Skip to content

Short Vacations vs Sabbatical – which one do I need?

You want to get a break from everyday life. Maybe you’re feeling stagnant, or you have a need to switch things up – but you’re not exactly sure how to? 


Do you just need a week off to change scenery and get some rest (or much-needed adventure) or do you actually need a longer break than that? A good alternative to an often way too short vacation might be a sabbatical. 


But what’s the difference between a sabbatical and a normal vacation?

An extended break

The most notable difference between a sabbatical and a vacation is its length: with a duration of up to a year or two, a sabbatical is much longer than your annual two weeks of paid vacation. 

This longer period gives you time to unwind, settle in, and recover both physically and mentally from your regular routines. A vacation is often not enough for that. 

Vacations can feel like a tease for people who are experiencing a period of stress or overwhelm. It takes the body longer than we think to truly relax (if relaxation is what you’re truly seeking), and even longer to disconnect mentally. 



Another crucial difference – a vacation is often linked to rest and renewal, whereas a sabbatical can serve a greater purpose.

During a sabbatical, you can leave your daily work life completely behind you. Your workload is covered during the time of your absence (some people leave their jobs entirely), you don’t have the pressure of upcoming deadlines in the back of your head, and you don’t have to be reachable. 

The focus of your break is an extensive revitalization that goes beyond the short-term relaxation of a vacation. It offers a mind shift to help you figure out what’s next.

Which one do I need – a vacation or a sabbatical?

Your why will dictate whether a vacation will do the trick or if you need something more. 

Do you love your job and just want to take a beat to reset? Or are you feeling as though you want a deeper rest, some personal growth, or even to pivot the course of your life completely? 

Having clear intentions and goals for yourself can help you make the decision that’s right for you.

Thinking you might need a change? We invite you to download our free guide “How to know it’s time to move on from your current job”

What’s different about a sabbatical? 

There is usually some inner reflection and contemplation before taking a break – a transition point where you make yourself aware of why you need some distance from your daily work life, what is important for you, what need is not being met, and what you want to focus on. 

Of course, this can also precede any regular short vacation (because let’s face it, any type of break is important for our general well-being), but it is less extensive in comparison to the deeper desire for change that leads up to a sabbatical.


People use sabbaticals for nomadic traveling, personal growth, acquiring new skills, or following personal or professional goals. 

Volunteering or finishing a project like building a house, or starting a business, can be themes for a sabbatical too. 

A sabbatical can also be used to spend more intentional time with loved ones, to care for a relative, or to consciously slow down your daily life in order to prevent burnout.


Starting to feel flooded at work? Need some time to get some clarity? Check out our post “WHAT IF THE NEW WORD FOR OUR GENERATION WASN’T BURNOUT BUT SABBATICAL?

The importance of planning

But when you choose to take a sabbatical, it’s important to plan in advance. 

Short vacations can be taken on a whim, sometimes booked last minute, but a sabbatical requires more logistical planning. Whereas planning leading up to a regular vacation may include finding someone to pick up your Amazon packages from your front porch while you’re gone or deciding who’s going to dogsit for you, a longer break (especially an unpaid one) involves much more complexity. 

For example:

  • How are you going to pay for it? What are the best ways to save for it? 
  • What are you going to do with all your stuff while you’re gone?
  • What about health insurance? Travel insurance? 
  • What about the retirement savings you’ll miss out on while you’re away?
  • What does it mean if you take the kids out of school?


Plus, your conversation with your employer will definitely look different too. Sabbatical leave and vacation leave are just not the same thing. 

First of all, not all employers offer sabbaticals as an employee benefit. So if you’re planning on staying with your current company after your return, it’s important to know what options are available to you before you request the time off. 

In most cases, a sabbatical is an unpaid leave. So you’ll need to have a plan in place for how you’re going to meet your day-to-day expenses without going into the red. 

That being said, there are some companies that offer a paid (or subsidized) sabbatical program if you meet certain criteria. These are usually offered to long-time employees (minimum five years) who submit a proposal to take time to pursue professional designations or skills that increase their value to the company. So what options does your employer offer? 

Here are some ideas to help you think through how you might want to approach your manager about a sabbatical: HOW TO TALK ABOUT YOUR SABBATICAL TO YOUR MANAGER

There’s a lot that goes into taking extended time away. This is why we offer our help as financial planners to help you think through it each step of the way. 

Learn more about why working with a financial planner might be the right choice for you.

If taking an extended break from work is in your cards, let’s connect! The sooner you plan, the smoother your departure, time away, and return will be! 

Schedule a call today and let us help you plan for your perfect time away.

Like this article? Make sure to Pin It so you can go back to it later! 📌

sabbatical vs vacation
sabbatical vs vacation
sabbatical vs vacation

Trending Articles

This blog post is provided for educational, general information, and illustration purposes only. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of Middleton & Company, unless otherwise specifically cited. Material presented is believed to be from reliable sources and no representations are made by our firm as to another parties’ informational accuracy or completeness.
Nothing contained in the material constitutes financial or tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. We encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Middleton & Company, and all rights are reserved.