip up the most indulgent desserts. Do whatever makes you feel special!

9. Do absolutely nothing. Going into full relaxation mode is totally allowed. In fact, downtime is often more necessary than ever during the holiday season. You earned those vacation days and you have the right to use them however you want… even if that means sitting on the couch, napping, and painting your nails.

Do you have any vacation days left to use before the new year? What are you going to do with them? Tweet us @BritandCo.

(Photo via Getty)