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Why Vacations are Important – Even Though Americans Don’t Take Them

photo of tropical palm trees with blue skies and grass umbrellas
Traveleidoscope: Why Vacations Are Important - Even Though Americans Don't Take Them

Overworked? Overwhelmed? In desperate need of a vacation, but it’s not in the budget or can’t get the time off? Given up on taking a vacation altogether? If so, you’re not alone! But here’s why you need to plan a getaway anyway!

hot air balloons in background with black and yellow flowers in foreground
Traveleidoscope: QuickChek Festival of Ballooning, NJ

First, the Bad News... At Least if You Live in the U.S.

I recently read a Washington Post article posing the question why Americans are against vacations. The article pointed out various countries that mandate at least 20 annual paid vacation days. The U.S., on the other hand, mandates no paid vacation time. Of the 36 richest countries in the world, the U.S. is the only country without it.

So, it’s not that we’re necessarily against vacation. We just don’t get much of it, if we’re lucky to get it at all. And when we do take time off, it’s usually five nights or less (aka, the “micro-cation”). Even if we do get paid vacation leave, there are the other pressures, like:

(1) Your co workers vacation shame you– Yeah, I know, making someone feel bad for taking time off? That they’ve earned? What the...?

(2) You still work when you're on vacation because you feel guilty about taking a vacation. Double what the....?

(3) Vacations can cost a lot. According to Credit Donkey, "the average vacation costs $1,145 per person (or $4,580 for a family of 4)."

And it's not just the monetary cost. Traveling poses its own special brand of stress. Between airfare, lodging, activities, it all adds up money-wise and stress-wise. And really, sometimes the last thing you want to deal with is more stress getting on an airplane, sitting in traffic or dealing with crowds. Sometimes, you’re idea of a vacation is veg-ing out, sitting on the couch in your PJ's, eating potato chips and binge watching __________ (fill in the blank).

Photo of a lake with boats in the foreground and snow capped mountains in the background
Traveleidoscope: Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

The Gruesome Statistics:

Here are some ugly stats from the U.S. Travel Association ( for the year 2017):

  • Total unused vacation days annually: 705 million (Yes, million!)

  • American employees with unused vacation time: 52%

  • Average number of vacation days taken in 2017: 17.2

  • Vacation days forfeited annually: 21 million (Yes, million!)

And Now for Some Good News..

According to the U.S. Travel Association, it’s getting better for Americans – They’re starting to take more vacation time. Based on the info in the Washington Post article, Americans used an average of 17.4 days of paid time off in 2018, up slightly from 17.2 days in 2017. Whoa! We’re practically slackers!

photo of golden vineyards in the French wine region of Burgundy
Traveleidoscope: Burgundy, France

What Studies Show About Vacations and Our Health

I swear, I’m not just making this up as an excuse for another vacation! Studies show that vacations are actually good for us – they help us reset and refocus and relax. People who take vacations have fewer health problems and a better outlook on life. Take a look.

photo of box of tissues, thermometer, and a tea cup
Traveleidoscope: Why Vacations Are Important - Even Though Americans Don't Take Them

Effects on Mental and Physical Health:

The Bad: Stress contributes to all sorts of health issues. According to a Mayo Clinic article, prolonged periods of stress alters the brain and contributes to anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems and weight gain. Yikes!

The Good: Taking a vacation can reduce the risk of those illnesses and recharge your brain. After a vacation, workers are more productive and less susceptible to burnout.

The biggest bump of all comes from what? Not the vacation itself, but planning a vacation! Yup! A New York Times article explains that you can benefit from trip planning as far in advance as eight weeks before your vacation! Woohoo!

So, what can you do if you want to take a vacation, but don’t have a lot of time or money? Come back next week for ideas for a “micro-cation”!

fishing boats at boat launch
Traveleidoscope: Azores

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1 Comment

Sep 14, 2019

I fully support taking vacations! I think people also think they have to be huge trips to Europe or something, but there's so much to explore in the US that you don't have to purchase an expensive plane ticket for!

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