4 Charts That Explain America’s Vacation Habits

It’s no secret that America’s not the best at vacationing. But for the first time since Project: Time Off started working on changing America’s time off habits, I have some hope that this may be changing. Perhaps we are turning the corner to be the country we used to be that worked hard and played (or vacationed) hard. Let me break it down for you.

1. America’s Lost Week is no longer MIA

In 2014, our research uncovered America’s Lost Week of vacation. From 1978 to 2000, Americans took an average of 20.3 days of vacation. And then, something changed our vacationing ways, with a precipitous decline until we ended up using just 16.0 days of vacation in 2014.

In 2015, we moved up 0.2 days to 16.2 days taken per year. It was too soon to call it a trend and it could’ve been nothing more than a blip.

But this year, I’m more optimistic than ever that we’re changing our vacationing ways as we jumped all the way up to 16.8 days. Gaining nearly a full day in two years is significant. We’re not ready to call off the search dogs looking for America’s Lost Week, but we are hopeful that America’s moving in the right direction (at least when it comes to vacation).

2. Your Type-A Friends Are Right

What if I told you I had the secret to being more relaxed and happier? Well, I do, and the secret may surprise you.

Plan your vacation.

You’re probably underwhelmed with that solution, but the research bears it out. Americans who plan their vacation are more likely to take all their time off (52%, compared to 40% of non-planners) and take longer vacations. While three-in-four (75%) planners take a week or more at a time, non-planners take significantly fewer days—zero to three—than planners at once (42% to 18%).

Relaxed? Check.

Now start singing Pharrell because planners are also more likely to be happy with their relationships, health and well-being, company, and job. 

3. How to Get Ahead Without Really Trying

The idea that vacationing can make you more relaxed and happier is intuitive once you think about it. But what if I told you vacationing is also tied to being more successful at work?

Claim fake news all you want, but it’s the truth. It turns out that employees who forfeit their vacation days do not perform as well as those who use all their time—in fact, they are less likely to have received a recent raise, bonus, or promotion. 

Moral of the story: choosing your desk over time away isn’t helping you get anywhere. 

4. Millennials, Millennials, Millennials.

We looked at the problem spots when it comes to work martyr attitudes and vacation usage. Hi, Millennials. Specifically, Millennial women. (Looks in mirror.) Where 51 percent of Millennial men used all their vacation time in 2016 (up from 44 percent in 2015), just 44 percent of Millennial women did (46 percent did in 2015). So not only are Millennial women not taking time off, it’s getting worse.

Like women and men broadly, Millennial women are more likely than Millennial men to say vacation time is “extremely” important to them (55% to 45%). But Millennial women’s views on company culture and practical anxieties about being out of the office win out over these positive sentiments, ultimately preventing them from taking time off.

This is a problem. Without a major shift, the growing Millennial workforce will erase the the positive changes we’re seeing in America’s vacation habits.

May 22, 2017