Are you ready to pack up the minivan for a two-week family vacation this summer?
As the summer vacation season gets underway, the demands of work, family dynamics and kids’ activity schedules have diminished that American tradition of multiweek family getaways. Whether by choice or financial circumstance, vacations these days are just as likely to be taken a day or two at a time, or at any time of the year – or not taken at all.
At Perceptive Software in Lenexa, Kan., which has an unusually flexible time-off policy, Ben Keefe has used part of what used to be called vacation time to train for the Boston Marathon and coach his daughter’s soccer team.
Co-worker Emily Perkins, who describes herself as a working mom with a toddler, says maybe one-fourth of her paid time off goes to “using time to do things around the house and other things I can’t get to on regular weekends.”
Paid vacations in America – unlike in many other countries – are a voluntary benefit; employers aren’t required to offer them.
A report last year by the Center for Economic and Policy Research noted that the sum of the average paid vacation and paid holidays provided to private-sector U.S. workers – 16 days in total – would not meet even the minimum required by law in 19 other economically developed countries.
And when American employers do offer paid vacations, they have the right to restrict the times they can be taken, to require advance notice and to set “use it or lose it” or rollover rules that let employees carry over unused time to the next year.
A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management last year indicates that the concept of vacation time has been upended in many workplaces. Only slightly more than half of organizations still differentiate between vacations and other time off. Nearly half now have “paid time off” plans that give employees more discretion.
A separate survey, released last month by Robert Half, found that four in 10 employees say they don’t use all the time off allotted them. Employees said the two big reasons were wanting to save the time off in case they needed it later and feeling like they had too much work to do.
The latter reason has cropped up more often in the last decade, a legacy of the downsized workforce in many organizations.
A recent trend report on the Have Family Will Travel blog also noted that some families have dropped one- or two-week vacations in favor of family sabbaticals in which family members put their regular work and school routines on hold for extended travel or to do a service project for a few months or even a year.
And one of the most notable trends, the report said, is that grandparents with time and money are planning trips and taking their adult children and grandchildren on getaways.