Did you take all of your vacation days last year? If not, you're not alone. For many working professionals, taking a vacation, or just a couple days off seems like a fantasy. Even though their employers offer vacation time, it isn't likely that they will be using it any time soon. In fact, a recent study by Expedia shows that working Americans waste $34 billion in unused vacation time.
According to the survey, on average, American workers earned 14 days off, but only used 12 of them. Even though Americans have fewer vacation days that most other developed countries, we still aren't taking time off. Why is this?
For some people, taking vacation days means that the projects they are working on don't get finished and they miss valuable face-time in the office. With so many companies downsizing and asking for more work from less people, not being in the office could make them easier to replace.
It's a legitimate fear, but we all need a chance to unwind. When you look at the vacation practices in other countries, you'll quickly see that they earn more vacation time and always take as much of it as they can. Is this because they're lazy? Not really. The problem is more about the American idea of work and corporate dedication. We focus so much on our work and careers that we forget that life is about taking time out to smell the roses. Europeans aren't less productive than we are, they just understand that working hard without taking a break will make you less productive and less likely to enjoy your job. When we take a few days off, we recharge our internal batteries and have new experiences to bring back to work. Being happy and refreshed, we prevent burn out and have a clearer head at work.
When asked, the most common reason workers gave when asked why they didn't take a vacation was lack of money and poor planning.
The thing is, even when you're on a tight budget, taking a few days off can really help. If you can't manage a big vacation this year, look for ways to take a couple of days off and plan less expensive, and even free, activities. For example, you can spend a day sightseeing in your town. Act like a tourist and visit all the local landmarks, museums and such. If you live close to a beach, plan a beach day or look for campgrounds that are in your price range. If you haven't been to one lately, you might be surprised at how much fun they are. Some of them have pools, golf and other activities to keep everyone in your family happy.
There are lots of ways to unwind and enjoy some well-deserved time off. Get creative and you just might find a vacation that's perfect for your family and your budget.
Do you always take the time off you're entitled to? Why or why not?
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