Bank holidays 2018: How you can get 24 days off in a row, using just 14 of annual leave

Telegraph Reporters
And relax... make the most of your annual leave by planning your time off - PA

February half term is just around the corner, which means many British families will be packing their bags and boarding planes to slopes and beaches.

Fortunately, after they return there won't be long to wait until the next set of holidays: the first Easter bank holiday is early this year, falling on the final weekend of March.

But when are the other bank holidays of 2018 – and how can you make the most of those days off? Here are all of the dates in one place for you, so you can make the most of those four day weeks and gloriously long weekends.

What is a bank holiday?

A public holiday in the UK is generally referred to as a 'bank holiday'.

The Bank Holidays Act of 1871 designated four bank holidays in England, Wales and Ireland (Easter Monday; Whit Monday; First Monday in August; Boxing Day in England and Wales and St Stephen's Day in Ireland) and five in Scotland (New Year's Day; Good Friday; First Monday in May; First Monday in August; Christmas Day).

In England, Wales and Ireland, Good Friday and Christmas Day were considered traditional days of rest (as were Sundays) and therefore it was felt unnecessary to include them in the Act.

The Act was repealed in 1971 and superseded by the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, which remains in force.

The name is now used as a blanket term for all public holidays in the UK as banks, government offices and most businesses are closed on these days, although an increasing number of smaller shops and larger retail businesses remain open.

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There are now six permanent bank holidays and two public holidays every year in the UK. 

Public holidays in Britain comprise bank holidays declared by statute (as listed in the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, Schedule 1), by royal proclamation, and by common law/customary holidays.

Surprisingly, Good Friday and Christmas Day are not official bank holidays in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Instead, these are known as public holidays.

Royal proclamation is also used to move holidays that would otherwise fall on a weekend or that are moved for special occasions, or to create additional one-off holidays (such as for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012).

When a bank holiday happens to fall on a Sunday, the following Monday becomes the day when the holiday is observed. This is known as substitute day or 'bank holiday in lieu'.

If the Monday is also a bank holiday, the substitute day moves to the following weekday. UK public holidays always move forward in the calendar, never backwards.

The August bank holiday always falls on the last Monday of August in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and on the first Monday of August in Scotland.

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2018 Bank holiday and public holiday dates

  • New Year's Day: Monday, January 1
  • Good Friday: Friday, March 30
  • Easter Monday: Monday, April 2
  • Early May bank holiday: Monday, May 7
  • Spring bank holiday: Monday, May 28
  • Summer bank holiday: Monday, August 27
  • Christmas Day: Tuesday, December 25
  • Boxing Day: Wednesday, December 26

Will we get a day off for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on the day they announced their engagement, in November 2017  Credit:  Max Mumby/Indigo

Unfortunately, Downing Street have said there are no plans to give Britons a day off for the royal wedding, despite giving one when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge got married in 2011 and when the Prince of Wales married Diana, Princess of Wales in 1981.

However Brits will still be able to celebrate at home as the wedding falls on Saturday, May 19. Plus, pubs and bars will be allowed to stay open until 1am on Friday May 18 and the day of the wedding itself.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, who opened a consultation on the plans in January, said: “The Royal wedding will be a time of national celebration, and we want everyone to be able to make the most of such an historic occasion.

“I hope that this relaxation of the licensing hours will allow people to extend their festivities and come together to mark what will be a very special moment for the country.”

How can you maximise your annual leave?

Our – on average – 26 days of paid holiday per year have us Britons feeling more relaxed than employees in the USA (15 days) and Japan (20 days).

But we are almost a week worse off than our counterparts in France, Spain and Germany (30 days) when it comes to fleeing the office.

All the more reason, then, to make the most of your bank holidays. This year, there’s an easy way to get 24 glorious, work-free days off in a row using just 14 days of your precious holiday allowance.

However, there's a small caveat: the holiday hack only works if your job doesn't require you to work at weekends and you also get all your bank holidays off.

So if you need an extended break, Easter could be a good time to go away, taking into account the May Day bank holiday on the 7th and the Late May Bank Holiday on the 28th

Here’s the full breakdown:

May 2018 Holiday calendar

A similar calendar quirk helped workers get 18 days off using just nine days of annual leave last year.

Alternatively, you could book eight days holiday to get 16 days off in a row:

March-April 2018 Holiday calendar

Other key dates of 2018

As well as the days we get off from work, here are other key dates of 2018 to keep in mind:

  • Valentine's DayWednesday, February 14 
  • St David's Day: Thursday, March 1
  • St Patrick's Day: Saturday, March 17
  • Mothering Sunday: Sunday, March 11
  • St George's Day: Monday, April 23
  • Father's Day: Sunday, June 17
  • Halloween: Wednesday, October 31 
  • Guy Fawkes Night: Monday, November 5
  • St Andrew's Day: Friday, November 30 
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School term dates 2018

Spring term 2018

  • School starts: Thursday, January 4
  • Half term break: Monday, February 12 to Friday, February 16
  • Last day of term: Wednesday, March 28 (Easter falls on Sunday, April 1)

Summer term 2018

  • School starts: Monday, April 16
  • Half term break: Monday, May 28, to Friday, June 1
  • Last day of term: Friday, July 27

Autumn term 2018

  • School starts: Monday, September 3
  • Half term break: Monday, October 22 to Friday, October 26
  • Last day of term: Friday, December 21
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