Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer is only two weeks away. So, it's time to ask, have you taken a summer vacation yet? If you're like nearly half of Americans, your answer to that question is no. But that's a bad answer. You should plan a vacation as soon as possible.

In a Bankrate survey of 2,577 U.S. adults this spring, only 52 percent said they planned to take a summer vacation, with 26 percent saying they would definitely not take one and 22 percent unsure. Worse, of those who receive paid vacation days, only 38 percent said they planned to use all their vacation time in 2019. 

Why aren't people taking vacations? Here are the reasons they gave, none of which are any good:

60 percent say they can't afford it.

With recession predictions filling the news, you can't blame people for being reluctant to spend money they don't have to. In a separate Bankrate survey, 43 percent of those who'd skipped fun activities said they needed to spend the money on everyday bills, and 34 percent said they were working on paying down debt on either credit cards or student loans.

Paying down debt is essential, of course, and so is making sure you're living within your means. But you shouldn't skip a vacation just because you can't afford to take a trip. First of all, there are lots of ways to keep vacation expenses down, such as driving rather than flying, camping or staying in motels rather than opting for pricey hotels or resorts, and buying food in grocery stores rather than depending on restaurants. 

If you can't even afford a cheap vacation, consider a staycation, in which you don't leave home but still take time off from work. Use it as a time to get to those local attractions you keep meaning to visit. Go to a nearby beach, lake, or pool. Catch up on some of the movies you missed because you were too busy. If you want, you can even use your time off to tackle jobs around the house that need doing, such as painting or cleaning out the garage. The important thing is to spend at least a week both physically and mentally away from work. The benefits are too well-documented for you not to do it. 

23 percent say they "aren't interested."

I find this incomprehensible and very disturbing. To say that there's nothing outside of work that interests you is to say that you're a one-dimensional person with no work-life balance who may shrivel up and blow away if your profession is ever taken from you. 

Don't be that person. Find something other than work that you want to do for a week and then go do it. Don't be afraid to opt for something that will make you happy even if other people don't approve. A very busy lawyer I know says the best vacation of his life was a week spent watching game shows, eating Oreo cookies and drinking beer. 

13 percent say they have family obligations.

Though it may not always seem that way, those of us with families are luckier than those without, and sometimes having a family means that our time is not our own. That's especially true for parents of school-aged children. 

It might make sense for family concerns to keep you from flying or driving away on vacation, but it's more important than ever to take some time away from work. If you can, keep some of the care arrangements in place that you would normally have if you were working (baby-sitter, daycare, home health aid, etc.). That way, you can truly have a break.

9 percent say they can't take time off.

I'm glad this is a relatively low number, but it should be zero. If you can't take a week away from work because the place would fall apart without you, then you must do something to change that right now because it represents a significant threat to your organization. Any of us at any time could suddenly find ourselves unable to work. We could face an unexpected death in the family. We could fall out a window or get hit by a bus.

Or, we could get pancreatic cancer. No matter how smart you are, you aren't more of a genius than Steve Jobs was, and no matter how important you are to your company, you're not more important than he was to Apple. And yet, even Jobs wasn't irreplaceable. Tim Cook has proven that by taking the company to even greater success than it had when Jobs was at the helm. One big reason for Cook's achievement is that Jobs groomed him to take over.

So if you think you're indispensable, find someone who can take over your job and teach them how to do it. Then, pick a vacation time and go. And, if you can, resist the urge to check in with the office while you're away.

Published on: Aug 19, 2019
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