The real cost of not using your vacation days

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We have a problem.

In a country where a strong work ethic is highly regarded, it makes sense that most employees in the US don't cash in on all of their earned vacation days.

But what most don't know is that neglecting to take full advantage of their leisure time is actually costing their employees and the economy big time.

1982 and 2010 were the two years with the highest reported numbers of unemployment, and the average number of vacation days taken per year were 20.9 and 17.6 respectively.

But in 2015, which had nearly a 4 percent decrease in the number of unemployed Americans, the average number of vacation days taken during the year was only 16.2.

Check out these tips for a frugal vacation getaway:

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how to save money on a weekend get away
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how to save money on a weekend get away

Avoid peak weekends
Prices for everything will be higher (especially lodging) and places will be more crowded. You could end up paying more for a getaway that you enjoy less, thanks to long lines and wait times.
 

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Choose a location where outdoor activities are common
A rural location is ideal for things like bike riding, hiking and exploring--all of which are free!

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Don’t fall for the shorter time, spend more each day trap
Don't budget the same amount for a weekend trip as you would for a full vacation--staying somewhere for a longer vacation will probably cost you more overall.
 

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Take advantage of local deals online
Be sure to visit sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, which specialize in subsidizing area-specific deal, for fun things to do in the area on the weekend you're visiting.

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Bring pets if you have them
The cost of a pet sitter or kennel for the weekend can be costly. Save by bringing your animals along.
 

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Buy admission tickets in bundles
Many websites and companies will bundle tickets together for several attractions in the area, so the overall price is almost always cheaper than buying tickets individually.

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Stay somewhere close to the main attractions
It will cut down on transportation costs and save you time, while ensuring you get the most out of your short time away.

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Avoid chain hotels 
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In total, Americans racked up 658 million unused vacation days, with 222 million of those days being completely lost (as in they can't roll over or provide any sort of benefit).

So what does this mean financially?

Ironically, by choosing not to indulge in their much-needed time off, Americans are essentially working free, unpaid days.

SEE ALSO: 6 biggest vacation expenses and how to get them for less

Translation: Last year, Americans cost employers $61.4B in forfeited benefits by actively choosing to not take advantage of their time off.

These unused days also account for a loss of billions of dollars of potential for the US economy ($223 billion to be exact).

And not only are those unused days off costing employers, but they're costing individual employees as well.

The study found:

"Employees who take 10 or less days of vacation time are less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took 11 days or more."

Long story short: step away from your desk and go book that flight!

RELATED: The best jobs if you like to travel

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The best jobs if you want to travel
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The best jobs if you want to travel

Flight Attendant 
Starting Annual Salary: $38,000

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English Teacher
Starting Annual Salary: $26,621

Photo credit: Getty

Cruise Ship Captain
Starting Annual Salary: $41,809

Photo creditL Getty

Photographer
Starting Annual Salary: $20,578

Photo credit: Getty

Cocktail Mixer
Starting Annual Salary: $30,000

Photo credit: Getty

Travel Writer
Starting Annual Salary: $30,384

Photo credit: Getty

Reporter
Starting Annual Salary: $24,031

Photo credit: Getty

Roadie (Stage Crew)
Starting Annual Salary:
 $21, 218

Photo credit: AP

Archaeologist 
Annual Starting Salary: $36,876 

Photo credit: Getty

Wedding Planner 
Starting Annual Salary: $20,640 

Photo credit: Getty

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