Many American Workers Afraid to Take Vacation

Afraid to Take Vacation The culmination of the July 4 holiday frequently marks the beginning of the busy summer travel season in the U.S., and the time when many Americans plan to take time off from work.

The third quarter, which includes July, August and September, is by far the most popular travel time among Americans, according to AAA. Travel volume on average is more than 15 percent higher than in the final three months of the year, the next busiest quarter, the group says.

Though many U.S. workers at least plan to take vacation, the sputtering economic recovery means fewer are using the days allotted them. Citing financial constraints and demanding work schedules, some employees are forgoing vacation plans altogether, a recent survey shows.

Nearly a quarter of full-time workers said they couldn't afford to take a vacation, up three percentage points from last year, while another 12 percent said that although they could afford to take a vacation, they had no plans to take one. Further, of those who planned to take vacation, 30 percent said that they would stay in contact with their employers while away.

Jonathan Theodore, an insurance consultant who runs his own business in Suffern, N.Y., says his growing business means he's traveling more for work, leaving less time for traditional week-long vacations.

But he and his family are compensating by taking shorter, more frequent trips. Those include a recent long weekend in Lake George, a resort in New York state's Adirondack Mountains that's about a three-hour drive from Theodore's home.

"It's hard to just take an entire week off," says Theodore, who is married and has a 4-year-old daughter. "But we also value our family time."

Instead of taking a week off, he says, the family can take three long weekends for about the same or less money, after factoring in costs for air travel and hotels.

Theodore's strategy can also be used to ensure employees use all the vacation days granted them by employers. CareerBuilder's survey showed that 16 percent of workers polled surrendered vacation days last year because they didn't feel they had time to use them.

Are you taking a vacation this year?
Yes, I do every year1 (25.0%)
Yes, first one in years1 (25.0%)
No, but I usually do1 (25.0%)
No, I rarely do1 (25.0%)

By using up a day here and there, workers can ensure they use up their vacation days and not risk losing them, should their employer not permit them to be rolled over into the next year.

Americans' reluctance to take time off isn't just a product of their need to keep producing. It's also driven by lax regulations governing mandated time off from work.

The U.S. is only one of nine nations worldwide that doesn't require employers to provide annual paid leave, Mother Jones magazine recently noted. Many countries stipulate that companies grant employees at least two weeks paid leave, although others, including Russia, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Finland and much of Western Europe require workers to have four or more weeks each year.

The U.S. is also among only 16 nations that doesn't require a set amount of time off from week to week. Much of the world requires workers be given at least 24 hours off from their jobs, although a few require as much as 37 to 48 hours off.

Further, despite the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, which allows employees to take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave from work and still return to their jobs, the United States is only one of six nations that doesn't require paid maternity leave. By contrast, Russia mandates that women be given 140 days of paid maternity leave -- 70 days before and 70 days after birth, according to

Though paid time off of any form isn't required by federal law, many companies of course provide it as part of an overall benefits program because they want to.

In offering such benefits voluntarily, employers seek in part to fend off legislation mandating compensated leave, says Laura Hertzog, director of Human Capital Development Programs at Cornell University. Offering paid time off as a perk also gives companies the flexibility to withdraw the benefit if it becomes unworkable or too costly.

"Rather than rights, they're privileges," she says, which can be revoked at any time. And that may be never so true as today. With the nation's unemployment rate stuck stubbornly high, employers -- who have access to an ample pool of talent -- have little reason to offer additional perks.

Even after the economy improves, there's little reason to expect the U.S. to adopt laws mandating paid leave like those of other Western nations.

The current lack of political will or power means that "changes to employment policies in the United States are likely to be incremental," Hertzog says.

With many Americans too fearful of taking vacation, lest they find themselves without a job upon their return, laws mandating paid vacation and other time off might help to allay some of that concern. For now, however, there's no rest for the weary.

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We usually just take a day trip to a theme park once each summer. Due to rising prices and the security checks and scans, we refuse to go by plane anywhere. I'm choose not to subject myself, and moreso, my young daughter, to some of the searches that have been taking place at the airports.

July 11 2011 at 2:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nama holston

No, I can't take a vacation this year, as I did not last year nor the year before. Having worked for an air line in the past I did travel a lot, but now I am on SS and unable to take vacations for lack of funds. I did plan ahead, consequently I own my home, have no bills that aren't paid off at the end of the month, and rarely buy anything other that groceries. With taxes, gas prices, and insurance, additionally the threat of reducing Medicare, which I pay for every month, there is nothing with which to take a vacation, however I am willing to give up a small portion if everyone else, including politicians, would do the same proportionally.

July 11 2011 at 12:12 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

My love bird and I are retired and yes we go south every winter and back for the spring of the year.

July 10 2011 at 11:53 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I'm 70 yrs old and still working to pay taxes and medical insurance so I can stay in my home. The government should be helping with tax cuts for us instead of helping all these pregnant young girls that have babies because welfare will help them no matter how stupid they are .Babies is the meal ticket !!!even when their is so much birth control. ! Why should they go to work!! They also go out weekends and take vacations, What is wrong with this picture.!!!

July 10 2011 at 11:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I have always been able to take at least three vacations a year and I am so thankful to be so blessed that my family business makes this possible.

July 10 2011 at 10:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I do not see the cruise ships being dry docked.

July 10 2011 at 10:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm surprised nobody mentioned family vacations where you go camping. It's not very expensive, and it's a lot of fun. The funniest part is I won a ton of free camping gear one year when I entered a contest. I got all the gear to go camping out in my garage. I even have a gas grill and picnic supplies.

I remember when I was a kid, some of my folks didn't take any vacations. Not that they couldn't afford it, believe me they could afford to travel the world, it's just that they were from the depression era and wanted to hoard every dollar they had. So they never took a vacation. In turn my uncle would take me camping because he felt sorry that nobody took me anywhere. I have the most beautiful memories of going camping with him every summer. He didn't have much money because he was in college, but we had a lot of fun.

Even if you don't have much money, you could try buying used camping gear and a little gas grill, paper plates and take your kids camping. I had so much fun as a kid doing that. In fact those were my only vacations when I was small. It was camping with him. In a heart beat I'd go camping, hiking and canoeing. It's so much fun, and it is very cheap.

July 10 2011 at 9:53 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

No working person is going to eat out breakfast-lunch every day, buy new clothes 4x yearly, hang out at bars, play the lottery every day, and expect a new car every 3 years and go on a vacation yearly. (As I said a working person)

July 10 2011 at 9:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a truck driver,we no longer get "paid vacation". Instead, we get vacation pay, a check for a 40 hour week on the aniversary of our hire date,but they don't take out Health Insurance form this check. It comes out twice the next paycheck that is worked. And at $102.00 a week for health Insurance,it's like working a fifty hour week and getting paid for 40. So, with this arrangement, the only time I can take a week off is the week before I get my vacation pay. With an erratically irregular work schedule and any where between a $5- 500 difference between pay checks it's impossible to budget and almost as impossible to go a week without a pay check. So, a lot of truck drivers just don't take vacation. This April was the first vacation I've had in 3 years and I had to fight and almost get fired to take that.
So remember this the next time you try to cut off a big truck because you think it's going to slow or blocking your view....

July 10 2011 at 9:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Lack of time or money sure doesn't seem to be bothering the people heading up to Estes Park, CO and Rocky Mountain National Park. In fact, there are so many tourists in town, that it is downright crowded, even in the Safeway Grocery store at mid morning.. I wish they would all go home and stay home!!!

July 10 2011 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to MYRNA's comment

I know. I see plenty of people taking vacations. As a matter of fact, my other part-time business is watching pets while people go on vacation. I think the people are here are just frustrated and want to complain. It's a good place to vent the frustrations of life. I think mostly the complainers come on here cause they have nothing better to do. Other people are enjoying their lives.

July 10 2011 at 9:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, aren't you just a ray of sunshine!!! Bet the tourism welcome center would love to have you work for them huh?

July 11 2011 at 2:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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