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Americans Leaving Vacation Time on the Table

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As the end of the year approaches, some workers are scrambling to use up their paid vacation days and 20% will fail to do so.

This is according to the Priceline Work-Life Balance Report, which asked 1,003 Americans to analyze how they used (or misused) their time off from work in 2018, and what travel priorities they planned to emphasize in 2019 with their vacation time. The report showed that working Americans put their vacation time to good use — traveling extensively throughout the country with ambitious travel plans in store for 2019. Yet many regularly fail to use all their available vacation days.

“Too often, people begin the year expecting to take full advantage of the vacation time they’re given, but find themselves scrambling to use those days as December approaches,” said Brett Keller, Priceline’s CEO. “Our advice is to treat your paid time off like any other work project. Plan ahead, keep track of the days available and don’t let the year end with that time unused. Vacations don’t have to be complex or expensive. Even a night relaxing at a nearby hotel is time well spent.”

American Workers Desire More Relaxation, Less Regret
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the need for relaxation ranks highly for working Americans. 85% of survey respondents cited a desire to disconnect and relax as their vacation priority. When asked specifically what kind of trip they need after the “events of 2018,” “relaxation” rose to the top of the list.

Nearly a third of responding workers (29%) report having “regrets” about how they spent their paid time off in 2018, but the study suggested that they are optimistic about making better use of vacation days in 2019. In particular, six in 10 (59%) plan to take more time off next year.

Half of American workers plan to take more solo trips, while just under a third (31%) intend to travel internationally. 35% of study respondents intend to take event-related trips, such as to music or food festivals.

Wedding Regrets
One particular frustration voiced by American workers was the time spent traveling to wedding-related activities, including bachelor/bachelorette parties and the weddings themselves. One in five respondents (19%) used their work vacation time for such activities in 2018. Of those who did, four in 10 (41%) cited it as their top regret. And more than a quarter of respondents (28%) intend to use fewer vacation days for such events in 2019.

Domestic Bliss
Among survey respondents, the most commonly visited leisure destination in 2018 was within easy driving distance of home. “Staycations” topped the field as the most-taken trip (37%), followed by beach vacations (31%).

Travel within the United States was the most popular way to use paid time off. When presented with the hypothetical option of using vacation time to visit anywhere in the world before the end of the year, respondents first choice (37%) was to travel domestically. Europe was the second-most desired destination (25%) followed by Australia (13%) and South America (10%).

Within America, Florida was the most popular vacation destination, visited by 23% of traveling respondents. California and New York round out the top three (16% and 13%, respectively). The same three states top the list of desired domestic destinations in 2019, in the same order.

Among the most surprising findings of the Priceline Work-Life Balance Report was the relatively small number of respondents who reported “faking illness” to get an extra day off. 27% admitted to this practice when asked by Morar HPI pollsters. 18% invented excuses related to their children or partner.


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