By Sarah Waffle Gavin, on November 19, 2013

2013 Vacation Deprivation study

Raise your hand if you like paid time off? Alright, that’s a lot of raised hands. Okay, well one more audience question: raise your hand if you like using paid time off to go on vacation? Again, that’s a lot of raised hands to count. However, despite what would appear to be a universal love for vacationing, an increasing number of people in countries around the world are leaving significant amounts of vacation time on the table. This information about vacation habits is what we sought to analyze in this year’s Vacation Deprivation study (conducted online by Harris Interactive). Now in its 13th year, the Expedia Vacation Deprivation study revealed some definitive differences in vacation habits and work-life balance between cultures. 

When Expedia first commissioned the Vacation Deprivation study in 2000, it began as a study of vacation habits of Americans. However, the stark differences in vacation habits and life-work balance across cultures was too strong to ignore, and we expanded the study across multiple countries. This year’s study is the most comprehensive to date, featuring 24 countries all total. And while the study maintains the same general focus year after year, we never cease to be amazed by the results. 

So what did this year’s study reveal? Well the survey results among Americans would make many question American’s take on vacation. That’s because Americans left an average of four vacation days on the table in the past year, which is twice as many as the previous year. That means that Americans are only using 10 of the 14 days they are given. That’s a whopping 577,212,000 vacation days left on the table. Now that’s a lot of years of vacation!

Europeans are afforded more vacation days than any other region of the world, with many of the people in those countries using it. It is the French who lead the world in vacationing. French adults vacation three times as much as Americans, taking and using all of the 30 possible vacation days that are available to them. Also of note, the French feel vacation deprived, with 9 out of 10 French adults either strongly or somewhat in agreement that they feel vacation deprived, which is well above the global average. Norwegians, on the other hand, feel the least vacation-deprived. While 90% of French adults feel vacation-deprived, only 17% of Norwegians feel so. 

American vacation habits most closely resemble that of Asia. Japan and South Korea are the most vacation-deprived, with Japanese adults receiving 18 vacation days and using 7, and South Korean adults receiving 10 and taking 7. Similar trends follow with both Thailand and Malaysia, with Thais using 8 out of 11 vacation days, and Malaysians using 14 of 17. 

The U.S., surprisingly, has a more relaxed take on vacation, with 67% of adults staying connected while on vacation. 

As the Expedia Vacation Deprivation study revealed, for many people, vacation is just an office away from the office. While French adults may take the most vacation, they also stay the most connected to work while on vacation, with 93% of the French claiming to “constantly, regularly, or sometimes” check work emails and voicemails while on holiday. The same can be said for Mexico, Malaysia, Thailand, and India, with over 90% of those adults doing the same. The U.S., surprisingly, has a more relaxed take on vacation, with 67% of adults staying connected while on vacation. 

But the reasons for not using vacation days goes beyond reasons of budget or time. Worldwide, 65% of people feel that their bosses are supportive of vacation, with that number being a little higher in the U.S., at 76%. The most common excuse: stockpiling. 25% of those who leave vacation days unused reported that they like to accumulate vacation days for potential future trips. Other common reasons include scheduling, financial opportunism (18% report they can be paid for unused vacation days), budget, planning, too much work, workplace insecurity, and last, but not least, mean bosses.

Here at Expedia, however, we believe that vacation is not only good for the heart, soul, and mind, but also for the workplace. “No one retires wishing they’d spent more time at their desk,” says our very own John Morrey, vice president and general manager of Expedia. “There are countless reasons that vacation days go unused – failure to plan, worry, forgetfulness, you name it. But rested employees are more productive employees, so taking regular vacations may well help the company more than failing to do so.”

Download the 2013 Expedia Vacation Deprivation study.