Get this. In 2016, Americans left more than 662 million vacation days unused. Let that sink for in a minute. Six hundred, sixty-two, million PAID VACATION DAYS were left on the table. Does that not just sound absolutely ridiculous?

Ann delivering a speech on behalf of her company at the opening of the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Honor.

Ann delivering a speech on behalf of her company at the opening of the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Honor.

Like many career-minded people, I was a work martyr, too, and didn’t always use all of the vacation time I’d accrued. After college, I spent a few years as a newspaper reporter before starting what would be a 19-year career in the cable industry at a Fortune 500 company. I spent much of my 20s and 30s trying to move up on the corporate ladder while balancing life at home as a single mom. I remember feeling really anxious whenever I asked for time off then felt guilty when I took it, knowing that others were having to take up the slack.

Eventually, as I started advancing into more leadership roles, I got over it.

At some point, I realized that taking vacation time was actually a good thing for both me and my company. I also noticed that most of the successful leaders took real vacations, too. I began to plan vacation days at the beginning of the year and encouraged my employees to do the same.

Meghan and Ann on a vacation to Chicago in 2009.

Meghan and Ann on a vacation to Chicago in 2009.

Vacation use is in decline

Sadly, since 2000, vacation usage has been steadily declining. In 2016, workers reported taking off just 16.8 days, almost a full week less compared to the pre-2000 average (20.3 days). What’s crazy to me is that we often look for and accept jobs that have stellar benefits, including paid time off (PTO), but then for one reason or another, don’t feel like we can take it.

Plan for Vacation infographicThere are all kinds of excuses for not taking vacation. “I’ll have too much work piled up when I return.” “No one else can do my job.” “Taking time off is harder when you’re in management.” “I can’t afford a vacation.” “I want to show that I’m completely dedicated to my company.”

The truth is, you can take vacation time and you and your company are going to be better for it. Still need some convincing? Here are a few reasons we think everyone should plan for vacation.

You’ll be happier if you plan to take time off

I’m a planner. Always have been. Always will be. I like looking forward to events, vacations, and time with family and friends. When you plan your vacation days in advance, you’re more likely to actually use your PTO and you’re more likely to take longer periods of time off at once. Here’s what a Project: Time Off study found.

  • More planners report they are “very” or “extremely” happy with their relationships (83% vs. 70%), health and well-being (57% vs. 48%), company (57% vs. 51%), and job (59% vs. 50%) compared to non-planners.
  • 52 percent of planners took all of their vacation time vs. 40 percent of non-planners.
  • 75 percent of planners were more likely to take a full week of vacation time or more at a time. Non-planners take significantly fewer days—zero to three—than planners at one time (42% to 18%).

Taking vacation days helps the economy

In 2013, the U.S. Travel Association commissioned a study conducted by Oxford Economics to better understand why employees do not take paid time off. The study also looked at the U.S. economy and a range of industries would benefit if workers used more of the leave they have earned. Here’s what they found:

  • If American workers used all of their available PTO, the U.S. economy could reap an additional $160 billion in total business sales each year. This would support 1.2 million new American jobs.
  • Furthermore, this additional economic activity would generate more than $21 billion in taxes, including $11.4 billion in federal, $4.1 billion in state, and $5.5 billion in local taxes.
  • If workers took their unused time, the travel industry could benefit from 581 million additional travel days and $67 billion in additional travel spending.
We helped the economy quite a bit with stops at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and Magnolia Market last summer.

We helped the economy quite a bit with stops at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile and Magnolia Market last summer.

  • If that time off included overnight hotel stays, the resulting additional 288 room nights would boost hotel demand by 26 percent.
  • If just 20 percent of the trips include air travel, it would correspond to an additional 23 million enplanements, a 15 percent increase from estimated 2013 levels.

Did you catch that? If Americans simply took the time off that they’ve earned, our economy would gain $160 billion a year — that’s billion with a “B” — and support 1.2 million new jobs.

Taking vacation might get you a raise or promotion

That’s right, contrary to popular belief, work martyrs are actually less likely to get a raise or promotion than those who take their vacation time.

Steve had a glorious day of relaxation at Manuel Antonio Beach in Costa Rica while taking vacation days at Christmas in 2011.

Steve had a glorious day of relaxation at Manuel Antonio Beach in Costa Rica while taking vacation days at Christmas in 2011.

We’ve all worked with people who constantly stay late, come to work sick, and spend long lunch hours in the break room whining that they can’t take a vacation because there’s just too much to do. Don’t be one of them.

Here’s what we know:

  • Employees who take their vacation time are more likely than forfeiters to have been promoted within the last year (27% to 23%). They are also more likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years (84% to 78%).
  • Taking time off is associated with higher productivity, performance; more positive attitude toward work; increased happiness; improved mental and physical health; better relationships and social life.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Relaxing at Tabacon Hot Springs in Costa Rica.

Relaxing at Tabacon Hot Springs in Costa Rica.

Taking vacation means the world to those you love

For those of you who are parents, you have 18 summers with your kids. Don’t waste them.

Postcard Jar: Lessons I learned traveling with my mom

I can tell you from experience that my daughter doesn’t remember most of the birthday gifts I gave her but she does remember the time I took of work to spend quality time with her. Whether it was a day off to chaperone a school field trip, a long-weekend road trip across Nebraska, or a month-long missionary trip to Sri Lanka, it was the time off I took for that meant the most to her.

Don’t believe me? You can read her own words in this blog post she wrote called  “Lessons I learned traveling with my mom.” 

Likewise, when Steve and I were both working demanding, full-time jobs, we cherished every vacation day we got together. We took the train to Boston, cruised in Alaska with our daughter, and enjoyed weekend getaways to places like Chicago or Kansas City. We usually came back more relaxed, recharged, and reconnected.

You just gotta plan vacation time

I remember when Steve wanted to book that vacation to Alaska and I was hesitant. It was expensive and it meant I was going to have to take two full weeks (in a row) off of work.

We took a helicopter ride to the top of glacier where we were able to sip glacier water and explore the terrain.

On a cruise to Alaska, we took a helicopter ride to the top of glacier where we were able to sip glacier water and explore the terrain.

But after a lot of discussion, we decided to take the vacation days and just go. And I’m so incredibly thankful we did. One month after that vacation, I got very sick and was eventually diagnosed with a serious inflammatory disease. I had five surgeries in 17 months, had to leave my career in government relations, and since then, fatigue and pain have limited what I am able physically able to do. [Note: I am so glad I walked on a glacier when I could.]

My illness and having to leave my career has given me a new perspective. At the end of the day (and our lives) most of us are never going to look back and say, “My biggest regret is that I didn’t spend more time at the office.” My advice is this: Plan your vacations days. Take the time off. Have fun and enjoy life and the people who make it worth living.

Where are you planning to go this year?


Plan a vacation

Plan a vacation

  • Late breakfast, early lunch. Time got away from us this morning so we had a bit of a brunch. We have been on an oatmeal kick this year for several reasons. It's inexpensive, filling, tastes great, and is typically readily available at grocery stores and hotels that serve breakfast. ⁣
One cup of oatmeal cooked in water is about 160 calories (and a "green" food on our @noom weight loss app). We like to add a teaspoon of brown sugar, a little cinnamon, and lots of fresh berries. Other options are: bananas, nuts, nutmeg, diced apple, flax seed, or dried fruits. ⁣
What is your go-to breakfast these days?
  • See how we lost a combined 150 pounds in a year while traveling! It was one year ago this week that we began our healthy living journey. We are travel bloggers with a new post (just click on the handy dandy link in our bio) about what we've lost and gained in one year.
See what we've learned about calorie density, exercise and ourselves in the process. We are so thankful for the resources that have helped us, including @noom and the @mayoclinic Healthy Living Program. (This is NOT a paid partnership) We feel like new people and hope our story will encourage someone else who wants to make a healthy lifestyle change. To stay up to date with our weight loss and healthy living journey, be sure to follow @PostcardJar on social media.
  • Our daffodils are in full bloom here in Nebraska and they just make us smile. We brought the  bulbs for these flowers from Ann's first house when we got married and moved here. Ann had dug them up from her grandma Rashleigh's home in Fremont, Nebraska, and her grandma had brought them to the U.S. from a trip that she took to England. ⁣
Ann's grandma passed away several years ago. Each spring, these flowers bloom and remind Ann of her grandma and her beautiful soul.
  • We love to travel but we're staying home to flatten the curve. As travel bloggers, writers, and influencers, we all have canceled trips, postponed adventures, and rescheduled experiences. ⁣
We know this is temporary and soon enough, we'll be traveling again. But for now, we are all staying safe at home and encourage you to do the same. And while you’re home, check out some of these influencers’ feeds for travel inspiration.
  • Last week, we had the pleasure of making handmade pasta (via the internet) with our friends, Deb and Massi, who were in their home kitchen in Italy. ⁣
You can read all about it, and get the recipe, on our blog. Yep, you guessed it, the link is in our bio. ⁣
We met Deb and Massi of @italyunfiltered a few years ago when they created an amazing food and wine itinerary for us. We've remained friends and it was so good to see them, even if they were a world away.
  • We were supposed to be in Rochester, Minnesota, this week for Ann to see a cardiac sarcoidosis specialist about some recent issues with her heart. Of course, we did not travel to Rochester for her scans and doctor visits because of the coronavirus outbreak.⁣
Instead, her cardiologists called her from their homes and her scans and tests will likely be delayed until June or July. We'll keep in close touch with them if anything changes, as well. We are so grateful for all of the healthcare professionals who are continuing to work crazy hours from home as well as in our hospitals around the world.⁣
This is such an unprecedented and stressful time for all of them. Words will never be enough to convey our gratitude for the roles they are playing in the battle against this deadly virus while caring for those with other diseases and illnesses at the same time. ⁣
Every healthcare provider we've talked with in the last two weeks has had the same message for those of us who don't have to go to work at a hospital. ⁣
Just. Stay. Home.
  • Yesterday was Day 16 of social isolation for us. Because of Ann's underlying heart condition and suppressed immune system, we've cooked all our meals at home (no takeout). We've starting to get more and more creative as time has gone by. ⁣
Last night, we made chicken and shrimp vindaloo and learned online how to make homemade naan.⁣
It wan't as good as our favorite Indian restaurant, The Oven, but it did satisfy the craving we've had for Indian food. ⁣
What are you craving these days?
  • We moved our living room furniture around this week and put two swivel chairs near the sliding glass door. Each day, we take time to turn around, rest our minds, enjoy in the view, and just be. #webelieveinhome

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