Lonely Planet Writer

More than half of workers in the US left vacation time unused in 2015, so start planning for 2016!

It’s time to get serious about planning your next trip, as Project: Time Off has just released a report saying more than half of workers in the US left some of their vacation time unused last year, and many will not get to take those days this year.

Almost half of Americans are skipping their vacations.
More than half of Americans are wasting their vacation days. Image by James O’Neil/Getty Images

Project: Time Off describes itself as an initiative “to win back America’s Lost Week of vacation” and to “shift culture so that taking time off is understood as essential to personal well-being, professional success, business performance, and economic expansion”. For decades, Americans took about 20.3 days of vacation each year, according to Project: Time Off. However, that number started to drop below the average back in 2000. New research from the group found that American workers took slightly more holiday time in 2015 than in 2014 – rising to 16.2 days from 16 – but the average is still much lower than two decades ago. Despite the small increase, most workers actually received an additional day of holidays (21.9 on average) and therefore actually used a lower share of their total paid vacation time.

Project:Time Off is encouraging Americans to take their vacation days.
Project:Time Off is encouraging Americans to take their vacation days. Image by Horia Varlan / CC BY 2.0

The new report surveyed 5,641 US employees who earn time off at their jobs. According to the research, America’s holiday habits are and have been closely tied to technology innovation and adoption trends, which Project: Time Off posits could be the reason for Americans’ attachment to work and the inability to truly get away from the office. In total, there were 658 million unused days in the US last year, the highest Project: Time Off has ever reported, surpassing the previous count of 429 million. The group notes that about 222 million of the unused vacation days – or about two full days per workers – cannot be rolled over, paid out or banked, meaning they are completely lost.

About 37% of the workers surveyed said that returning to the office only to find a pile of work was the greatest deterrent to going on vacation, while 35% said no one else can do their job, and 33% said they could simply not afford it. When it comes to what deters Americans from taking their vacation days, 58% of employees said they do not get support from their boss to take vacation time. “Employees face a culture of silence when it comes to vacation time. Nearly two-thirds (65%) report that they hear nothing, mixed messages, or discouraging messages about taking time off”.

But if you don’t want to miss out on your well-deserved vacation, the report notes that the most important thing to do is to plan in advance. More than half (51%) of people who planned ahead used all their earned vacation time, while only 39% of non-planners did the same – which means it’s time to start looking for the perfect locale for your next holiday.