Distracted on Vacation?: Alamo’s Annual Survey Shows Work and Social Media Pressures Affecting Family Travelers

Fewer U.S. Workers Report Unplugging from Work and Social Media during Family Vacations


Alamo 2018 Family Vacation Study Press Release

ST. LOUIS – March 15, 2018 – Vacations allow workers to escape the daily grind, unwind and spend much-needed time with families and friends. But with today’s tech-driven world contributing to an “always on” expectation to check emails, text messages and social media, U.S. workers are finding it increasingly difficult to unplug and relax – even when vacationing with their families.

New research* from the fourth annual 2018 Alamo Rent A Car Family Vacation Survey shows significantly fewer workers prefer to completely unplug from work while on a family vacation. Roughly just one third (37 percent) of Americans report unplugging from work completely while taking time off, a significant drop from 53 percent in the 2017 Alamo Family Vacation Survey. More than half (59 percent) say they put pressure on themselves to work during family vacations, with 57 percent saying they do so to avoid coming back to a mountain of work.

But work isn’t the only vacation distraction – social media is also to blame. Over a third (37 percent) of social media users admit they use social media while on family vacations the same or more than usual, and 16 percent even admit they could never unplug from social media during a family vacation. The need to constantly check posts, texts and newsfeeds has its consequences: nearly one in four people (23 percent) say that they’ve seen social media ruin a family vacation. Overall, more than two out of five people (43 percent) say they wish they could take a vacation from social media.

Millennials Feel Impact the Most

This social media distraction takes its biggest toll on millennials. While 36 percent of millennials have seen social media ruin a family vacation, 22 percent say they could never unplug from social media while on vacation. In fact, 33 percent of millennials feel pressured to post photos on social media to show they’re having a good time, with 26 percent even confessing they grow concerned when their social media followers don’t like or comment on their family vacation posts. In light of its impact on vacationing millennials, it is perhaps not surprising that 53 percent actually wish they could take a vacation from social media.

The research also indicates that social media has an impact on where people go and what they do on vacation. For approximately two in five U.S. families (39 percent), photos they’ve seen on social media have influenced their vacation plans. This number skyrockets for millennials, with two-thirds (60 percent) admitting that they’ve decided where to go or what to do on vacation based on social media posts. But others’ photos are only one way people choose their destination – over one third of millennials (34 percent) and 19 percent of men say they’ve decided where to go or what to do on vacation based on how good their photos would look on social media.

The survey also revealed that many travelers feel pressure to post updates to social media while on vacation. Of U.S. families, 20 percent say they sometimes feel pressured to post photos of their vacation on social media to show they’re having a good time, and more than a fourth (27 percent) admit they post their vacation photos on social media simply to show off the places they visited and the things they saw or did. Parents are more likely (25 percent) to admit they’ve felt pressured to post, in addition to men (23 percent).

“Our research shows that the majority of U.S. families believe the biggest benefit of taking a family vacation is spending time together, said Rob Connors, vice president of brand marketing for Alamo Rent A Car. “But many people aren’t taking full advantage of their relaxation and quality time together on vacation because they’re distracted by work and, more recently, by social media.”

The inability to unplug on vacation can also lead workers to take fewer vacations, overall. According to research from Project: Time Off, a national initiative that researches Americans' vacation habits, nearly eight in ten (78 percent) Americans say they are more comfortable taking vacation if they know they can access work. Unfortunately, the more they access work, the less vacation they take: 62 percent of employees who check in frequently while on vacation leave time off unused, compared to those who check in occasionally (57 percent) or unplug (52 percent). “Vacation can provide the quantity of time that quality relationships require,” said Katie Denis, vice president of Project: Time Off. “But if you are vacationing with your job, you’re missing out on the benefits that travel provides.”

“At Alamo, we’re committed to helping families plan and enjoy their vacations by providing both a great car rental experience as well as helpful tips and advice through our website’s Scenic Route travel hub,” Connors added. “Ultimately, we hope to inspire families to really take the time to unplug and focus on what matters most – one another.”

Results from the 2018 Alamo Family Vacation Survey identified a number of other workplace perceptions about vacations and travel planning trends, including:

Vacation Shaming in the Workplace on the Decline

Since 2016, the Alamo Family Vacation Survey has tracked the rise of “vacation shaming” in the workplace, wherein co-workers, supervisors or employers make workers feel shame or guilt for taking time off to go on vacation. However, the 2018 survey results indicate significant improvements:

  • In 2018, 41 percent of workers said they have felt vacation shamed – a decline from 2017 (49 percent).
  • Year over year, millennials are significantly less likely to say they’ve ever felt vacation shame (38 percent in 2018 vs. 68 percent in 2017).
  • In the 2018 Alamo Family Vacation Survey, significantly fewer respondents thought their co-workers were serious when they engaged in vacation-shaming activities (41 percent, compared with 53 percent in the 2017 survey).
  • Fewer than one in five (17 percent) say feeling vacation shamed might keep them from planning or going on a vacation, down significantly from the 2017 survey (25 percent).
  • In the 2018 study, significantly fewer workers admit that they’ve vacation shamed their co-workers (27 percent in 2018 vs. 36 percent in 2017).

Workers Planning Vacations Further Ahead of Time, but Still Leaving Days Unused

  • Significantly more families are planning their vacation 5+ months in advance (43 percent), compared to last year (32 percent).
  • However, just over half (51 percent) of workers who receive paid vacation used all of their vacation days.
  • Who uses more of their vacation days?
    • Fifty-one percent of millennials left vacation days unused, which is a significant decrease from the 2017 study (60 percent). However, this still outpaces the 40 percent of non-millennials who had unused vacation days.
    • Once again, dads are more likely than moms to have unused vacation days (57 percent of dads vs. 40 percent of moms).
  • Significantly fewer workers say they feel the need to justify their vacation days.
    • Only 40 percent of workers surveyed in 2018 ever feel the need to justify why they’re using vacation days vs. 48 percent in 2017.

The Majority of Moms Need a Post-Vacation Vacation

One in four (26 percent) people admit that vacationing with family is more exhausting than relaxing:

  • The majority of families (85 percent) say they’ve sometimes felt they needed time off to “recover” after a vacation.
  • Parents – especially moms – feel like they need additional time off after a family vacation. They’re slightly more likely than dads to say they’d use this time off to do chores.
    • Ninety-three percent of moms have felt the need for additional time off to recover from family vacation.
    • Eighty-eight percent of dads also feel this way.
  • Non-millennials (77 percent) and those who don’t pressure themselves to work on vacation (75 percent) are more likely to find family vacations to be relaxing.

Alamo is a value-oriented, internationally recognized brand serving the rental needs of airport leisure travelers. For in-depth results of the 2018 Alamo Family Vacation Survey, visit Alamo.com.

* The 2018 Alamo Family Vacation Survey was conducted from Jan. 2-4, 2018, with 1,501 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/in 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 and gender data is reflective to the adult population based on U.S. Census data. Millennials are defined as 21 to 36 year olds.

About Alamo Rent A Car

Founded in 1974, Alamo Rent A Car – the largest car rental provider to international travelers visiting North America – offers low rental rates and a hassle-free customer experience at the most popular travel destinations throughout the world. In addition, Alamo customers in the U.S. are able to conveniently choose their own vehicles, based upon their advance reservation and requested car class, and then simply drive away from the airport. Alamo is a recognized technology innovator, with the industry’s first online check-in system since 2005, as well as more than 225 self-service kiosks at 71 U.S. locations, which earned it the “Extra Mile Award” from Budget Travel magazine in 2007. Alamo also serves as the official rental car of Walt Disney World® Resort and Disneyland® Resort.

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