Compared to keeping track of paid time off (PTO) with pen and paper or spreadsheets, just about any employee vacation scheduling software is a massive step up. Vacation scheduling software increases accuracy by removing human error and providing a centralized place to record new time off requests, PTO balances, and scheduled absences.
Here are some key features to look for when choosing vacation scheduling software:
- Automatic PTO accrual
- A streamlined request and approval system
- Customizable leave types
- Unpaid leave tracking
- The ability to block off vacation days
You may also want to consider additional features.Most businesses will need to track more than vacations. While some software is designed specifically for vacation tracking, others include features like time tracking, scheduling, or team management features (like recruiting and onboarding or performance management).
Best Vacation Scheduling Software
- Buddy Punch
- Vacation Tracker
- When I Work
- Resource Guru
1. Buddy Punch
Best Vacation Scheduling Software for Small Businesses
Buddy Punch is a cloud-based time tracking solution that lets you track vacations. For convenience, we have a mobile app that can be downloaded for free on both the Google Play Store and the App Store.
Your team can use the app to clock in and out for work and track their hours. We’ll cover that time tracking aspect in more detail later on, but first, let’s start with how PTO is accrued.
A good PTO accrual system is key for you and your team because it tells your employees how much vacation they have throughout the year, which will inform how and when they request time off. Here’s how it works:
- Managers set up custom rules for PTO accrual, letting them account for factors like department, seniority, and different types of leave.
- Employees clock in and out from kiosks or their devices, generating accurate digital time sheets.
- Buddy Punch automatically calculates PTO in real-time as workers log hours.
- Employees request leave through their self-service portal; managers can approve or deny requests.
Buddy Punch also has additional benefits like scheduling and payroll, but first we’ll go into greater detail of how our software can help you with vacation scheduling.
Vacation Tracking Features
As mentioned above, Buddy Punch calculates PTO based on employees’ hours, and employees submit requests for approval through their self-service portal. Managers can also:
- Specify whether certain employees need approval.
- Generate and view vacation time reports.
- Set up different categories of paid and unpaid leave.
- Add blackout dates during which employees can’t request vacation time.
Because businesses have different leave policies, Buddy Punch lets you customize how employees get PTO via accrual rules. These rules can be customized by employee, team, or department, letting you account for differences in benefits and seniority.
You can automate vacation accrual based on:
- Pay periods. Employees gain additional leave every pay period.
- Hours worked. Buddy Punch can directly calculate vacation leave based on hours worked due to its time tracking features.
- Set intervals. This is useful if employees have a set leave allowance (i.e. a certain amount of vacation days every year).
You can also choose whether vacation time carries over to the next year or period.
Request Time Through Your Self-Service Portal
Through the self-service portal, employees are able to check their amount of leave whenever they want. They can also put in vacation requests.
First, they need to go to the “Time Off Calendar”:
You can choose whether or not employees can see the times other people have requested off. If you have this setting enabled, it can keep employees from requesting days that team members will already be absent on, preventing understaffing.
Once they’re in the calendar, they can select a range of dates and press “+Add Time Off”.
This will pull up a menu where employees can specify:
- The form of leave they’re requesting (e.g. vacation time vs. sick leave).
- The amount of time they want off (by hours or by days).
- Any additional notes.
Once employees submit their requests, if they require approval, the appropriate manager will get an email notification. Then, they can log in and either approve or deny the request. If it doesn’t require approval (see the next section for more details), the request will instead be automatically added to the Time Off Calendar.
The process for requesting and approving leave works on both desktop and mobile.
Here are some screenshots of the process in our mobile app:
Specify Whether Certain Employees Need Approval
Though Buddy Punch streamlines the process of requesting and approving leave, it’s possible you might not want to approve every individual request. Whether due to position, seniority, or other factors, you can choose whether specific employees, teams, or departments require approval for their leave requests via the Buddy Punch dashboard.
Within the dashboard, you can select an employee’s profile and click “Edit”:
Within this menu, there’s a checkbox marked “Requires approval for Time Off requests”.
You can toggle this off or on, and if it’s off, that employee’s leave requests will be automatically approved and added to the Time Off Calendar.
Vacation Time Reports
Buddy Punch can generate reports about everything from time off to payroll, and PTO is no exception. All you have to do is navigate to the “Reports” tab and select “PTO Summary”:
Time off reports include employee name, holiday carry over, how much leave employees have used, and how much is available. This also includes breaks (as seen in the screenshot above).
Reports can be filtered by date and exported in CSV, Excel, and PDF.
Different Types of Paid/Unpaid Leave
Buddy Punch lets you track vacation, but it also lets you track any other type of paid or unpaid leave. By default, it includes holidays, personal time, and sick leave; you can add, modify, or delete categories as needed.
When you enable a leave category, you can specify whether it’s paid or unpaid. You can also create custom categories for specific employees (such as work-from-home days for employees on a hybrid work plan).
Adding Blackout Dates
Sometimes, multiple people want the same day off, especially if it’s a holiday. Other times, a tight deadline might mean everyone needs to be on duty. Whatever the reason, if you can’t afford for anyone to be off-duty, you can create a blackout date on which employees can’t request time off.
Within the “Time Off” tab of the Buddy Punch dashboard, scroll to the “Blackout Dates” section and click on “+Add a New Blackout Date”.
If you already have blackout dates set up, you can also view and edit them from this menu.
When you add a new blackout date, you can have it apply generally or assign it to specific employees. This means that if it’s just one team or department facing a tight deadline, employees from other areas can still take time off.
Other Benefits of Buddy Punch
As mentioned above, Buddy Punch is more than just a vacation scheduling software. It can also handle:
- Time Tracking: Employees can clock in and out from kiosks or their own devices, with features like geofencing and photos on punch preventing time theft.
- Scheduling: Our software has a user-friendly calendar interface that lets you keep on top of employees’ absences, including a shift-trading feature.
- Payroll: You can either import hours directly into Buddy Punch’s payroll, or you can integrate it with leading accounting software.
Accountable Time Tracking
The first step of keeping track of employees’ PTO is to keep track of employees’ hours. Buddy Punch lets employees clock in and out from their own devices, or from a designated on-site kiosk. To ensure accurate recordkeeping and accountability, Buddy Punch also includes features like geofencing, GPS tracking, and Photos on Punch.
Photos on Punch is a facial verification feature in which employees take pictures of themselves whenever they clock in. This prevents buddy punching, where one employee clocks in for another.
With geofencing, you can ensure employees only clock in when they’re already at their workplace.
GPS tracking lets you monitor drivers and employees who visit multiple work sites, ensuring that they are where they’re supposed to be while they’re on the clock.
Note: To protect privacy, GPS automatically disengages when employees clock out.
For scheduling, Buddy Punch employs an intuitive drag-and-drop calendar interface where managers can create templates and duplicate or customize shifts. This includes designating departments, locations, and positions on shifts, along with the option to automatically punch employees out at the end of their scheduled shift.
Once a schedule is published, employees receive alerts, and they can also check their schedules in their self-service portal. If they can’t make a shift, they can use the shift trading feature to find someone to cover for them and managers are alerted of the trade.
There are two options for doing payroll with Buddy Punch: exporting it to your current payroll provider or importing it into Buddy Punch Payroll. The built-in payroll calculates wages based on hours worked and factors in pay for overtime, bonuses, and PTO.
In addition, Buddy Punch automatically files local, state, and federal taxes for you, with tax documents available in the dashboard. It even lets employees set up direct deposit via their self-service portal, automatically disbursing payments when payroll is filed.
All-in-One HR with Vacation Scheduling
BambooHR bills itself as an all-in-one HR management platform that has:
- Built-in payroll
- Time tracking
- Hiring & onboarding
- HR data and reporting
- Employee experience & performance
- 125+ integrations
On the vacation scheduling front, BambooHR has a PTO calculator where employees can check their balance, view upcoming time off, and estimate how much vacation they’ll have accrued at a point in the future. Like Buddy Punch, BambooHR offers customizable leave types, reports, and in-app requests and approval.
As for HR, BambooHR lets you manage hiring & onboarding; payroll, time, and benefits; integrations; employee experience & performance; and HR data & reporting in a single platform. For example, they offer customizable templates for onboarding new employees and a system for self-guided tasks for new hires.
In addition to time and PTO management tools, the benefits system offers an organized system for enrollment. Their employee experience and performance toolkit includes employee wellbeing surveys to guide HR policies. As for HR data and reporting, it lets you handle employee records, workflows, and approvals, along with their reporting dashboards.
Attendance, Leave Management, and Employee Directory
Aimed at small to medium businesses, LeaveBoard is a cloud-based Human Resources and leave management system. For vacation tracking, they offer a central team absence calendar and a self-service portal where employees can view and request leave.
Meanwhile, HR and managers can define different leave types, customize allowances by employees, and track employee availability and absences via the centralized system. Email notifications and integrations with Slack and Google calendar keep everyone in the loop. Finally, the leave tracker lets you generate reports that let you identify trends and prepare for payroll.
Another notable feature is LeaveBoard’s searchable Employee Directory. It can be used to set up and maintain org charts, create employee profiles that include information like PTO balances and birthdays, and analyze metrics like headcounts and length of service.
4. Vacation Tracker
Pure PTO Tracking (No Fluff)
Vacation Tracker — a service for “growing companies” — lets businesses track leave via integrations with Teams, Slack, Google Workspace, email, and calendars. Leave requests and team communications are handled via a central dashboard, allowing employees to view and request time off themselves. Meanwhile, managers can create custom notifications, leave types, and policies in addition to managing multiple teams and departments from the same platform.
As for PTO tracking, Vacation Tracker offers full, half-day, and hourly options if you sign up for their “Complete” plan. This plan also includes automated PTO accrual on a daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. It also has a built-in reporting feature that generates CSV or Excel files to let you easily monitor how much employee vacation your team has been using.
An Alternative Option for Small Businesses
Connecteam offers tools for small businesses to manage operations, communications, HR, and time off. You can create custom leave policies by adapting existing templates or starting from scratch, then assign them to predefined groups. Employees and managers can both view PTO balances, and a PTO request (and approval) system is integrated into the centralized platform.
Connecteam is also a GPS time clock, allowing you to make sure employees are clocking in from their workplace (including an optional geofencing tool). The time clock also includes overtime alerts, and hours can be imported into your payroll software of choice. The integrated communication options mean that everyone can stay on the same page, whether about schedules (which are also built into the platform) or project status.
Speaking of projects, the HR software tools enable performance tracking and onboarding. Onboarding tools include quizzes, training modules, and a centralized knowledge base. There are also tools for maintaining a positive employee experience, like surveys and a system that automatically rewards employees for reaching selected milestones. It also has logistical tools like a repository of employee files (e.g., certifications).
Note: We’ve covered this software before in our post Connecteam alternatives.
Time Tracking Software with Fingerprint Biometrics
OnTheClock is a time tracking app that ensures employees are accurately reporting their hours in two ways: GPS and fingerprint verification. When employees clock in and out, their GPS coordinates are recorded, allowing managers to verify they were at their work site. In addition, OnTheClock offers a fingerprint scanner that can be connected to Windows devices. Fingerprint verification combats time theft practices like buddy punching, in which one employee clocks in for an absent one. (Note, however, that there may be local legislation governing the collection and use of employee biometrics, so please refer to them before buying any fingerprint verification system.)
OnTheClock lets you set up custom rules for PTO accrual, with automatic calculations based on the employee time sheets generated by the time tracking process. It includes a calendar interface for visualizing time off and allows employees to directly request leave. The PTO system is designed to be exported into payroll systems along with time sheets.
Finally, the scheduling system lets you drag and drop shifts, enabling managers to easily work around employee absences.
Note: We’ve covered this software before in our post OnTheClock alternatives.
Good Choice for Time Budgeting
The TimeCamp desktop and mobile app features a one-click timer for recording work hours. You can set keywords to connect your hours with the relevant project, and you can also duplicate past entries to handle recurring tasks. The results can be imported into a project management software solution, and accountability is safeguarded via geofencing.
Within the employee attendance management module, employees can use a dropdown menu to request PTO. Available leave types include Vacation leave, sick days, holidays, parental leave, bereavement, business trips, non-working days, free days, or regular absences. Managers can then reject or approve leave requests.
The most notable feature of TimeCamp is its time budgeting module. In addition to its more standard attendance and productivity monitoring, you can estimate both time and money for projects, generate financial reports, and set notifications to stay on track. It also has a new “Expenses” feature to document expenses and receipts. Finally, its 100+ software integrations mean the time budget can be folded into existing workflows.
8. When I Work
Integrated Time Clock and Scheduling
When I Work is an online time tracking app compatible with desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. It provides geofencing, GPS tracking, and photo verification to ensure employee accountability. It also sends alerts for apparent absences or overtime, providing a timely system for fixing missed punches. The time clock is integrated with the scheduling system, which includes options for creating scheduling templates, requesting time off, and trading shifts. PTO tracking similarly appears to be bundled with time tracking, but the website is light on details of how time off management works.
In addition to employee scheduling and time tracking, When I Work offers communication and payroll options. The communication app lets the whole team communicate without sharing phone numbers. Meanwhile, payroll can either be integrated with an existing provider or processed through When I Work. The built-in payroll is able to calculate wages based on employees’ individual hourly rates, calculate blended overtime, and automatically report W-2s.
Note: We’ve covered this software before in our post When I Work alternatives.
9. Resource Guru
Equitable Workload Distribution
Resource Guru has tools for managing projects, employees, time, schedules, meeting rooms, and equipment. The self-described “resource management software” offers a centralized dashboard meant to streamline the allocation of people, time, and equipment to projects, preventing your staff from being overworked or under-utilized, as well as ensuring all projects receive the necessary amount of support.
The leave management system includes email summaries of time off and an employee holiday calendar. There’s also a PTO tracker that includes the type of leave and can generate reports. Resource Guru has 1500+ integrations, including calendars, which makes it easier to track and visualize PTO within your existing workflow. Finally, the scheduling features help managers adjust staffing and hours to compensate for absent employees.
Good for the Hospitality Industry
7shifts is a platform designed for the hospitality industry. Its tools cover hiring, training, scheduling, paying, and retaining workers, and it has lots of software integrations. Notably, in addition to having a built-in payroll, it also has tools for tip pooling and payouts. Similarly, its scheduling feature has labor compliance tools, including mandatory and custom breaks, overtime detection, shift swapping, a timesheet dispute system, and easy identification of underage employees.
Though it’s not primarily employee vacation tracking software, the option to track PTO and sick PTO (SPTO) is available to admins in the “Time Off” menu. Once enabled, employees can make in-app requests, and the type of leave will show up in time off reports. However, these will not be factored into the Labor Budget Tool (which lets you set sales and labor targets within the Schedule page).
Other notable features of 7shifts include:
- Streamlining online job postings
- Organizing and tracking applicants
- Employee document storage
- Customizable onboarding packages
- Training videos
- Task management and monitoring
- In-app communication
- Time clock
- Employee feedback tools
- Digital managers’ log book
Good for Clock-In Flexibility
The time tracking software TimeTrak includes several ways for workers to log their time:
- A mobile app with GPS and geofencing features
- A browser-based group time clock with PIN verification
- An individual web-based time clock
- Tablet-based PIN kiosk
- Tablet-based facial recognition kiosk
The variability in options can be helpful to employees with diverse work groups; for instance, ones that have a combination of remote and field workers.
Automated PTO tracking is integrated with the time clock. Employees can review their balances and request leave from the dashboard, and managers can centralize the approvable of time-off requests.
TimeTrak integrates with top payroll systems like ADP, QuickBooks, and Paychex. It also has an admin dashboard that lets you address timekeeping errors and monitor attendance and GPS data.
Next Steps: Schedule and Track Vacations with Buddy Punch
We covered 11 different types of vacation scheduling software, including tools for tracking time worked, PTO accrual, and more.
If you’re managing a small to midsize business and need vacation scheduling software, we recommend you try Buddy Punch.
Buddy Punch is a cloud-based time tracking solution that was made to help small to midsize companies track employee time (including working hours and time off). Buddy Punch also offers attendance tracking, scheduling, shift trading, payroll, and payroll integrations.