Expedia’s 2013 Vacation Deprivation Study Reveals Americans Struggle With Work-Life Balance

November 18, 2013

Americans Leave Twice as Many Vacation Days Unused as Last Year, French Take All 30 Available Days, But Still Feel Vacation-Deprived

Sarah Gavin, Expedia Travel Expert

(Bellevue, WA, Monday, November 18, 2013)Expedia.com, the world’s leading online travel company, today released the results of the 2013 Vacation Deprivation study, an annual analysis of vacation habits among 8,535 employed adults across 24 countries and five continents. The study was conducted online by Harris Interactive. Now in its 13th year, the Vacation Deprivation study reveals a stark difference in attitudes towards work-life balance between countries.

Expedia first commissioned Vacation Deprivation in 2000 to examine the vacation habits of Americans. In 2005, Expedia began comparing such habits across countries. The 2013 edition is the most comprehensive to date, including 24 countries in total. Full details of the 2013 Vacation Deprivation study can be found here: http://viewfinder.expedia.com/features/2013-vacation-deprivation-study.  

The 2013 Vacation Deprivation study found that:

  • Americans treat vacations as a luxury rather than a right. Over the past year, Americans were afforded 14 days of vacation and took 10, leaving 4 days on the table, twice as many as the year prior.
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, the French lead the world in vacationing, taking all 30 possible days available to them. At the same time, a full 90% of employed French adults either strongly or somewhat agree with the sentence, “I feel vacation deprived,” well above the global average.
  • Asian and American attitudes towards vacation are similar. While the Japanese are given a relatively robust 18 vacation days (the global average is 20), they only take 7.
  • For many, the beach is just a sandy office. Many vacationers bring work with them, either by design or by habit. Americans take a more relaxed view towards work connectivity; approximately two thirds (67%) of vacationing Americans remain tethered to the office. Only 43% of Germans and 46% of the British remain tightly connected to work while on break.
  • Worldwide, 65% of people feel that their bosses are supportive of vacation. Fully three out of four (76%) American bosses are perceived by their employees to be supportive. The most supportive bosses compared to most countries are in Norway (88%), Sweden (80%), New Zealand (76%) and the United States (76%). Less than half in South Korea (44%), Italy (44%), Thailand (47%) and Germany (49%) say their bosses are supportive

The reasons that many workers leave vacation days unused are myriad. The most commonly cited reason is a desire to stockpile: 25% of those who leave vacation days unused report that they “like to accumulate vacation days for trips that I may take in the future.” Among other reasons:

  • Complex scheduling: 22% say it is “difficult to coordinate a time that works for me and my spouse/partner/family”;
  • Financial opportunism: 18% report that they can be paid for unused vacation days, a practice common in India (37%), Brazil (30%) and Spain (27%);
  • Financial worry: 16% believe they simply cannot afford a vacation;
  • Failure to plan: 15% say that if they don’t schedule vacations far enough in advance, they never seem to be able to take all of it;
  • Plain old work: 11% say that work is “their life” and that it is hard to get away;
  • Workplace insecurity: 8% report they feel “important work decisions” will be made in their absence; and
  • Mean bosses: 8% feel taking every available day will be perceived negatively.

Once they do get away, most find it easy to relax almost immediately. Worldwide, 48% say they leave work behind “as soon as I leave on vacation,” while 20% do so the moment they arrive at their destination. Only 10% of respondents say they are “never” able to fully relax on holiday. That is most true of the Japanese – 18% of Japanese workers claim they never relax with Thais (15%), Indians (13%) and South Koreans (13%) having similar sentiments.

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