By Elizabeth Rhodes
Updated February 25, 2020

Ever wondered why we have leap years? 2020 is a leap year, so next Saturday, we get an extra day — Feb. 29 — before moving on to March. We get a leap day at the end of February every four years, and while it might not seem like much, leap days actually have a massive impact on our seasons. These are the most common leap year questions, answered.

What is a leap year?

A leap year is a year with 366 days. An extra day is added to February, making that month 29 days long, and this day is called a “leap day.”

Why do we have leap years?

Leap years were created to keep the Gregorian calendar in line with the astronomical and seasonal calendars. The astronomical and seasonal calendars aren’t exactly 365 days — Earth’s complete orbit around the sun actually takes 365.256 days. Every four years, we add an extra day to make up for that extra time.

Leap year, February 29th calendar date
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

If we didn’t have leap days every four years, our astronomical calendar would slowly fall out of line, and our equinoxes and solstices would no longer align with the changing seasons. The months as we know them would completely change over the course of centuries as August became chilly and February warmed up.

When is the next leap year?

A leap year happens every four years, so the next leap year will be in 2024. It just so happens that leap years are also the years when U.S. presidential elections and the Summer Olympics happen. There are cases in which the leap years are skipped, but they are extremely rare. We skip leap days on some centurial years, so there won’t be a leap day in 2100. You can take advantage of 2020’s leap year by booking a specially discounted hotel stay or cheap tour offers.