travelers lineupTime off for good behavior

We’re deep into the U.S. vacation season. Kids are out of school, the weather is enticing us outdoors and those of us working traditional job schedules have vacation days earned but wait! Many of us don’t take a vacation and let accrued days go unused!

What the rest of the world knows:

Vacation seasons vary – south of the equator summer and winter are flip-flopped with North America. While European nations have had to deal with recessionary woes, many still offer 6 weeks of vacation a year – making them the world’s most frequent and historic travelers. In Canada most workers enjoy three weeks of annual vacation and Expedia published it’s annual Vacation Deprivation Study which showed that Canadians long for twice as long a break. (See the graphic from Expedia below.)

What U.S. workers are doing with their vacation time:

Company time logs up for an average annual 2 week break, but do we take it? Not according to a study by Harris Interactive for JetBlue. We’ve been dubbed the ‘no vacation nation’ and lag far behind other developed countries when it comes to paid vacation days. More than half of working Americans have left an average of 11 days, nearly 70% of their allotted time off unused.  Why?

Factors include the recession, income and job stress.

During the recession, companies laid off employees and the work load increased for those remaining. With no one will fill in while they are gone, few have been willing to leave work. Who wants to return to an overflowing inbox because you were offline and on the beach for two weeks?

Leaving while the unemployment rate is as high as 8% takes courage, according to many in the survey. Why show yourself to be unnecessary when the bottom line is king and so many others are willing to step in to your place?

Others feel they can’t afford to travel. A stay-cation may help but puttering around the house is hardly as restful as time away. It’s a sad state of affairs and a short sighted point of view.

Why take time off?

  • Get a new perspective. Refreshing ourselves demands a true break and not a vacation spent catching up with email.
  • If you must check in online, set a timer and keep to it. Time spent playing with family and friends gives a priceless ROI.
  • Trust that you’ll be a far more relaxed, interesting and engaged employee when you return.

Be a sleuth for travel deals and rack up frequent flier miles yearlong:

There are great bargains out there for travel. On most Tuesdays airlines post discounted fares – sign up for notifications and collect miles on credit card rewards programs throughout the year – then use them before they expire. Look for testimonials and referrals from friends for the best sites to track.

If you really can’t afford an extended trip:

  • Spend some time in a different part of your city. Explore new neighborhoods and restaurants.
  • Visit some of the places you only see when company is in town – on your own.
  • Plan a dinner outing with friends at a favorite restaurant or find a new one to explore.
  • Take a class or a hike with a group from Meetup.com or the local newspaper.

Interested in more ideas?

Why I don’t take a vacation: Great article and more tips.

More ideas on how to take time off from your job at Careerbuilders.

Expedia Summer Vacation Study