As the year winds down, you might have been told that you must either use all your allotted days off before the calendar year is out or lose them.
Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, especially if you work for a company that is not short-staffed. But recent trends indicate that many Americans are throwing their hard-earned money away in the form of unused vacation days.
A new report from Expedia found that U.S. workers in 2018 took the fewest number of vacation days globally, along with employees in Japan and Thailand.
Why American workers aren’t using up their vacation time
The Expedia report, the eighth annual Vacation Deprivation study, indicated that most people (54%) felt the biggest barriers to them taking a vacation was financial, followed by “the desire to bank vacation days (23%) and inability to get time off work (17%).”
The online series Travel Habits of Americans by Skift.com has tracked how U.S. workers have not been able to take time off work for several years running.
The numbers show a disturbing trend among working folk: In 2016, Americans left $272 billion in vacation liability unused, a 21% increase over the previous year, according to Skift. Speaking of 2015, that year, U.S. workers forfeited more than 658 million vacation days, according to an analysis from Project: Time Off, a U.S. Travel Association initiative.
As this year comes to a close, we can expect a similar pattern. This means that U.S. workers are literally wasting the time off they’ve earned from the hours they’ve put in at work.
All of this is not good for our bottom line or our health, money expert Clark Howard says.
Clark’s take: Why people aren’t using their vacation
“So many people don’t take a vacation because you can’t afford the money to go somewhere — so you don’t take the time off,” Clark says. “People simply don’t have the extra cash they need to book a getaway.”
“Bad idea,” says Clark. “Take your vacation. Rest, relax, spend time with your family or friends.” That is never more important than during the holiday season, when families and relatives are more apt to be together.
“We are living in a world where the time demands [on] workers have risen exponentially,” Kathleen Gerson, a sociologist at New York University and author of The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work & Family told the AARP.
“As jobs become more insecure, the need, desire or pressure to prove oneself through time at work increases,” Gerson said.
Clark-approved keys to planning a quick vacation
Clark says that the key to saving money on vacation is to plan, plan, plan. Clark advocates not being tied to a destination.
He says that the travel industry pretty much knows where you want to go (Cozumel, Cancun, and all the other tourist hotbeds) and when (holiday times, long weekends and summertime).
Go to the places that are on sale
The key to beating the system is to find bargains to destinations that are not top of mind for most people. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be cheaper flying into Nice, France, rather than Paris, but it does mean that when an airline puts Bordeaux on sale, you’d better be ready to grab it.
Be flexible when booking travel
Flexibility is key in finding the travel deals. The travel industry knows that they can jack up Thanksgiving and Christmas fares because fliers have little to no flexibility. If you plan ahead for a vacation that will take place during an off-peak period (not around holidays), you’ve got a good shot at getting a deal.
Clark says if at all possible, please use up your vacation time, because you can’t put a price tag on your health and happiness.
“The most important thing is to remember that no dying man ever said he wish he’d spent more time at his work,” says Clark.
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