Vacations: Why Don’t We Take More of Them?

The Kisner family spent this past week vacationing in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. We were determined not to waste Spring Break sitting around the house like we did last year. Angela and I were partially motivated by the avalanche of research showing that money spent on experiences buys significantly more happiness than money spent on materials things. The other motivating factor was a common theme I hear in my financial life coaching work with soon-to-be retirees: they want to take more vacations.

I encourage clients (and whoever else will listen) not to wait until retirement, or some other future point in time, to start living the life they want. Do it now. Figure out what makes you happy, and devise a plan to get more of that…sooner.

Why don’t Americans vacation more?

I started looking into all the details about vacationing (how, when, why, where) and found some interesting facts. Americans took 20+ days of vacation each year for decades. However, the number of vacation days enjoyed by the average worker has declined steadily since the year 2000. Last year, the average worker took only took about 16 days. This is an area where you should strive to be above average (vacation days taken).

While 91% of full-time US workers receive paid vacation, 75% of those workers do not use all the days they’re allotted. Last year, 658 million vacation days went unused, and 222 million of those cannot be rolled over or exchanged for money. That’s an average of two full days (2.0) per worker.

The other issue is the internet has sabotaged our ability to “check out.” Up to two-thirds of workers (40-66%, depending on which study you believe) report checking work email and working part-time when they are “on vacation.” This is mostly due to fear of letting their team or customers down, and anxiety about job security.

The benefits of taking more vacations:

A host of studies have highlighted the health benefits of taking vacation time. These include:

  1. Reducing stress, which is one of the worst things for your health
  2. Lower probability of developing cardiovascular disease
  3. Improved mental health (less anxiety, less depression)
  4. Better relationships (marital satisfaction increases as you take more vacations)

You might be surprised that your boss is onboard:

Feel free to forward this article to your boss if you are trying to get some time off. However, it may not be necessary. Most bosses surveyed already agree that vacation improves an employee’s focus (78%) and alleviates burnout (81%).

Where should you go? What should you do?

Here are some stats to get you thinking about your next vacation.

Activities: The number one thing people want to do on vacation is relax (70%), followed by sightseeing (55%), experiencing local culture and cuisine (51%), visiting family (46%), and spending time in nature (45%).

Types of Vacations: The most popular types of vacations that people want to take are: Beach vacations 52%, all-inclusive vacation packages 33%, cruises 30%, city trips 29%, and tours 20%.

Where to stay: 45% will stay in a hotel or motel, 22% with friends or relatives, 17% will rent a home or condo, and 9% will camp in a tent or RV.

What’s your excuse?

The number one reason given by non-vacationers was they can’t afford it. I am a big fan of staying within your household budget, but don’t give up on vacationing too easily. You can travel inexpensively if you get creative (camping, road trips, house swap, etc.).

Final thought on Vacations:

The bottom line is nothing is more valuable than memories…and memories are made on vacation. If you have young children, remember that you only get 18 summers with your kids. If you are retired, how many years of good health will you have to see the world? And visit your grandkids?

I hope this post inspires you to take more vacations, think about different types of trips, and realize that travel is not a luxury. It is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family.

Have a great week and send me a postcard from the next stop on your bucket list.

P.S. I must give a shout out to my friends, Tim and Alyssa Resnik who are travel inspirations. They are currently taking a year off from their careers to travel the world with their two young children. They are currently on day 227!  Check out their travel blog / website: Weehop.


For further reading on this topic:

11 Hidden Benefits of Taking More Vacation

America’s Favorite Cities

10 Most Visited Cities Outside the US