Travel + Leisure Wants You to Actually Take Your Vacation Days This Year — and We're Here to Help (Video)

It's time to #TakeYourDays.

You don’t need us to convince you that a bucket list trip to Bali, a safari across the Masai Mara, or a surprise summer getaway to Paris are great ideas. If you’re reading Travel + Leisure, you already know that seeing the world is one of the best ways of learning about other cultures, having new culinary experiences, and forging closer relationships with your loved ones.

You surely know that taking even a single day away from the daily grind can do wonders for your productivity, stress levels, and even in-office performance.

There are quantifiable health benefits to going on vacation, too. A three-year, joint research study by Harvard Business Review and the U.S. Travel Association delved into the relationship between taking time off from work and an employee’s well-being. A survey of 5,641 Americans with full-time jobs revealed that “taking more vacation results in greater success at work as well as lower stress and more happiness at work and home.”

Oxford Economics went a step further, combining the survey results with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey to come up with a history of vacation activity. What the study found was striking: Twenty years ago, Americans took about three weeks of vacation per year, but, by 2015, that number had shrunk by a full week. More than half (55 percent) of all workers leave vacation days unused. And in 2020—when employees are more digitally connected than ever—the actual number of days we truly “take off” is probably even smaller than ever.

More than half of all workers leave vacation days unused

For women in particular, the gap between wanting to take a vacation and actually making it happen is sadly huge: More than half of women in a recent poll by Meredith Corporation, T+L’s parent company, said that planning a vacation would help them “feel more balanced and less overwhelmed.” Yet only a third of respondents said they’d actually budget the time to make travel plans in 2020, preferring to focus on exercising and financial health instead.

Thing is, travel is proven to help reduce burnout and improve your emotional and even physical wellbeing. That Harvard Business Review study also found that “if you plan ahead, create social connections on the trip, go far from your work, and feel safe, 94 percent of vacations have a good [return on investment] in terms of your energy and outlook upon returning to work.” Vacations can even boost your financial life: While there’s a common belief that working “harder” by not taking days off will lead to recognition and the opportunity for raises and promotions, the research says that’s not the case: Those who took fewer than 10 vacation days per year had a roughly one-in-three (34.6 percent) likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period, while people who took more than 10 of their vacation days had a two-in-three (65.4 percent) chance. Science tells us that taking paid vacation days translates to higher work performance, better pay, and a more energized work force!

Science tells us that taking paid vacation days translates to higher work performance, better pay, and a more energized work force.

Another research study, this one by AARP, demonstrated the physical health benefits of travel. Slightly more than half of respondents, 51 percent, said they experienced better sleep after time off, and 54 percent noticed improved emotional well-being. About a third, 30 percent, reported better mental clarity, and half of the 714 respondents noticed increased energy.

One young adult walking on Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland, UK countryside.
Getty Images

So, what do all these stats show us? Everyone—even our bosses!—agree that taking time away from work is valuable. The problem isn’t lack of desire or of understanding. It’s far simpler: Who, in 2020, actually has the time to sit down and plan that trip?

Well, we’re here to tell you that you do. And Travel + Leisure wants to help. That’s why, this spring, we’re encouraging everyone to #TakeYourDays. We’re rolling out a series of guides that will help you plan your next day trip, take a long weekend, explore a national park, jet off to Europe, or even reset your life with a healthy dose of self care. (And if you’re not sure where to go, well, we can help with that, too.)

And for anyone out there who’s thinking, It all sounds great, but how am I gonna pull this off with only a few vacation days? We’ve got you: Our editors and writers will be sharing our travel hacks and strategies that can help you turn even just a few days off into travel magic.

“After years of traveling, on everything from long-weekend getaways with girlfriends to epic, adventure-filled, jam-packed trips halfway around the world, I can attest that I’ve never regretted a single vacation, a single moment,” says Jacqui Gifford, Travel + Leisure’s editor in chief. “Time away with loved ones, for me, is restorative.”

Wherever you end up going, don’t forget to tag your photos with #TakeYourDays. We’ll be doing the same—and feeling great about it.

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