American Vacation Time Doesn't Add Up

It's so beautiful outside that spending the day in a windowless cube would be utter torture -- so why not take the day off? If you're like many Americans, you're probably wasting a few vacation days anyway.

A survey by online travel service found that 31 percent of U.S. workers don't always take all of their vacation days, and Americans give back an average of three vacation days each year.

"This year alone, the value of the vacation days that Americans are projected to give back is estimated at almost $54 billion," says Kari Swartz, product manager for leisure travel.

Almost half of workers surveyed say they come back from vacation refreshed and rejuvenated, so why aren't they using all their time off? Some say they would rather get money back for their unused days. Others say they planning ahead is too much of a hassle, some busy workers say they just can't get away.

Americans also start out with fewer vacation days -- 12 on average -- than workers in any other country surveyed.

Here's a look at how workers in other nations fared:


The French take their vacations seriously. Working French adults get an average of 39 vacation days, and 45 percent plan to take at least one three- to four-week vacation.


Germans receive an average of 27 vacation days per year, and 56 percent say they use every one of them. And once Germans make their vacation plans, they stick to them: 78 percent of employed adults have not cancelled or postponed vacation plans due to work.


Workers in the Netherlands receive an average of 25 vacation days a year, but they can't find time to use them all. More Dutch workers (42 percent) return vacation days than any other country surveyed, including the United States, giving back about two days on average.

Great Britain

British workers have the longest work week in Europe and with 23 vacation days, the shortest vacations. As a result, they report feeling overworked: Three-quarters say their weekends or days off are too short and 40 percent would sacrifice a day's pay for an extra day off.


Canadians receive an average of 20 days of vacation ? easily beating out their neighbors to the south, and more than half do use all of their days. Still, workers in Canada return an average of three days each year ? as many as Americans do.

Making the most of your time off

Even when Americans do get away, they're still feeling chained to the e-leash, according to's annual vacation survey. One-third of workers surveyed say they will be checking in with the office while on vacation.

Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources for, offers these tips to help workers fully use and enjoy their time away from the office:

  • Start early. Give plenty of notice for vacation dates.
  • Schedule vacations before large projects begin or after they are completed.
  • If required, cross-train other workers to help out in your absence.
  • Alert co-workers to your absence by giving an alternative contact via voice mail or automated response on e-mail. If people know you are not checking in for a week or two, they are inclined to seek help with someone else while you are gone.
  • If your job is mission-critical, leave a number for emergency use only.
  • Set an example: Supervisors should lead the way by taking scheduled vacations without workplace interruptions.

Next: 15 Strange Excuses for Calling In Sick >>

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