By Christie Hudson, on October 16, 2018

How to use your vacation time

We all love vacations, but are we any good at them? It turns out Americans aren’t making the most of their annual leave. According to Expedia’s 18th annual study on Vacation Deprivation, employed adults in the U.S. continue to leave millions of unused vacation days on the table, and it’s taking a toll.

American vacation deprivation levels are at a five-year high, and it’s no wonder when you realize that the U.S. took the fewest number of vacation days globally in 2018, tying for last place with Japan and Thailand.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The good news is that the barriers to taking your well-deserved vacation aren’t as insurmountable as you think. Whether it’s budget, time, workload or lack of vacation inspiration that’s keeping you chained to your desk, we want to help. That’s why we’ve put together a handy how-to guide to making the most of your paid time off.

Maximize your time:

Getting away for a week or more is what vacation dreams are made of, but let’s face it—it’s not always possible. Luckily, the study shows that 2-3-day trips can offer all the same emotional and mental benefits as a longer vacation. Two ways to make a quick trip happen:

  • Piggyback on Public Holidays:
    Do more than just enjoy the long weekend when the next public holiday comes around. Building in a few days paid time off either side of public holidays means you could spend eight or nine days away for as little as three or four vacation days—talk about beating the system!
  • Book a Staycation or Micro-break:
    If you know you’re going to be crunched for vacation time for a while, but also can’t bear the thought of months-on-end without respite, choose a destination closer to home. A staycation in your own city can be a chance to discover new neighborhoods or the latest local attractions. If you want to get out of town, hop in the car for a short road trip to the next county or city over. Building these mini breaks into your vacation plan for the year will keep you feeling refreshed and relaxed all year long.

Get great value:

There’s an art to getting great value on vacation, but whether you’re planning months out or at the last minute, it’s not as hard as you think.

  • Travel Off-Season:
    Get more bang for your buck by booking your next trip outside the peak travel periods—school breaks, holidays, summer, etc. Prices drop significantly during the shoulder season, particularly at destinations like beach and ski resorts. You’ll save some money, skip the crowds and likely have more options when it comes to hotel availability. A lot of destinations also add incentives to off-peak travelers like discount attractions entry or special offers.
  • Comparison shop:
    Something as simple as the way you book your trip can save you money. You’ll unlock extra savings—on average up to $600—just by bundling a hotel and flight together on Expedia. Or if you want to space your flight and hotel bookings out a bit, you can use our Add-on Advantage to book a flight, car or package and then come back later and unlock 43 percent off select hotels right up until the day you travel. Don’t forget to check your mobile app for mobile-only deals too.
  • Shop Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals:
    While this retail-mania weekend has historically meant discounts on electronics and other consumer goods, it’s also one of the best times of the year to book travel. Expedia will run its biggest sale of the year, with exclusive coupons and deep discounts on hotels, flights, packages, cruises and more. It’s a great time to lock in plans for 2019 and start off the year on the right side of vacation deprivation.

Be budget savvy

It’s all in the details.

  • On the ground and under control:
    It’s the small things that can add up. Before your trip check out food costs—look for hotels with free food options like breakfast or happy hour. If you’re staying in a remote location like an island, check the prices of the menus to make sure you can afford to wine and dine. If you know you like to spend the majority of your time at the resort, an all-inclusive could be more cost-effective. Do your research on transport—is it smarter to rent a car and stay less central, or pay a little more to be walkable to the main attractions? And always look for free events and activities like farmers’ markets and evening concerts in the park, where you can pack your own picnic.
  • Flexible can be fun (and wallet-friendly):
    Being flexible about the time and date of your flights can save you a fair bit of money. Avoid peak commute times like end of week or first thing Monday morning. Give yourself plenty of time between flights to avoid missed connections, or take advantage of an overfull flight to get a voucher from the airline and fly a couple hours later.
  1. Feeling better about planning your next break? Good, you should, because with the Expedia How To guide you’re on the way to an amazing vacation. And remember, a happier, healthier, less-stressed you is just a vacation away.

Where’s your next vacation?