Goodbye, summer vacations?

There was an interesting article in the New York Times last week, about how little vacation Americans take. Fifty percent of us, author Walter Kirn says, won’t go anywhere during the peak summer travel season. But that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is Kirn’s proposed reason why, and where that reason comes from.

Now, it’s just one kind of travel Kirn’s talking about here, and that’s the traditional family summer vacation; the kind that’s supposed to restore us, keep us healthy. You know, camping with the kids, stuff like that. That it’s disappearing isn’t a surprise, says Kirn – we recharge when we please with our yoga classes, our days spas, our lake houses (his, not mine, apparently). What’s more, the idea of mandated holiday time, that coveted perk of being from Europe, was an invention of the Nazis, says Kirn; who wonders, then, what’s all the fuss about?

Like I said, interesting. No doubt there’s some sound economic argument against European-style required vacation. And maybe there is something kind of ironic about forced time-off. Still, that all seems a little beside the point. If summer vacation is as bogus as Kirn says, fair enough. But what about the kind of travel we like to talk about here? If the American lifestyle – reason regardless – is choking out time for a little vagabonding, it’s not just camping trips with the kids that are out the window.

So, what do we do about that?

Posted by | Comments (9)  | August 14, 2007
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

9 Responses to “Goodbye, summer vacations?”

  1. tim Says:

    Most anyone knows that it is workplace suicide to take more than 1 week of vacation at any one time which my father did not have to worry about when I grew up. Also, my father had 6 weeks of vacation which he was encouraged to take with his guaranteed lifetime job with the same employer. Without cradle to grave jobs, there is no way to accrue 4-6 six weeks of vacation like in the past. Since you start each new job with just 2 weeks (maybe 3 if you negotiate) of vacation, by the time you are eligible for that 3rd week (5 years) you are gone anyway. Employers don’t care about vacation to be with family or recharge your battery. It’s just a dog eat dog, what’s in it for me (the company) workplace. Also, since we all have limited sick days, and both parents work, both parents have to save vacation to use as extra sick days for the children. It is also extremely hard for both parents to get the same week off working for 2 separate employers. There you go Einstein, with why we don’t vacation anymore like when the one parent one job world dissappeared.

  2. Dan Says:

    Many companies just don’t give a rip about their employees life outside of work. I’d love to have mandated 6 weeks of vacation like the Europeans do, but unless there’s some way to squeeze more dollars out of it for the shareholders, it’ll never happen in the US.

    While taking more than a week off from work may be perceived as career suicide, the typical US work schedule and lack of time off is real life suicide.

  3. Will Zelina Says:

    Most folks that are afraid to take time off from what I have researched, are afraid of loosing their job. If they can take a week off then the company may not need their services. When they do take time off they take their work with them. Mainly cell phones and laptops. So in reality they are on a working vacation. We need to slow down a bit, smell the roses if you will.

  4. Preston Says:

    I make the most of summer vacations every year. This year, I took a week in June off and 2 weeks off in July. Surprisingly, I had 20 of 31 days off (including weekends) in July! I think that many people need to take as much summer vacation as they want. Just don’t overwork in the summers.

  5. Tim Says:

    As a father, I’ve got to say that vacationing in the summer is a pain in the rear. I do everything I can to work out family vacations when everyone else is not already traveling. As more people in the U.S. can afford to travel, especially by air, the congestion makes it more of a hassle.

    I agree though that most companies still don’t get it in terms of the benefits of taking time off, but smaller, entrepreneurial companies do. Or you just work for yourself instead and you can take off when you want. We travel at least four weeks a year as a family, without fail.

  6. Paul Says:

    I find it unusual to read stories of people afraid that their job might be taken if they go on holiday. Surely this would mean that their employer doesn’t regard them particularly highly, and that it might be worth looking for a better job elsewhere?

    Admittedly, I’m from Australia, where we too have four weeks of mandated holidays per year.

  7. Michael Says:

    First I will admit that I currently work for a great company. I have been there 5 years and I get 5 weeks off per year. For the first time ever I took two weeks off at one time this year – I was encouraged to do so by my employer. Talking with the President of the company one day he said that he wished people would take more breaks like this and that it was one of the reasons he put in things like remote email – so that people could be away without feeling out of touch. But only if they wanted.

    The summer vacation is a pain though. Because of the kids being in school we try to squeeze these vacations into the hot summer months when everyone else is taking vacation too. Wish they would go to school all year round so that their vacation time was spread through the year too.

  8. Drew Says:

    As a foreigner living in Hungary whose parents have a small business, I’m always astounded at the gall that some have to close down their shop for an entire month in August. But I must admit that because most of the country is doing the same thing, there’s often little that can be accomplished in July-August. While it’s tough to turn off the control mechanism, I now think they’re right: there’s too much living to do out there, and sometimes things can just wait a week or two. And no one’s really freaking out about it, either. Life goes on.

  9. K.S. Keppy Says:

    I agree with what’s been said about vacation time in the United States. After working 7 years at my previous job in a major U.S. corporation, I had then received 3 weeks of vacation from my previous 2 weeks. Then, and before, I was only allowed to take 1 week off at a time, due to their difficulty of functioning properly while I was gone (web design work). Simply, they did not have enough people to cover my position while I was away and they also seemed pretty unwilling to hire more. Such business mentality creates angry roots in the minds of employees who need to feel that they have freedom in and out of work – working non-stop, even in a position that is much enjoyed, wears on the mind – happiness and productivity (what company’s love the most!) will always then suffer. Similar to the motto of customer service: you must keep your employees happy because they are the substantial blocks of a company.