We’re not gonna take it anymore (and by it, we mean paid time off.)
A new study by Project: Time Off reveals that in 2015, over 50% of American employees had vacation days left over. Of the 658 million vacation days Americans opted out of taking, almost 34% will not roll over into the next calendar year.
Currently, the United States is the only first-world country where employees are not automatically granted vacation time. And vacation rates in the US have been falling since 2000. Basically, Americans are sitting on a goldmine of untapped leisure potential, which begs the question: what the hell is wrong with us?
There are many reasons why employees choose to forgo taking their time off—some worry that leaving (even temporarily) may place their fellow workers under undue strain. Others believe that it’s not worth the hassle of coming back to a full desk and an even fuller inbox. For workers with lower incomes, vacations can be cost prohibitive and even more stressful than staying put. And then there’s the FOMO (fear of missing out.) Employees without job security worry that taking a break might mean being overlooked for a promotion or even being replaced altogether.
Younger workers seem especially hesitant to cash in on their time off. Data gathered in Alamo Rent A Car’s annual family vacation survey shows that 59% of millennials felt shamed by their superiors for taking a vacation and 33% opted out altogether to avoid feeling guilty.
This is particularly interesting when you consider that companies–specifically startups–are attempting to entice millennial employees by offering unlimited vacation time. However, this work perk is completely useless when workers are too scared or anxious about their job security to take advantage.
America’s corporate culture makes it easy for employees to justify skipping vacations, but experts argue that taking personal time can be both motivating and revitalizing. So put down the free leftovers from that all company meeting and cash in on that sweet PTO–you’ve earned it.
Try A Staycation: The cheapest and easiest way to travel is to just stay put. And, if done correctly, a staycation can be as mentally and physically rewarding as a trip to the Bahamas. The key to maximizing your staycation is to consciously unplug. Experts say that a vacation spent catching up on work e-mails can be as draining as a day spent in the office.
Take A Day Trip: For those living on a fixed income, a day trip is a great way to mentally recharge, without having to spring for a hotel room. Whether you spend the day communing with nature, exploring a new city or straight up relaxing on a beach is immaterial; all that matters is putting a little distance between yourself and your desk.
Choose Your Destination Based On What’s Cheap: When planning a vacation, most people choose the destination first and look for flights second. But if you’re traveling on a budget, sometimes it behooves you to reverse your order of operations. Apps like Hitlist give you an aggregated list of cheap domestic and international flights, which allows you to choose the destination that best suits your budget.
Extend An Already Scheduled Trip: If you’re already traveling, a great way to use up some of your PTO is to extend the trip by a few days. Instead of flying out directly after a friend’s wedding, tack a few days on to the backend of the trip to explore the area. Turn your pilgrimage home for Thanksgiving into a road trip and stop at some new-to-you spots along the way. Extending a trip is easier and cheaper than planning an entirely new trip and is a great way to turn an obligation into a vacation.