New Survey Reports 4 in 10 Americans Leave Paid Vacation Days on the Table

Alamo's Family Vacation Survey reveals how using your vacation days can improve your life and work.

Ask ten people, and all ten will agree: vacation is a great concept. So why do so many people leave vacation time unused?

New research from Alamo Rent A Car provides insight into Americans’ work habits before, during and after vacations. The survey* found that 40 percent of American workers who received paid vacation as a job benefit did not use all of their available days in 2014. When asked why, 47 percent reported they were too busy at work. In fact, 19 percent reported leaving five days or more of paid vacation unused last year. That’s a whole week that could be spent basking in the sun or exploring the Louvre!

The study also found that while parents are more likely to get paid vacation than non-parents (59 percent vs. 47 percent), they tend to take shorter vacations, with 37 percent reporting their family vacations typically last five days or less (vs. 26 percent of non-parents).

Even younger Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to leave work behind while vacationing.Thirty-four percent of millennials reported that they worked every day of their vacations, and felt less productive when they returned. Interestingly, Americans who used all of their paid vacation were more likely to unplug while on their trips (54 percent vs. 37 percent) with 40 percent stating they are more productive when they return to work.

When employees don’t use their paid time off, research shows it affects their happiness, health and performance at work, all of which can undermine company success.

Managers are encouraging their employees to take their vacation days because that unused time also creates a huge liability on the balance sheet. An analysis conducted by Oxford Economics last year found that U.S. companies carried forward $65.6 billion in accrued PTO costs in just the last year. Further, the average cost of accrued time per employee is $1,898. For companies with more than 500 employees, the cost per employee is markedly higher at $2,609. According to study author Adam Sacks of Oxford Economics, “Unused vacation time is a burden for American companies as well as the economy. Our previous research shows that if Americans took just one more day of vacation, it would amount to a $73 billion boon to the U.S. economy.”

All of which just goes to show that vacation is indeed a great concept – but an even better reality!

*The 2015 Alamo Family Vacation Survey* was conducted from Jan. 20- 23, 2015, with 1,005 adults from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey was fielded using the Research Now online consumer panel. At the time of the survey, participants had to have been at least 18 years of age or older, be married, have a domestic partnership or have a child under the age of 22, and taken one or more trips with their immediate family and/or their extended family in the past five years. Age data was weighted to the adult population based on U.S. Census data.