Hack Your Holidays: Tips & Tricks to Maximise Annual Leave in 2024

Holidays

Dreaming up your next getaway but limited when it comes to annual leave? With some savvy know-how, you can stretch your holidays further in 2024.

You can hack your calendar to make the most of your precious holiday time by aligning public holidays and finding travel bargains at optimal moments. Read on for pro tips to get the biggest bang for your leave bucks.

South African Public Holidays 2024

The Public Holidays Act plays a pivotal role in shaping the 2024 calendar. This act stipulates that when a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday becomes a bonus holiday.

So, start strategising by pencilling in the official 2024 public holidays:

– Monday 1 January – New Year’s Day

– Thursday 21 March – Human Rights Day

– Friday 29 March – Good Friday

– Monday 1 April – Family Day

– Saturday 27 April – Freedom Day

– Wednesday 1 May – Workers Day

– Sunday 16 June – Youth Day, observed Monday 17 June

– Friday 9 August – National Women’s Day

– Tuesday 24 September – Heritage Day

– Monday 16 December – Day of Reconciliation

– Wednesday 25 December – Christmas Day

– Thursday 26 December – Day of Goodwill

Note: The lunar cycle determines the exact dates of the Easter weekend.
2024 is a leap year, so Christmas Day falls on a Wednesday, not the Tuesday that may have been otherwise expected.

Maximise those Long Weekends

Once you’ve pinned the public holidays, look for opportunities to tack on leave around long weekends.

A prime chance comes hopping with the Easter bunny in April, take Thursday (28 March) off and 2 and 3 April and this will give you 7 days off. By taking off just four additional days from 29 April to 3 May, you can stretch the holiday into an indulgent 9-day getaway.

September also allows for lengthening a long weekend. Take leave on Monday the 23rd, following Heritage Day, to relish a relaxing five-day break of braais, sunshine and swimming.

The motherload of holiday hacking happens in December. Take leave from the 13th through the 27th, and you’ll be off an astonishing 16 straight days thanks to the four consecutive public holidays. Talk about holiday cheer!

Travel Tips from the Experts

Booking your flights at least six months in advance for domestic travel will give you first choice and the widest array of options, especially when travelling over peak periods,” advises Antoinette Turner, GM of Flight Centre South Africa. “For international trips, book as far as 12 to 18 months ahead, especially if your holiday comprises of a number of elements such as flights, cruises, accommodation in popular cities, etc.”

The best festive tip from the experts? Turner recommends locking down flights by the end of May for December getaways. “Prospective travellers won’t believe how quickly December and January flights and accommodation get booked up, especially locally.”

For safari-goers, booking by January/February will secure the best rates on peak winter travel from May to September.

According to Turner, the beginning of the year is also the ideal time to book autumn escapes, such as wine tasting in the Cape, when the crowds have thinned after the summer rush.

For accommodation, Turner advises booking at least two to three months ahead when availability is widest but six to 12 months in advance to nab coveted holiday home rentals.

For families with young kids, you have a special advantage. Children in creche or pre-primary school are not bound by school terms. Take leave during the low season, outside of the school holidays, for better prices, more options and flexibility all around. Invite the grandparents, too, for a multigenerational holiday!

Being mindful of peak season dates is a savvy travel hack that can really help you stretch those bucks. If you have flexibility and can travel outside of peak season holidays, definitely opt for that for better pricing and more options all around.

Insider Tips on the Hottest 2024 Destinations by Month

Once you’ve aligned your leave with the holidays, it’s time to decide where to venture. Here are some popular and up-and-coming 2024 hotspots by month.

January – Escape the Post-Holiday Blues: Mauritius

Swap those few gloomy post-holiday weeks for a few sun-soaked days in Mauritius. Late January and early February brings summer weather and lower costs to this island paradise. Laze on dazzling beaches, hike through rainforests or explore local markets.

“From January through February, when schools are back in session, is a great time to visit Mauritius. Expect lower humidity, lower rates and an ideal climate for exploring,” advises Turner.

February – Safari Season in the Cape: Madikwe Game Reserve

February is prime time for safaris.

“A February escape to Madikwe Game Reserve almost guarantees spectacular wildlife sightings,” Turner comments. Watch elephants roam and lions nap under the shade of acacias.

March – Party in Rio: Brazil

March ushers in the sizzling Rio Carnival in Brazil, the world’s biggest and boldest festival. Samba your way through the streets and prepare to have your mind blown by the colourful costumes and infectious rhythms.

April – Hike the Drakensberg: Lesotho

The Drakensberg reaches its scenic peak in April when the summer rains nurture the landscapes. Lace up your boots for epic hikes and breathtaking vistas in Lesotho and the Berg.

May – Whales & Wine: Hermanus

From May to September, treat yourself to an idyllic weekend getaway in Hermanus, enjoying the best land-based whale-watching in the world. When you aren’t scanning for whales, indulge in the region’s famed vineyards, restaurants, and galleries.

June – Island Time: Mozambique

“June is an ideal time to trade in the winter blues for an affordable tropical getaway – think coconut palms swaying in the breeze, snorkelling, sailing, and lounging on the beach,” says Turner.

July – Wildflower Spotting: Namaqualand

July to September is flower season in Namaqualand when the arid landscape transforms into a kaleidoscope of colour. Marvel at fields of orange, yellow, and purple daisies, best explored by car.

August – Hiking & Stargazing: Sutherland

Sure, it may be chilly, but for the best stargazing in the south, head to the Karoo town of Sutherland. It’s one of the world’s top astronomical sites – and also infamous for being South Africa’s coldest spot.

If you’ve had enough of the Mzansi winter weather, head to the Med. The summer season is one of the most popular times to enjoy a classic Med break – best experienced in hassle-free style on a cruise ship allowing you to visit numerous ports without any unpacking and packing!

September – Bask in the Joys of Spring: Langebaan

“September is the perfect time for wildflowers and whale watching in Langebaan,” advises Turner. Lap up the West Coast sunshine and colourful flora and fauna, or kayak on the lagoon.

Music lovers and foodies would do well to bookmark the DSTV Delicious Food and Music Festival, hosted over the Heritage Day weekend.

October – Desert Solitude: Sossusvlei, Namibia

Looking for wide open spaces? Sossusvlei in Namibia beckons in October, one of the best months to experience its otherworldly sand dunes and starry night skies. Try a hot air balloon ride for phenomenal desert views.

November – Turtles & Tranquillity: iSimangaliso Wetland Park

From November to February, join a turtle tour in iSimangaliso Wetland Park – the only place on the continent where turtles nest. Watching the huge leatherback and loggerhead giants coming ashore under the moonlight is magical.

December – A Jozi Jol: Johannesburg

Keen on a Christmas with a difference? While most of the city’s residents head off to Durban or the Mother City, how about going against the crowds and heading to Joburg? Ring in the holidays Jozi style by experiencing the vibrant music scene and markets of Maboneng and Braamfontein. Popular tourist spots such as Gold Reef City, the Apartheid Museum, Cradle of Humankind and others are also less crowded. Plus, the weather is unbeatable.

Strategic planning is essential to maximise annual leave. As Flight Centre’s Turner emphasises: “With some forward thinking, you can easily increase your holiday time in 2024 and tick off your bucket list destinations.”

So, get ready to hack your calendar and get travelling!