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Despite improvement in the amount of vacation days Americans used last year, more than half (54%) of employees still left time on the table in 2016. The 662 million days left unused last year—and their implications for individual employees and workplaces alike—are not felt evenly across America. There are profound geographical differences in U.S. states and cities that influence employees’ time off perceptions and behavior. 

Project: Time Off’s new report, Under-Vacationed America: An Analysis of the States and Cities That Need to Take a Day, provides a look at the vacation behavior in all 50 states and the 30-largest metro areas in the country. Idaho, New Hampshire, and Alaska hold the top spots for the states with the most workers leaving vacation unused. Looking at cities, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, CA, and Tampa, FL are home to some of the most under-vacationed employees in America. 

“Across America, vacation has become the unintended victim of a 24/7 work culture, but there are specific parts of the country living on the edge of burnout where employees particularly need to take time off,” said Project: Time Off Senior Director and report author Katie Denis. “The states and cities that have the dubious honor of being at the top of the unused vacation list would do well to realize that employees who take time off are happier, healthier, and more productive.” 

Unfortunately, many of the areas seeing the worst vacation usage are home to cultures where employees report hearing negative or mixed messages about time off. Where just 17 percent of workers nationally say their company sends negative or mixed messages, the majority of the states in the top ten for leaving unused vacation are more likely to agree, most notably Alaskan workers at 28 percent. 

There are some states and cities that are better at vacation usage. Maine, Hawaii, and Arizona top the list of states with employees who are least likely to leave vacation time on the table. For cities, Pittsburgh, PA, Chicago, IL, and Phoenix, AZ are home to employees who take more of their earned time off.  

“The places where employees use the most vacation tend to have work cultures that encourage time off, enjoy lower fear and anxiety about being away, and are less susceptible to the stress and pressures of being away,” added Denis. 

Nationwide, U.S. workers took an average of 16.8 days of vacation in 2016, turning the trend line in a positive direction after losing almost a week of vacation time since 2000. This was up from 16.2 days in 2015. This, however, is a far cry from the 20.3 day long-term average from 1976 to 2000.

While Americans are taking more vacation time, there is also a slight increase in the number of days left unused. In 2016, 662 million vacation days were left on the table, four million days more than 2015. However, forfeited vacation days—time that cannot be rolled over, banked, or paid out—are down eight percent to 206 million forfeited days. Those forfeited days have a cost. Last year, employees gave up $66.4 billion in lost benefits, which translates to an average of $604 per employee. 

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Methodology

GfK conducted an online survey from January 26-February 20, 2017 with 7,331 American workers, age 18+, who work more than 35 hours a week and receive paid time off from their employer. These data were weighted and scaled. The geographic data below represents all 50 U.S. states and the 30-largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the country, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. For a complete methodology, please see the report.



The growth of domestic travel is central to U.S. Travel’s overall mission. We support policies to improve travel infrastructure and national parks, among others, and foster programs and research that encourage increased domestic travel.

In the fall of 2018, U.S. Travel folded its domestic leisure-focused Project: Time Off initiative into an expanded public affairs portfolio, enhancing the association’s advocacy and research on domestic travel. Analysis that informs and advances this area of focus—including tracking America’s vacation usage and its benefits to travelers—is included in U.S. Travel’s research and messaging platforms for our members’ use and in support of activations such as National Plan for Vacation Day.


 

U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry. Travelers in the United States are estimated to spend $1.1 trillion in 2022 (still 10% below 2019 levels). U.S. Travel advocates for policies to accelerate an even recovery across the travel industry and restore economic and job growth for this essential contributor to our nation’s success. Visit ustravel.org for information and recovery-related data.

 

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