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Americans Wasted $705 Million Paid Vacation Days Last Year

Picture of Lauren Rogers
Updated: 17 May 2018
American workers believe in seeing the world, but it turns out they’re not doing it, even though they have the vacation days to do so. Not only are Americans not using all their vacation days, they are letting a variety of excuses stop them from exploring the world during the days they do take off.

According to a new study from Project Time Off, Americans are receiving more paid time off than ever before (an average of 17.2 vacations days a year), but they’re simply not taking them. Looking at 4,349 adults who work full-time, the study found that employees used less than half of their allotted vacation days. This is a shocking statistic considering 84% of the respondents said they believed it important to travel during vacation time.

Although holding back on travel seems to be a financial gain for employees, it is actually a significant economic loss to the country. Workers traveling during their vacation time could have generated 1.9 million jobs. A potential influx of $225 billion was lost across the U.S. economy from the whopping 705 million unused vacation days.

While there are always excuses for a working individual not to travel (kids, dogs, money, hassle), there are mental and physical rewards that individuals reap when they travel. The immediate relief of avoiding planning an itinerary for a trip is far less great than the spiritual and emotional reward that is felt when exploring the world. Those surveyed who said they used their days to travel reported dramatically higher contentment levels than those who did not travel.

So how do I make traveling during my vacation days a reality?

You don’t have to fly across the world to an all-inclusive resort to experience joy and revelation during your vacation days. Here are a few ways Americans can make travel a reality in any situation:

Explore your own backyard

Choosing an affordable American city to visit is easier than you think. How about Houston? Or Baltimore? There are even budget friendly backpacker hostels in New York City. Or how about getting to know your own city or state better? Relieve the tension of a stressful work week by taking a day off to explore a new exhibit at a nearby museum, hiking on a local public trail, or creating a food crawl of your town’s most popular restaurants.

Seriously, plan ahead

Thinking ahead empowers you to travel the way you’ve always dreamed of. Even something as long-sighted as a year and a half can make a seemingly unattainable trip possible. Start saving now and stick to your goals. Sometimes all it takes is making travel a priority over daily visits to Starbucks.

If possible, work remotely

Working remote has given thousands of Americans a way to work and play. Working in the mornings and exploring in the afternoons or evenings is an attainable opportunity to physically get away from it all, while still staying in the loop. Talk to your employer about remote options, or talk to one of the many burgeoning companies that are hiring remote workers in nearly every field of interest.