Recently, Alamo Rent A Car conducted a Family Vacation Survey. They surveyed 2,100 adults who had taken one or more trips with their immediate family and/or their extended family in the past five years. Respondents were identified as either “families” (married/in a domestic partnership and/or have a child under the age of 22) or “non-families” (neither married nor have a child under the age of 22). Here are some of their key findings:
- For the first time, the Alamo Family Vacation Survey results show that less than half of workers who receive paid vacation use all of their vacation days (47%).
- 60 percent of millennials (ages 18-35) left unused vacation days on the table compared to 49 percent of non-millennials.
- 63 percent of dads left unused vacation days on the table compared with 51 percent of moms.
- Employees with 10 years or less of tenure are more likely to have left vacation days on the table (58 percent vs. 43 percent of employees with 11+ years of tenure).
- Only one in five workers (18 percent) who get paid vacation use all of their vacation days to actually go on a vacation (rather than stay at home, do errands, etc.).
- Around half of workers say they feel the need to justify to their employer why they’re using their vacation days (48%).
- Of American workers, forty-nine percent have felt vacation shamed – being made to feel a sense of shame or guilt by co-workers, their supervisor, or their employer for taking time off to go on vacation.
As die-hard travelers and vacationers, we find the survey results both fascinating and a little depressing. We believe travel broadens perspectives, builds worldviews, strengthens relationships, reduces stress, crafts memories, and makes the world a smaller place — all things that we find important. We love to meet new people and explore new places. We believe that traveling makes people better stewards of our planet and better citizens of the world. Our lives simply wouldn’t be as rich without travel. We also know, based on research as well as personal experience, that taking time away from the busy-ness of work and home-life provides a much needed respite for the mind and the body, and makes people more productive in the workplace once they’ve returned.
In short, vacation is good for us all — and for our employers — in myriad ways. Yet still, many people are not taking advantage of their vacation time. As we discussed this survey, one of the things we kept coming back to was that vacation time is a benefit of employment, just like salary or insurance benefits. We surmised that people don’t really think about vacation in these terms, and that if they did, they might be more inclined to use their vacation days. No one shames a co-worker for using their insurance or for actually accepting their full salary, and we’re betting that 53% of people don’t consider leaving one of their paychecks on the table, either. Using all the benefits provided by one’s employer certainly doesn’t make someone a bad employee. And, in fact, based on all the reasons above, it actually makes for more valuable employees.
We believe that Americans would benefit from a cultural shift that promotes the importance and value of vacation time. Americans need an “elevator speech,” if you will, to begin changing the thinking around the use of vacation in the US (much of the rest of the world uses their vacation days much better than the US!). Here’s an example:
“I’m going on a camping trip with my family this week. We’re going to get outside, unplug from technology, relax, and make s’mores. We’re going to explore nature and make fun memories together. And when I return next week, I’ll be tan, rested, and ready to get back to work.”
If people begin to frame their vacations in terms of the positives for everyone, we’re betting the statistics from the Alamo survey will change. We sure hope so!
Do you use up all your vacation days every year? Let us know in the comments. And enjoy your next vacation, whether it’s for a week or a weekend.