America’s Vacation Deficit And The Right To A Summer Holiday

vacation deficitOnly in America will you find a condition like the “vacation deficit” – a statistic that measures the proportion of people who think that a summer vacation is important, but don’t think they’ll be able to squeeze one in this year.

The “vacation deficit” is measured annually as part of Allianz Travel Insurance’s Summer Vacation Confidence Index, released last month. According to the report, the deficit currently stands at 18 percent, down from 24 percent in 2011 and 28 percent in 2010. The report also states that 57 percent of Americans either have taken or plan to take a summer vacation this year, defined as traveling at least 100 miles from home for at least a week.

It’s hardly surprising that Americans feel such trepidation about their right to a summer holiday. Earlier this month, The Atlantic reported that the United States is the only advanced country without a National Vacation Policy – in other words, we’re the only first-world country that doesn’t require that companies provide paid vacation leave to their employees. In most developed countries, workers are guaranteed at least 20 days a year of paid holiday and vacation leave, with European nations like Austria and Portugal guaranteeing up to 35 days.

But even if we had mandatory vacation leave, would we take it? The article noted that Americans often don’t take advantage of the vacation days they do have, citing a Harris Interactive study, which found that 57 percent of those interviewed had an average of 11 unused vacation days at the end of 2011.

We don’t need to go into the mental, emotional and physical benefits of time off. Countless studies have revealed that getting away from your known environment, unplugging your computer and engaging in leisure activities can make you a happier, healthier, more productive individual. It’s not too late to reclaim your right to a summer vacation and help reduce the deficit.

[Flickr image via Dr Tr]

US News Ranks Best Summer Vacation Spots

maui summer vacationUS News & World Report” has this week released their annual “best” list of vacation spots for your upcoming summer travels. We’re always game for a trip, and this magazine, known for its endless parade of lists, seems to consistently do one of the best jobs we’ve seen of matching trends with traditional data analysis.

“The summer vacation is an established American tradition,” said Chad Smolinski, Vice President of Rankings and Reviews at U.S. News & World Report. “Taking into account over 300,000 user votes and thousands of travel expert opinions, the U.S. News vacation rankings provide travel recommendations you can trust.”

For the category of “Best Summer Vacation,” Nice, Mykonos and Maui round out the top three. Maui also makes the top three for two other categories, including “Best Beaches in the USA” and “Best Family Beach Vacations in the USA”.

Budget cutting? Try Yellowstone, Santo Domingo or Lisbon, the top picks for “Cheap Summer Vacations” or perhaps Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, which, along with Yellowstone, make the list of “Affordable Family Vacation” spots.

Other expected destinations, including Orlando, Anaheim and Hawaii (Maui, the Big Island and Kauai) made the top three spots on the list.

[Flickr via sunsplash]

Kids travel free on Utah summer rafting trip

Dvorak has free rafting trips for kids age 5 to 12 this summerYesterday we told you that 2011 is shaping up to be an epic year for whitewater rafting and kayaking in the U.S., thanks in large part to the record amounts of snow that hit the western states this past winter. Now that the warm spring weather has started melting all of that snow, rafting companies are gearing up for what should be a very busy season, and some are offering great deals in an effort to lure adventurous travelers their way.

Take for example Dvorak Expeditions, which is offering a fantastic promotion for families who want to take a rafting trip this year. The company is running a “Kids Go Free” option that allows one child (ages 5-12), per paying adult, to travel for free on one of their week-long rafting trips this summer. That means a family of four only have to pay for mom and dad, and the two kids get to come along at no extra cost.

The six day, five night, trip runs the legendary Green River, located in Utah. It is one of the most spectacular and scenic paddles in the entire U.S., and a top draw for paddlers the wold over. River guides will lead the family through miles of unspoiled wilderness that passes by two Native American Indian reservations and through the deepest canyon in the entire state. The trip offers excellent meals along the way, plenty of off the water entertainment, and a number of day hikes that reveal ancient petroglyphs, hidden rock grottos, and outlaw hideouts from a bygone era when Butch and Sundance led their “Wild Bunch” through this very region.

But the real highlight of the trip is the Green River itself. Stretching 84 miles in length, the waterway is typically considered one of the best beginner and intermediate rafting spots in the U.S. This year however, it should exceed all of those expectations, as the extra snow will likely add an unexpected punch to what is already a great river experience.

If you’re wondering what to do with the kids on your summer vacation, consider taking them on a Dvorak rafting adventure. 2011 will be the prefect year for just such an excursion, and it is likely to generate memories for a lifetime.

[Photo credit: Jerry Magnum Porsbjer via WikiMedia]

The Party’s “Summer Vacation,” a nostalgic music video


Summer vacation is just around the corner and it’s time to enjoy some lighter forms of entertainment. If you’re a twenty- or thirty-something, you may remember Disney‘s Mickey Mouse Club’s attempt to become cool as the MMC. Before future stars Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake joined the cast, there was the pop ensemble The Party and their summer anthem “Summer Vacation.” The song did respectably on the charts in 1990 and the video has all of the hallmarks of an early nineties music video: white dudes rapping, boardwalk skateboards, and lots of lycra. Enjoy this nostalgic trip to the beach: Tune in, groove on, and bust out!

20 tips for surviving a summer road trip, courtesy of touring musicians

Road trips are made for summer. Summer is made for road trips. I’m a musician with several tours under my belt so, yeah, you guessed it, I love road trips and summer. But braving the heat while living in an automobile isn’t very cool if you aren’t prepared. Before you pack your vehicle so tight you can’t open the backseat doors without spilling pillows and sun block all over the scorching rest stop parking lot, make sure you have your summer road trip bases covered.

Summer’s biggest pitfalls aren’t mysterious. Mostly there’s the heat and the sun, which can be two separate problems to combat. Precisely how to conquer the road while dodging the wrath of summer is a practice best perfected by experience, so here are some tips birthed from experience, not in any intentional order.

1. Plan your route wisely.
Where you’re going matters. As you might suspect, planning a summer road trip that will take you through the South is dangerous territory. With that said, I’ve done it, plenty of people have, but be mindful of the regional summer climate when planning your summer trip. Give yourself more time for rest than you think you need. The heat has a way of corroding away a traveler’s soul. If you think you can manage full-day drives during the summer, that’s fine, but make sure your schedule is flexible.

%Gallery-121060%2. Prepare your vehicle.
It’s absolutely essential that you make sure your vehicle is adequately prepared for a summer road trip before embarking on one. If your air conditioner is broken, get it fixed. If the car’s interior material is the kind that easily gets sticky and hot, bring thin sheets to cover the seats with. And oh yeah, those windshield sun blockers? Definitely a bright idea. Aol Autos has a good round-up detailing how to prepare your car for a summer road trip here.

3. Pack the right stuff.
What you pack will prove to be important during a summer road trip. During any road trip, no matter the season, what you bring along with you more or less accounts for your home for the trip. When road tripping, your vehicle is your home. Remember that. Aside from the regular to-bring items (first aid kit, anyone?) a few essentials to remember when packing for a summer trip are:

Sun block
Sun hat
Bug repellent
A cooler
Swim suit
Beach Towel
Sun glasses
Light clothing
Aloe
Water bottle
Umbrella

But the real question to ask yourself is: what helps you feel comfortable in the summer? If having an on-the-go folding beach chair around has been handy for you in the past, go ahead and slide it into your trunk if there’s space.

Dean Herrera, guitarist for metal band, The Human Abstract, is especially behind including a swim suit on the pack list.

“Always have some swim suit ready to go. You never know when you might drive by an unexpected river or lake that would be perfect for a quick dip”, said Herrera when I asked him for his own summer road trip tips.

4. Avoid afternoon driving.
Tolerating the heat, especially in the South, can be a challenge. Avoid driving in the height of the afternoon if you have a chance. People siesta for a reason in warm places! You should take this tip via tradition to heart. Drive at night, dawn, or dusk for the most pleasant temperature and traffic-free experience. Not only will you be more comfortable, but you’ll probably save a little on gas money while you’re at it (it takes less gas to cool your car when the outside temperature drops).

5. Stay clean.
It’s easy to become a stinky sweaty mess when traveling during the summer. Deodorant is important, but it won’t ward off all of the nasty scents of summer road tripping. I used to always have my shampoo, conditioner, and a jug of water around so I could quickly wash my hair in a parking lot if necessary. But public showers do exist.

Truck stop showers are typically very clean”, says Anthony Shustak. “Don’t be afraid to use them if you need… just be sure you’ve got some sandals”. Anthony Shustak is a touring veteran who has traveled with acts like Meg and Dia and LIGHTS as an engineer, tour manager, and general-good-guy-to-have-around.

6. Protect your engine.
“If your van or car is on its way to overheating and you don’t want to or can’t, stop, blast the heater and open the windows. It helps keep your engine slightly cooler”, says Herrera who, at this point, has probably circled around the United States in a van enough times to equally circle to world a few times.

7. Stay rested.
“Sleep!”, says Shustak. “Coffee only does so much. So, before you get to the point on that 14 hour drive when you’re on your fourth cup of coffee in six hours and your arms are shaking, pull the car over and take a nap! Even if it’s just half an hour”.

8. Tune in and tune out.
Shustak has some advice on which electronics matter. “Have a fully stocked mp3 player, a camera at the ready, and turn your phone off for a day or two–or at least limit yourself to one or two “message checks” per day. Your e-mails will miraculously still be there when you wake up the next day”, he suggests.

9. Embrace the road less taken.
“Make sure to go off the beaten path, advises Shustak. “Don’t be scared of the locals. Ask questions… especially when it comes to finding out the best places to eat.

10. Get some alone time.
You’re much more likely to want to strangle your travel companion, be it your spouse, colleague, or Craigslist rideshare partner, while crammed up together in a hot car for hours upon hours each day. Make sure to take breaks from your road buddy as frequently as possible, even if just for 15 minutes.

11. Know your territory.
And know what comes with that territory. Read up and know the dangers of the area at hand. If the bear population is high, for instance, be sure to be mindful of where you place your food and trash while parked.

12. Stay hydrated.
Keep yourself hydrated with cold beverages while driving. Think about it this way: every cool drink you down is another step up and toward a cooler temperature–particularly important if your car has an irreparable broken air conditioner (which is incredibly inconvenient if you live in Austin, FIRST HAND KNOWLEDGE).

13. Use an umbrella.
Protect yourself from the sun’s rays, especially mid-day. If you hate lathering on sun block and don’t see the point in covering your body with it when you’ll be in the car most of the day, just use your umbrella when you stop for a walk to stretch your legs. It’s much easier than worrying about the lotion.

14. Pack light.
Shustak’s packing tip is all about how much you pack.

“Mainly, for me, it comes down to packing lightly and efficiently. If you are on a trip longer than a month in duration, pack for 10-14 days and use your opportunities to do laundry during any downtime”, says Shustak, who undoubtedly knows the value of staying with a washer/dryer-owning friend on the road.

15. Eat healthy.
An easy way to make sure you feel like crap while traveling is to eat crap. I realize old habits die hard, but some fresh fruits and vegetables just might be your answer to staying happy and healthy on the road.

16. Entertain yourself.
Cruising across states is fun and the landscape views are great. But you’ll eventually get sick of looking out of the window and when you do, you’ll need a way to entertain yourself. Be sure there’s no shortage on entertainment options. Books, notebooks, sketchbooks, jewelry-making supplies, knitting tools, dvds for your computer, video games, iPod and headphones… you know what you like, so pack accordingly.

17. Bring camping supplies.
Sometimes you need to stop in towns where you don’t have any friends you can stay with and your money needs to go toward gas, not hotels. It’s no big deal, just camp! If you can squeeze at least a tent and a sleeping bag in your vehicle, do it. Having the ability to sleep comfortably anywhere when you need to stop will enhance your overall road trip experience this summer.

18. Have your contacts saved.
Phones get stolen, broken, and lost. Make sure you have a list of your contacts, especially your emergency contacts, saved elsewhere. I suggest online, on your computer, and in a notebook.

19. Keep someone in the loop.
I was a little annoyed summer of 2007 when the folks who care about me back home called Wyoming hospitals to see if I’d been in an accident after not hearing from me for days. Truth be told, I was just camping in Yellowstone without phone reception and I should have kept someone in the loop. But at least these folks, my parents, were in the loop enough to know which area of the country I was in. Make sure you’re keeping someone you trust up to date on where you are and where you plan on going.

20. Bring an actual atlas.
“Have an up-to-date road atlas”, says Shustak. “Surprise, surprise… the GPS and/or Google Maps are not always accurate”.

Have some tips I missed? Let us all know in the comments.