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As bartenders, we spend most of our working hours catering to and serving others, and oftentimes our own needs are sacrificed in the process.

I mean, who reading this hasn’t been in the situation where you really REALLY had to go to the bathroom, but the bar was too packed to leave? Or you walked into a slammed shift and didn’t have time to eat and spent the whole night munching on garnishes to suppress your hunger pains and keep your customers happy?

When you’re in the industry of serving others all of the times, it’s also important (for your physical AND mental health) to set aside time for yourself too — and I’m not just talking about sleeping in before your next shift, or going to the gym — I’m talking about taking a vacation!

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “Vacation?! How can I take a VACATION?! My entire income is based on the shifts I work and tips I earn.”

Well, I’m here to tell you it’s possible. You can absolutely take a vacation and get the rest and rejuvenation you desperately need.

Here’s how:

1) Do Your Research and Submit a Vacation Request Form Well in Advance

Before committing to a vacation date or place, do your research. There are so many discount sites where you can find cheap flights and accommodations without breaking the bank.

But, make sure you understand the season of where you’re going. You don’t want to jet off to a beach getaway thinking you’ll be sipping margaritas seaside only to learn it’s monsoon season upon arrival.

Once you lock down the place and understand the best time to go, submit a vacation request form to your manager. If you aren’t sure how to do this, or what to include, ask your manager what’s needed.

*Pro-tip: try to plan your vacation around the hospitality “slow season” so you aren’t taking a big hit when it comes to tips, and your absence won’t have a big impact on your bar.

2) Get Your Regular Shifts Covered

If you work at a bar where you’re responsible for finding someone to cover your regular shifts, then as soon as you lock down your vacation dates, start asking your co-workers if they can cover your shifts.

Offer to cover other people’s shifts in exchange for them covering yours. Also, once you find replacements, get manager approval so your manager is aware of who is now responsible for those shifts in your absence.

3) Budget for Time Off and Prepare Your Finances

One of the easiest and most effective ways to plan for your vacation is to create a financial spreadsheet. Not only will this give you clarity in terms of how much money you can spend while on your trip, it will also give you helpful insights into how much money you’re spending on a regular basis.

Understanding your spending habits allows you to cut back on things that aren’t necessities, and save money while you’re at it. Your spreadsheet should include all of your fixed expenses as well as all of the miscellaneous items you spend money on. For the first week, follow your money and record every purchase you make. Look for patterns in spending that can easily be eliminated.

For example, do you buy a $5 coffee every day on your way to work even though you have a coffee maker at home? Do you take $20 Ubers to work when you live in a city with good public transportation? Do you frequently buy lunch out when you could pack and save?

At first glance, eliminating some of these seemingly minor expenses might not seem like much, but over the course of months those dollars will add up into big savings!

Also, in addition to creating your financial spreadsheet, make sure you plan your finances in advance! This means set aside enough money to cover all of your fixed expenses upon your return as well so you aren’t panicking about how you’ll pay rent or buy groceries.

By taking care of your upcoming finances in advance, you’ll be able to kick back and truly relax on your vacation!

4) Pick Up as Many Shifts as Possible Before Leaving

One of the best ways to prepare for a pending vacation is to pick up as many shifts as possible before leaving. Doing this will accomplish several things:

  1. Show your manager you’re a team player, and willing to work whatever shifts are available
  2. Give you extra spending money for your trip
  3. Help your co-workers out who may have last minute things that come up.
  4. Help cover the cost of the shifts you’ll be missing while you’re away

Make sure to let your manager and co-workers know you’re available and willing to work whenever needing prior to your vacation!

5) Save For Your Trip

Now that you know the tips and tricks to get ready for your vacation, let’s talk about how you can SAVE for your vacation!

Here are some ideas:

  • Keep a change jar, and whenever you pay with cash automatically save all of your change for your jar. You’ll be amazed at how quickly change adds up!
  • Reduce or eliminate your unneeded expenses.
  • Deposit all of your big bills (20’s, 50’s and 100’s) into your savings account one shift per week
  • Plan all of your meals in advance, and cook at home to save money on food
  • Set out a “vacation” tip jar when you’re working (get the ‘OK’ from your manager first) so regulars are able to give you a little something extra when they close out.

Aim to save for at least two months before you take your trip, and give yourself enough wiggle room to account for incidentals while you’re traveling so you’re never stressed about money!

Here’s the bottom line: your bottom line suffers when you don’t feel like a priority in your own life. That’s why you need to take some time off and cater to yourself every once in a while. Use these 5 tips to help you plan your next vacation and get the rest and relaxation you deserve!

Antasha Durbin

Antasha is a seasoned bartender with more than seven years of bartending and hospitality experience. She is also a spiritual writer at, where she writes free, easy-to-digest and highly actionable advice on spirituality, mindfulness and empowered living. You can follow her on Twitter @cajspirituality for daily inspiration.