Are You Using Your Vacation Time?


In a study prepared by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), they claim that we currently use less of our vacation time than any other time in the past four decades. Even worse, they claim, this Work Martyr Complex comes at a high price.

The study looks at paid time off (PTO) and, surprisingly, says that the average worker earns 21 days off each year. That is actually over four weeks of paid leave. That sounds high to me, but they say that of these paid days off, we only used around 16 of them last year.

They further conclude that if we just returned to our pre-2000 levels when Americans took 20.3 days of vacation time a year, it would mean 768 million PTO days with a $284 billion impact on the U.S. economy. The addition to U.S. travel spending alone would be $118 billion.

Many employees are allowed to roll over unused accumulated time off but this is not true for everyone. According to USTA, there was a whopping 160 million PTO days that were lost forever last year.

This study got me curious. I sheepishly admit that I probably don’t take more than a few weeks of leave each year. Yes, I try to be home for all holidays, and we do set aside a couple weeks each year for a family vacation, but other extended vacation time just doesn’t seem to typically fit into our time budget. Instead, my husband and I have our meet-ups. For example, one time he met me in Dubai, another time I met him in Hong Kong. And then there was the time we met at the LAX airport, not particularly exciting except that from there we flew together to Sydney. I have never thought of our lives as suffering, at least until I read this USTA study.

But maybe I am all wrong here so I am asking for your help. Is USTA right about this? Do you use all your vacation time?

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