Do Americans not Like to Travel?

Evidently, Americans don’t like to travel, or at least, don’t like to use their vacation days, which by the term bestowed on them, would make you assume that those days are used to travel. Certainly, you probably do. You’re a traveler and probably visiting my blog because you like to travel. However, approximately half of Americans don’t use their vacation days. They don’t use them. I don’t mean they use them for other things, like taking care of their children, taking a sick day, or other reasons. I mean that at the end of the year, they have vacation days that have gone unused. Do you understand the premise behind vacation days? Well here is how it actually works. You have a full-time job that you go to everyday. As an added benefit, you get these things called “vacation days”. Here’s what you do: NOTHING. Seriously, your employer pays you to do whatever the hell you want to. You can have a romantic rendezvous with your significant other (or not significant other), take a road trip, travel across the world, go to the spa, or whatever the hell you want. And guess what? You get PAID for it! You get paid to not come into work.

A recent travel survey revealed that nearly half of Americans don’t use all of their vacation days. This is compared to France, where nearly 90% of people use all of their vacation days. According to a different survey a couple years ago, it revealed that an average of 500 million vacation days went unused annually in the United States. This is a good time to mention that in France, employees receive as much as two to three times the number of vacation days as Americans do. Yet, even with less time off, Americans still aren’t using the vacation time they have.

So why don’t people use their vacation days? Is it a question of money? Are they afraid they’ll miss something at work? I’ve got it: They love their work so much that they can’t stand the thought of taking time away from it. Maybe it’s even fear of getting fired if they use too much of their vacation time. I wanted to see what others had to say about this, so I took to Twitter and Tumblr to get some feedback.

They’re scared to break from the workforce tradition.-Alisha Miranda

The airport experience these days is a huge, enormous, breathtaking deterrent.-Katherine Spiers

Surely the money savings is a factor, but I also think there’s this romance Americans have with their own country. I grew up road tripping with my family everywhere.-Lauren Braden

Each of these responses had different elements to them: Workforce tradition, airport hassles, and an attachment to home. I particularly liked what Alisha had to say about the fear of breaking the workforce tradition. It’s interesting to point out that from the aforementioned survey, the country least likely to use up all of their vacation days, is the one country that stands out in many people’s minds as one of the hardest working in the world: Japan.

I’m a believer in the notion that most of the time people are always going to default to the things they know, rather than risk change, varying circumstances, and situations they aren’t comfortable with. We do what we know. For most Americans, it’s work. We go to college for 4 years, find a secure job, get married, have kids, and settle in. Much of this revolves around work. I remember hearing at an early age the importance of having to work to get anywhere in life and that nothing was free. However, I unfortunately worry that we’ve taken it too far to the extreme.

Another question this brings up is whether people really know how to travel. Sure, travel can be expensive, stressful, and frustrating. I’ve spent many hours on the side of the road fixing a flat tire or waiting yet again for a delayed flight to take off or stumbling through a conversation with someone in a foreign culture. However for me, the benefits of travel experiences, whether nearby or abroad, far outweigh the unknowns. In a recent interview, Travel + Leisure editor Mark Orwoll highlighted the benefits of using those vacation days to travel. He summed it up perfectly when he said: “Nobody ever said at the end of their lives: I wish I would’ve spent more time at the office.”

As I write this, it marks day 7 of a new life for me. It was just one week ago that I moved to San Francisco after several months of North and Central America travel. I have never loved life as much as I do right now, I cherish my work like I never have before, and I’m 20 pounds lighter. I can’t tell you that traveling, whether for a week or 20 weeks would have the same effect on you, but is it not worth a try?

Why do you think people let their vacation days go unused? What have been the effects of travel on your own life?

Tune in next week when I’ll discuss how I believe technology affects how people travel.

75 Comments on “Do Americans not Like to Travel?

  1. I think as a nation we all work too much and are just too busy. I am sure money is a factor but I think the enormous amount of debt and the stuff we have to own keeps people from traveling as well. I am not sure how much the research, planning, and actual flying part scares people but I think as writers and bloggers we should do our best to encourage people to travel – even if it’s just getting them out their front door and to the next town.

    • I couldn’t agree more Jeremy. A great way to put it. I think there are so many opportunities that we as a country are missing because we just get swallowed up with being busy. It becomes one of those things where we say: “Well I’ll do that in such and such time”. And then that time never comes.

  2. I not only use every single vacation day, I take off for vacation way more than the average person. Yes, I don’t own a house and maybe could if I didn’t take as much vacation… but I also wouldn’t have those experiences and memories to look back on. Not to knock owning a home, but I wonder how many times people have said, “oh, that one time in my house…”

    • You bring up a great point Jade about owning a home. I think people are starting to rethink that, especially as it relates to doing things that you want like travel. I also am not knocking home ownership, but glad I’m in a position that I can rent and travel and come and go as I please.

  3. I think that in the US like in Canada right now, we are all so scared to go on vacation because we fear that someone who doesn’t go is seen as being more dedicated to their job and therefore more “keep worthy” as an employee. Those that take vacations are considered lazy and not “company material”. I see it all the time. Plus, we are so strapped for staff that if we do take vacation, the stress of what we have to come back to is so overwhelming that a lot of us just don’t go. And employers count on that, trust me. *sigh* I wish it were different. I truly believe it’s our culture that makes it so. My cousins in Germany take tons of vaca without fear. They are encouraged to go because employers ,there, recognize the value of a happy, well rested employee! But, it’s just my opinion and the way I see it.

    • Great points Hanna and thank you! It really is so different in many countries and I think many who come to the U.S. are surprised because in their own countries, travel is so encouraged. I’ve heard many friends say that when they’ve traveled, they rarely see other Americans, but typically people from other countries who are on 2, 3, or 4 week trips. People in the U.S. don’t do this. And it’s a bummer really. I think some things really need to change.

  4. I was surprised by this when I moved to live in America. We get a lot of vacation days in Australia, and every one takes them. I couldn’t believe how hard Americans work. I beleive in working hard, but they seemed to leave little room for taking a break and playing which is just as important.
    I think fear becomes a big part of it. Not only is it the fear of leaving the comfort of what they know but the fear of probably relaxing and not knowing what do do with it.
    The good thing about being a teacher is you are forced to take your vacation days. However, plenty of my colleagues would still go into school during the vacation period. My thought was always “Your’re crazy. You won’t see me there until I’m due to go back!”

    • Thank you so much for posting this Caz. It’s great getting insight from someone else who has been to the U.S. for a considerable time and can provide insight. I heard the EXACT same thing from a friend in Costa Rica. Him and his wife had lived and worked in the U.S. for a couple years and were shocked at how much Americans worked and didn’t take out the time for travel and friends, among other things.

  5. Some have jobs where their employers frown on taking too much time off, regardless of much the employee has actually accumulated. It’s just the way it is. We’re in that position, my partner probably will never use all of his vaca time because of the impression it creates at work. Do I agree? Hell no, I use every second of mine, but I’m also realistic about what to expect.

    • Glad you brought this up and thanks for commenting Matt. I thought about you when writing this post. I’ve heard from many people that they feel guilty or worry about taking their vacation time because they fear that it’ll be a tick against them or give someone else in their company a leg up on them.

  6. I think it’s because people value the money they’ll get in exchange more than the experience of travel. Usually, that money is used to maintain a high level of living with stuff.

    • A true an important point. It always seems to be about that extra push and extra dollar unfortunately.

  7. I blogged about a similar topic last week after a young American girl wrote to me so upset that she “couldn’t” go travelling instead of going to college. I’m Australian and like Caz said, we use our vacation days (including our long service leave – three months of additional leave after working in the same company for 7-10 years). The most interesting comment I got was the idea that some Americans don’t feel the need to travel so much because they have the perspective of the US being a great place (it is, I’m not disputing that!) but their thinking was why should they travel some place “worse” instead of staying home.
    But even then they could just take their vacation days and stay home, surely so … anyway I have never once not taken any vacation leave owed to me at a job. And I will never give it up!

    • Good points and heading over right after I write this to look at your post! Believe me, America is a great place. There’s a certain romance about it, but it just blows me away sometimes that people think that they can have the exact experiences here that they’ll have anywhere else. It’s just not the case. I think some things really need to change because I think a lot of people are really missing out on experiences.

  8. Whenever I read these sorts of statistics I always wonder what happened to the pioneer spirit! It seems ironic to me that the nation which is peopled primarily by the descendants of those who crossed oceans and took risks to explore new shores now seems to have a phobia about travel.

    I’ve known this data for a few years, and have always had trouble understanding it, particularly because my own US friends do love travel and new experiences for the most part. I am a member of an online group I joined many years ago, and many of whose members I have now met in “the flesh”. A fellow member, just returned from the group’s conference in DC a couple of months ago, registered her surprise to me, that not only had several US members (and I talk here about a well-read group of people) never traveled outside their country, but that visiting their nation’s capital was the first time they had been outside of their state.

    I know the US is huge, diverse and stunningly beautiful, but I really don’t get the comfort zone thing on such a large scale.

    • It’s really interesting Linda. I’ve grown up and lived in many small towns where people don’t travel at all and don’t want to. I have a relative who has never left his county. There are a lot of pockets where it’s become a matter of comfort. It’s kind of like what I talked about where people do what they know.

  9. This is a question I’ve wondered a lot myself. I’ve read a lot of posts and articles giving Americans a bad rap for not traveling — saying we’re scared or uninterested in traveling, especially abroad. But, when I returned to the States this past winter, after spending a year traveling through Southeast Asia, everyone I met was really interested in hearing about my travels. The biggest response I got from people was, “I wish I could do that!”
    I think American work ethic really has a lot to do with our not taking enough vacation days. I think there is a lot of pressure in the States to go above and beyond as far as your job is concerned — possibly even more so now with the current economy.
    I usually don’t meet tons of Americans while traveling, but I have met a lot of Americans while working and volunteering overseas. I worked for 3 years in Japan, where all of my colleagues and most of the working expats I met were American. While volunteering in Malaysia and Thailand, a lot of my fellow volunteers and the NGO workers were American. So, maybe it’s not that we’re afraid to go overseas, it’s just that we want to feel like we’re “doing” something.

    • Following up with what Sally said, I also think a lot of our nation’s health problem–obesity, emotional disorders like stress and anxiety–can be attributed to the workaholic nature of this country. People work far above the “suggested” 40 hours a week and, in turn, eat fast food because they’re not at home during dining hours to cook and can’t leave their desks, thus forcing them to order out. The same thought process can be applied to not working out–when you’re at your desk from 7am until 10pm and don’t even get a lunch break, when does that leave to hit the gym?

      It’s so funny how different the rest of the world is. Scott and I still have a lot of friends in Denmark from our time living there, and the *minimum* vacation time they get is six weeks a year, of which they are REQUIRED to take, and on top of that they get a comp hour for every hour over 35 hours they work each week, so they accrue even more vacation time. One of our Danish friends has come to see me in NYC, Nashville and California, because each year she emails me, “hey, I have to take three weeks vacation time before April 1…can I come stay with you?” Must. Be. Nice.

      I also think Americans are penalized for taking vacation by some companies, whether made to feel guilty for taking time off or possibly even passed over for promotions. Even if an employee gets two weeks off a year, many employers will require that employee call into the office while away or work from home during that time. And I’ve heard more than a couple friends talk about how their bosses got angry at them when they asked to take their vacation time. That’s why I really love business models like Netflix that allow their employees to take as much vacation as they want/need when they want it, as long as their work gets done.

      • All great comments Kristin. That was part of my ending point is that this season of travel has brought incredible health benefits. In that interview with Mark Orwoll, he discusses some of the studies that have been done that show the health benefits of traveling. While I love to eat while traveling, I find myself taking better care of myself and just feel healthier. It’s improved my quality of life.

        It’s really booty about companies penalizing employees, but I’ve unfortunately heard the same from many who have said it’s frowned upon at their company to use vacation time.

        • Spencer,
          Is it possible for you to post a link to this interview whenever it is convenient for you? I am writing a speech about why Americans don’t travel and why they should. Great post and great comments!

    • Thanks Sally and some great points. I think for a lot of people, travel is still just an “out there” concept. That you have to have a lot of money or have a certain level of flexibility or have a ludicrous job. This just isn’t the case. There are some amazing destinations that can be experienced and traveled to on a small budget. Central America, Mexico, and Southeast Asia are just a couple examples of this. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about these things and educate them. I’ll tell you this, when was the last time you heard some regret that they traveled? I think once they start, it begins a lifelong journey. At least that’s my hope.

  10. In addition to that, what percentage of Americans actually leave their work behind on those vacation days? How many people still have their Blackberries to field phone calls and check emails? The workplace can and will go on without you…

    • Abbie! You’re jumping ahead to next week’s post.

  11. Productivity is a strong value in U.S. society, and taking vacation days goes against that value. As you said, it’s true that many people don’t even take the vacation days that they’ve earned. This is surprising when you think about how Americans generally consider themselves social and as having “family values”– you’d think more people would take their days to spend time with family or friends, whether at home or on a trip. Whatever is behind it, it’s sad and is one of the reasons I’d rather live in Europe where people value downtime. I hope that this changes in the U.S. because this feeds into so many other problems in our society.

    • Well put Jenna and I like what you said about it feeding into so many other problems. The problem at its root isn’t people not using vacation days. It’s much deeper than that. I could’ve really gone off on a tangent because some of the underlying problems I see affecting marriage, friendships, families, and it goes on.

      • Well, if you could have gone off on a tangent about the problems affecting relationships, families, etc., then I guess you have more writing material for other posts. :) I’m glad you got this discussion going because our culture needs to continually be reminded to relax more. Life is just too damned short to work all the time!

  12. When I worked a corporate job it always blew my mind how everyone saved their vacation days for December. I can understand taking a day or two off during the holidays, but to save most of it for one of the months with not so hot weather. I never had this problem as I had mine well used up by October.

    Perhaps this is another reason days are not used up. Maybe people save so much vacation time and plan to use it at the end of the year. Then the office gets really busy at the holidays with so many people taking days off. The hardest working of the bunch feel compelled to come in and work and make sure stuff gets done. I remember we always got busier in the holidays, so it got hectic with so many people taking off.

    • Thanks for the comment Ted. I found this to be the case also with people taking all of their time off in December. I understand the need to spend time with family and what not, but I rarely took added days along with the couple holidays I got at the end of the year. I found that a lot of people had all this time off at the end of the year and there wasn’t anything to do but just stay at home because they had family coming in soon or it was too expensive for them to travel or other reasons. It seemed like a waste.

  13. Another thing to factor in is that many of these people are probably not McDonald’s employees who desperately wish to be in the office. I’d bet in many cases it’s high level executives who, were they not in the office and “enjoying a vacation” would spend the entire time on their Blackberries anyway. I was blown away to learn my Dad has four weeks paid vacation a year- the most I’ve seen him take was when I dragged him to Cambodia for two. And even then, we had to take conference call breaks!

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  15. I think a more appropriate question or title for this post would be “Do Americans Not Like to Travel Internationally?”

    I grew up with parents who used their full allotment of vacation days and took my brother and I out skiing in Colorado or California or exploring museums in Washington, D.C. every year. I just don’t think it ever occurred to them to take us anywhere overseas, there was so much to see and do in our own country.

    I have a lot of friends who use every bit of their vacation time (sometimes more!), but they use it to travel within the US. They have family and friends in other states so they use their time to visit people – to go to weddings, reunions, etc. A few years back, I used about half of my vacation time just attending weddings and bachelorette parties for good friends that all happened to be out of state.

    I don’t disagree at all that it would be great if more Americans had an interest in traveling overseas. But for many, when vacation time is so limited, I can see why they chose to spend time with family or friends within the U.S. than head overseas.

    • This was so my family growing up too!! My parents always used all their vacation time when my sister and I were kids and we traveled alllll over the US, not getting passports until well into high school.

  16. It’s a cultural thing. Unlike other countries, Americans live to work, don’t work to live. People often identify themselves based on their title and their success, which is often reached by working long hours, and it’s something of a bragging point to joke how you’ve not taken a vacation day in a few years, or have never left the country. It’s unfortunate. By no means am I saying that other countries do not work as hard, but I definitely think it’s just a different animal in the US.

  17. Personally, I have no idea why people don’t use all their vacation days. Doing that makes no sense. Even if you have nowhere to go, just take the day! Not using what you have is like PAYING the company because the only loser in that arrangement is you! I had a coworker who was from Nepal and he reached the max amount of days he could accrue at our company. When he went home for vacation (traveling from Los Angeles to freakin’ Nepal!) he only took like 8 work days off!!!!! (He has accrued like 40 days.) Not even a full 2 weeks! I didn’t understand it AT ALL. He was a low level employee, but had been working at the company so long, he was still afraid that things would slip through the cracks without him. Who thinks like this?!??!?!

    Luckily, I work at a company now where no one is counting (except me!) so I just have to be kind of careful not to take too much advantage. But I am still going well over the number this year then I would have if I worked for a large company. How can I not?!

  18. World travel is really only accessible for the upper classes, retirees with time money to burn, and students. With the economy the way it is many people are directing their funds elsewhere.

    • I have to disagree with you on that one Tom. I don’t fall into any of those categories and travel frequently. Mind you, part of it is for work, but even if not, it wouldn’t be a problem for me. I think at the root, there are some attitudes and frames of mind that keep people from traveling. Like many things, if you really want to do it, you’ll go out and do it, whether status or money or anything else plays a role or not.

      • I’m very late to this, but it definitely IS about money, much more so than time. (Although time does come into play, as a number of comments have pointed out.) In my experience, people who frequently travel can’t understand why anyone would want a television set, or cable TV, or occasional restaurant meals, or things that didn’t come off the bargain counter in general. People who do enjoy those things don’t have the money for traveling.

        It’s about values, too. Nobody wants to spend money without having something to show for it. For many of us (yes, I have to include myself in this) experiences and memories aren’t all that valuable, so they don’t get counted as “something to show for it”. I know that I would LOVE to feel happy about spending a couple of thousand bucks on a vacation to, say, Germany and England. (Yes, I can afford it.) But I keep thinking that when the vacation is over, all that money is gone, I’m right back where I started. Nothing has changed, and it’s like I’d never gone.

        Sure, memories… But I can’t help thinking: Memories happen all the time, whether we’re at home, at work, at church, or in Bora Bora pearl diving with the natives. I wish I’d never learned that way of thinking, too. But I’m far from alone.

        • You bring up some interesting points and questions John and I really appreciate your points of view. I think it really does vary and change for people. For many, traveling is no different then if they were staying at home and just taking a few days off. Maybe they go to the pool, have some drinks, go out to dinner, and that’s it. For me, I find travel being more than that. Again, that’s me. Travel is experiential and I find it bettering me as a person and educating me and giving me opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

  19. I feel that there’s a “tunnel vision” mentality. People go through life with blinders on thinking that they need to stick with the herd, and therefore it makes them look weak if they don’t use their vacation days. That’s my two cents. Good reporting!

    • I agree Charu and it’s really unfortunate. I think it becomes a rite of passage of sorts to live your life a certain way, yet the people I’ve met that have realized they don’t have to do that, are some of the happiest and most free people I know.

  20. I don’t think it’s that Americans don’t “like” to take their vacation days… in a bad economy, workers are forced to do more with less. People are afraid of looking bad or getting fired if they take time off. Even the non-travelers I know make sure to take their vacation days whenever possible, so I don’t think it’s an issue of wanting to travel or not.

    • Thanks Leslie. You bring up an important point that others have discussed about fear. In many other countries, employers have embraced travel and all but require their employees to travel because they come back refreshed and as better employees.

  21. Pingback: You would love to travel, but... | NYCity Mama

  22. I think it’s a twin dilemma with Americans. Not taking vacation days is bigger than not traveling. If they were just afraid to travel, they could always have one of those infamous ‘staycations’ – it’s more than that, I watched my co-workers in my 9 to 5 job who were absolutely drenched in guilt about the idea of taking too much time off. People who had been there long enough to actually have more than a couple of weeks vacation time rarely took all of it. And it was a matter of custom that anyone taking off worked until the wee hours the night before they left. I’ve been there at 9 and 10pm before leaving for vacation trying to wrap up the loose ends. And many of my co-workers would call and email to check in. I suppose some of it’s the old protestant work ethic. And this was mostly before the recession! I can only imagine how much people worry now.

    And then yes, the second horn of the issue, traveling outside of the country is downright unpatriotic. Anytime someone puts up an article in the major media about some traveler who was injured overseas or became enmeshed in local issues abroad, go and read the comments from their fellow Americans. If you do, you’ll find a lot of people saying they got what they deserved and that there’s no reason to leave our country to travel. There’s definitely an isolationist streak to the US.

  23. The first year and a half I started working, I rarely took time off because I think I just got into a routine of not doing anything else. I think it’s very easy for Americans to get stuck into a routine of working non-stop. I started remembering that I need to take breaks and that’s why I went to Scandinavia for two weeks. It made me healthier mentally so I could come back to work refreshed but more importantly it reminded me to slow down and not get caught up in work and to-do lists like I used to!

    • I was just having this conversation last night about how easy it seems to get sucked into comfort and complacency. It seems to be more of an American thing. I don’t see it in other cultures. I’ve talked to people in other countries who have spent significant time in the U.S. and they have a hard time understand why some people work so much and don’t take more time out for things like traveling, friends, family, and so on.

      • I agree, but the same thing happens in some (not all!) other countries, too. I see definitely see it in Brazil. In general, they work really, really hard. They don’t get a lot of vacation time and often feel the pressure to work all the time because the cost of living is so high. And I saw the same thing in Indonesia.

  24. I have the opposite problem! I moved to Germany after finishing school partly in order to travel, and I work freelance (including adjunct teaching for the last 16 years) in order to have my summers/holidays free! I moved to new cities at the drop of a hat. When I was 23 I calculated I had moved every 2 years on average up until that point in my life. Now I live in San Diego, where it is easy to convince myself on almost any given day that I am on vacation. I started working in GIS/mapping too, because now I can be an armchair traveler, comparing features of locations I’ve never noted before.

    As to why most Americans won’t travel abroad: We are isolationists, with little exposure to outside cultures. Immigrants are keen to fit in, to Americanize. There is no acute need to learn a second (or 3rd or 4th) language, since Canadians speak English and so do most Mexicans. We are spoiled, accustomed to comfort, and don’t like to be brought out of our comfort zone. And since we have this reputation, other people kiss our ass (superficially) rather than risk pissing us off with perceived inconveniences. We are a rich country but very poor travelers and miss much because of it.

    This blog rocks Spencer! So proud of you!

    • Naomi! This made my day seeing this comment! My interest is peaked at the GIS/mapping work you’re doing and have to get myself down to San Diego soon since it’s a day’s drive or short flight from San Francisco!

      I loved everything you said and glad you brought up the point of people’s “comfort zone”. I think that’s a big part of it. Spending so much time in the south I experienced this quite a bit, where so few people leave their county, let alone their state! I think people try to live very “safe” lives, and because of that, miss out on a lot of experiences. There are a lot of misconceptions of travel that people see in mainstream media and they choose to just stick to their routine life.

      Thanks Naomi!

  25. It would be great to see you in San Diego! Let me know if your travels brings you near. Also, we should go to Tijuana when you are here, only 12 miles away! It is a hotbed of arts/music, very exciting for young people now! The food there is outstanding and cheap and the service is great. I’m so glad we can swear on your blog. I thought it would bleep me! I’ll try not to push it tho ;-)

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  27. You (whoever wrote this) are stereotypical beyond belief.
    I’m a 25 year old woman who IS AMERICAN and I’ve traveled to 36 differnt countries. I’ve adopted 3 kids from 3 countries and yet you say we don’t like to travel.
    Dayumnnn, you stereotypes make me mad.

    • Piisseedd,
      Thanks for stopping by to comment. I’m Spencer. I’m American and I’m the one who wrote this. What is it exactly that you think I’m stereotypical about? That’s great that you’ve traveled so much and hope you’ll help inspire and educate other to travel, just like I am. The fact is that less than 30% of Americans don’t even have passports. Of those that do, what do you think the percentage is that actually travels. My point wasn’t to say that Americans don’t like to travel. My point is that many Americans are given vacation days…days in which they are paid to not come into work and they aren’t taking advantage of it. It points to an underlying problem that is much deeper than just asking whether Americans like to travel or not.

  28. I really don’t understand why people don’t take their vacation days. After taking a vacation, I always feel rejuvenated and even more motivated to work. And though I don’t live in the States, Canada has a similar workaholic, tech-obsessed culture. Maybe it’s a feeling of always feeling like there’s too much to do and never enough time to do it. That said, you brought up some good points on the benefits of taking vacation days. Well researched (as always!

  29. I really don’t understand why people don’t take their vacation days. After taking a vacation, I always feel rejuvenated and even more motivated to work. And though I don’t live in the States, Canada has a similar workaholic, tech-obsessed culture. Maybe it’s a feeling of always feeling like there’s too much to do and never enough time to do it. That said, you brought up some good points on the benefits of taking vacation days. Well researched (as always!)

    • Thanks Natalie! I think it’s a lot of things. There are some underlying issues that raise questions that are much deeper than it being about travel.

  30. We were talking about this the other day at my work. Everyone I work with (including me) is out of sick time but have tons of vacation time available! I’ve got 128 hours of vacation time right now! We can’t use vacation time for sick days and our vacation time rolls over at the end of the year. I’m saving my up for later in the year but I will use it!

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  32. Inconvenience tops my list! As has been stated several times Americans don’t get much vacation time, or rather, don’t negotiate with their employer for a lot of vacation time. (I am an industrial engineer in the manufacturing industry) Companies can not afford and discourage any one person from taking more than a week off at a time. Even IF you have a month of vacation pay saved up American companies run such tight ships each person at a company is so specialized and very difficult to replace on a temporary basis. SO MAYBE one week at a time is all the company can afford.* So you have one full week off scattered about different times of the year. For me, living in California, it takes close to 24 hours to get to Europe from leaving your house to getting to the hotel. One day after that just to recover from the jet lag and sore back. And then you have the flight back so in reality 3 days of your week long vacation used up simply getting there. This leaves 4 days of time to run like a bat out of hell to visit crowded tourist areas because that’s all you have time for. After your flight home you are left ragged and stressed from “vacation.” That isn’t fun or relaxing and honestly, work is a lot less stressful than a one week vacation over seas. With one week of vacation for me in California I can drive to some of the most beautiful landscape in the world in less then 8 hours, WITHOUT hours waiting in long lines to be hassled by rude airport screeners and immigration officials. I actually would have time to relax at a beach cabin in Big Sur or wine tasting in Napa with a week long vacation staying closer to home.

    I did not see anyone reference the family issue. From reading many of these postings I assume nearly everyone writing here is childless. The cost and hassle of packing up two kids and a wife for an overseas trip is monumental task in itself, not to mention extremely expensive.

    And something for people to consider. I happen to enjoy my job. I would venture most people enjoy their work and vacation just isn’t that important.

    * (I purposely overlooked the fact that when an employer realizes he can accomplish your tasks without you there, you are not needed anymore. It’s the harsh reality so you always have to weigh that in your vacation time away from the office.)

    • Some good points you bring up. I think you and I are lucky, living in California. I just got back from a road trip through Big Sur, Santa Barbara, and San Diego and it was a fantastic trip. I had experiences that many wouldn’t even have traveling abroad. I really like that about the west coast, that you can drive or take a short flight, either along the west coast of the U.S., or even Mexico and Canada, and have some great experiences. I think there are more types of trips like that happening. I think it really is unfortunate that many people want to travel and have the vacation time to, but don’t feel like they can afford to being of their work. While I’m not taking away from the importance of work, I think it’s important to have time off and take time for yourself, whether it’s travel or something else.

      • In regards to your feeling it is unfortunate people want to travel, even with earned vacation time, but the feel they can’t afford to be away from work count me with that number, albeit not any more. Speaking for myself, and I’m sure many others, it is extrememly stressful leaving work. As bizaar as it may sound it is sometimes more stressful leaving work than staying at work. I am in the manufacturing business and the line is always moving. I am educated and well paid and I do enjoy my work. As I think most people that work with me are. We do enjoy the job and get a great sense of purpose and accomplishment after a hard day at work. (I am (or was before being self employed) in the engineering side of manufacturing.) And, as you agree, living in such a beautiful state a weekend of time off allows some great adventures to reset our batteries.

        I am certain there are many who have miserable jobs that are not rewarding and they are the ones craving something better, somewhere else. Myself, i have it pretty good.

        I do travel now and you may find it odd, but I search for work every where I travel. In Europe I’m knocking on the door of every factory I see. In South East Asia I’m looking for manufacturing shops to work with. It’s fun for me.

        I do appreciate you not resorting to the “Americans are dumb and ignorant and scared to leave Disneyland” argument that is all to familiar with travel “snobs.” Your understanding is refreshing. Thank you for this opportunity to share my views on the subject. Some may call me a workaholic even though I am self employed and probably average 50 hours a week, I do enjoy working.

  33. I’ll be honest, i dont like to travel or even taking more than a few days off. I loath sitting on planes and sleeping in hotels. I’ve been to a few countries in Europe and it’s not that i didnt have any fun, but i have no interest in ever going again. Whats the point? I think the reason most countries in the EU are falling apart much worse than the US is a lack of work ethic. Taking off weeks to travel is simply ridiculous. It’s supposed to enrich you as a person, I rarely find this to be the case, and frankly, no one else really gives a shit that you’ve been to Finland or Tuscany. The money i earn by working instead of eating curry in Mumbai is of much more value to me. I can also eat the curry here because plenty of Indians couldnt wait to get out of India to open restaurants here.
    I barely even see the need to travel more than 150 miles outside of San Diego County. I count Baja as basically California. My wife is from Mexico and we have a small house there too. Yes, i speak Spanish. I have been to about 35 of the fifty states and find many of them akin to eating a PB&J sandwich. Living in Southern California is like eating from a huge buffet. Everthing is here. I dread having to travel for work, and really, is St.Louis really THAT different from Indianapolis? I have been to both, and neither made an impact on my life in any way.

  34. Thanks for sharing. I’m interested by your take on travel and sorry that it hasn’t had an enriching effect on you, as most people that I talk with and most people you see who have commented here have had very unique experiences while traveling that positively affected their lives. I took more than a few weeks off to travel last year – 9 months actually and it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. Some may would say that it was a setback in life/career, but it was the opposite for me. It helped propel me into a new career/life and made me a harder worker.

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  37. Interesting article. I think many people think they can’t travel, whether it be because they have young children or are just ‘too busy’. Or can’t afford it. The fact is that travel is open to everyone. You can take kids with you most places, that’s not a problem. You don’t always need much money to travel either, you just have to be a bit more imaginative :) There’s loads of great places not only in America (it is a big place after all!) but also other countries that are close by like Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean islands. We took a trip to Jamaica recently and stayed here: Absolutely beautiful place, really just chilled out and de-stressed. Very different vibe to Kingston. If you are flexible and creative with your flight booking then you don’t need to spend too much either. We’re already thinking about where to go on our next adventure. I’m thinking Europe, Italy in particular at the moment. There’s just so much culture to be seen there, also I LOVE the food! :)

  38. My company blocks a fourth of the year that you can’t take vacation time. Then the individual department blocks even more time, depending on software go-lives. Beyond that, we have more work than one person can do and deadlines set in stone that are not realistic. If you do go on vacation, you have to work overtime basically until you catch up for the time you took off.

    If you complain, you are told to find work elsewhere. In my field that involves a travel job which requires even more hours than I work now. That is how it is in America. We would like to take our vacation time, but we risk losing our jobs or not being able to complete our work and get punished if we do. And this is even for positions where you are not really trying to get ahead. I’m supposed to get 4 weeks a year and everyone goes on about how generous our vacation allotment is. Compared to what? And we can’t even take the whole amount without paying for it.

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  40. Money and time. I had to chuckle when I read Americans don’t use their vacation time. I was a professional secretary for 12 years if I came in two minutes late fired. I could only earn five days holiday per year of work which in compasses sick days as well. Money also issue how could one justify a quick holiday if you end up paying kings ransom. Think of this case you have 1000$ to blow. So you think I can book a flight and sneak away for a few days. After a 500$ flight time to book a room or flat well 5 days 100$ a day done so how do you eat drink rent a ride. And that is if you can get a flight or room at those rates. It’s just not wrth it to most. Plus your not even planning to bring someone. In the US we are by far a much more poor lot than the world really knows. I have no job now and have not for over a year. No holiday for me.

  41. Travel, doesn’t at all interest me.It just sounds so… boring. You go to some foreign country, get a look at some weird looking buildings, get surrounded by babble I can’t understand. Wander around, maybe answer some awkward questions. Go to a restaurant and even if I don’t over pay or get bad service, still, its food. The only excitement possible is if I do happen to break some weird law and get thrown into a weird foreign Prison. Or get attacked, which unfortunately isn’t near as likely as I might hope.

    Honestly if I want good exiting memories that don’t just involve awkward misunderstanding, I’ll go take some classes in something dangerous.

  42. I never take vacations, primarily for 2 reasons:

    1) I don’t have anyone in my office who can serve as a backup if I was to take the time off. I have a specialized license and no one else can do the job that I do, and a lot of work that I complete is critical to the company. If I was gone for a week or longer, there would be some serious negative effects to my company’s operations.

    2) I consider my vacation hours extra money, which is more important to me than time away. Because my boss acknowledges that I can’t take a vacation, given my position, when I start reaching my cap on vacation hours, he lets me cash out a week. I would much prefer an extra week of pay rather than time off (and coming back to 3x as much work).

  43. I know this is old , but I would LOVE to travel, but it is so expensive when I need the money for emergency.

  44. I wont pretend know why vacation exactly isn’t used as much in America, but I would imagine it’s related to fear. Some of the people were I work (in Norway, and we take ALL our vacation), are very afraid of losing their jobs – might be many Americans feel they need to give the little extra so they’re not the ones to go if the company downsizes…? And when you co-workers give the little extra, you have to give extra extra and that kind of gets the ball rolling…

    I don’t know. I take all my vacation time and I’m happy to do it. Hard work deserves a break :-)

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