Let me guess: you want to travel more, but you don’t get enough vacation time. You’d love to take that month-long trip through Asia or just sit on a beach for an extra week every year. Those of us who don’t really take a whole lot of vacation time would love to get a bit more of it, even if it means working from the road.
Well, if you want to satisfy your thirst for travel, freshen up your resume and get yourself a gig at Netflix. The company’s vacation policy will make you drool: there isn’t one. Let your boss know when you’re hitting the road, and make sure your work gets done. It’s pretty straightforward. Some employees will go several years without taking an vacation time … and then take six or seven weeks off at a stretch!
A friend of mine asked me a few days ago when I last went on vacation – a real one. I struggled to remember the last time I went on a trip and didn’t write or, before that, keep up with what was going on at the office. After stopping and focusing, I remembered a four-day trip I took to Orlando back in late 2005. Even there, I’m not sure that I didn’t work, I just don’t remember spending time behind the laptop. Before that, my last vacation was probably four days in San Diego in 2002 (again, I don’t remember working but probably did) or the two weeks I took off when being reassigned from South Korea to Georgia in 1998.
Apparently, I’m not alone. Lots of people don’t take vacations, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos study. Ask any employee in the world if he uses his vacation time, and a there’s a 33 percent chance the answer will be a resounding “no.”
In a survey of 12,500 people from 24 countries, the French, unsurprisingly, are most likely to take advantage of the vacation days they are given, with 89 percent using all they are given. Argentina comes in next at 80 percent, followed by Hungary (78 percent) and Britain (77 percent). Think about it: in the top four, up to 25 percent of a country’s employees don’t blow through their vacation days.
Now, consider how grim the situation is at the other end of the spectrum. The workaholics in Japan are least likely to use all the vacation time they are given, with only 33 percent using it up. South Africa is next up from the bottom at 47 percent, followed by South Korea (53 percent). The United States is next, with a mere 57 percent of employees using up all their vacation time. That’s akin to leaving money on the table, when you think about it, since vacation time really is a part of your compensation.
Interestingly, income level makes little difference in whether one uses all available vacation time. It isn’t just hard-core investment bankers, work-addicted consultants and client-committed attorneys. According to Ipsos, two-thirds of high- and low-income workers took all available vacation time. Age makes some difference, with workers over 50 more likely to take all their vacation days. Unsurprisingly, business owners and senior executives are least likely to consume all their time.
So, why are the world’s workers so insanely dedicated to their jobs? Reuters says:
“There are lots of reasons why people don’t use up vacation days but most often it’s because they feel obligated to their work and put it over other more important things, including their own health and welfare,” said John Wright, senior vice president of global market and opinion research firm Ipsos.
Below, you can see the full results of the survey:
If you’re traveling with family or friends, create a shopping contest. For example —
* Who can find the weirdest souvenir today?
* Who can find the funniest post card?
* Who can spot the best souvenir under $10?
Making a game of it can add a tradition to your trips, and provide the potential for hilarious memories. Prizes could be picking the next restaurant — or everyone buying the winner a t-shirt from the location.
Pro (solo) tip: If you’re traveling alone, you can challenge yourself in each destination and see which place provided you with the strangest or most colorful souvenir.
Not everyone is as brazen as Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter. While his publication was in the middle of cutting 5 percent of its staff, he made himself scarce. But, you can do that when you’re the top dog. Most people don’t take vacations when the Grim Reaper is mingling among the cubicles. They’d rather be at their desks, they convince themselves, generating value for shareholders and demonstrating the return their employers get on their salaries. So, instead of going on vacation last year, many doubled down on the business of staying employed, always a priority when the unemployment rate hits double digits.
But, this can wear you down. Consider the factors converging on you: anxiety over your job, a shitty market for getting a new one, having to “do more with less,” survivor’s guilt, longer hours, smaller (or no) raises and bonuses and less appreciation. Now, take away the few days or weeks you take every year to recharge. What do you have left?
It’s a dismal situation, and it would be smart to commit to a vacation this year, especially if you didn’t take one at all in 2009.According to a new study by Right Management, the human resources consulting unit in Manpower, 66 percent of American employees didn’t use all their vacation days last year. Douglas Matthews, president and COO of Right Management was surprised: “We thought it would be about 50 percent.”
Doubtless, this was shaped by more than attempting to appear deeply committed to the job. Consumer spending spent most of 2009 in rough shape, as credit tightened and people repaid debt and held onto their cash in case they fell victim to the layoff trend. Dropping hefty amounts of dough on a trip entailed a financial risk that fewer people were willing to accept last year. Said Matthews, “The cost of taking a vacation is pretty high. He continued, Tons of people feel they don’t have the discretionary spending to take vacation, so they just stay at work.”
Simply staying at home while taking vacation time apparently wasn’t an attractive option. This feeds the other aspect of the dynamic. The notion that not going on vacation shows people how valuable you are was prevalent. Whether it’s a game of toughness among peers or jockeying for favor with the boss, there is a population that thinks it needs to make profound sacrifices to demonstrate its value.
Connie Thanasoulis, career services expert at Vault.com, doesn’t see it this way. “It’s silly to think that giving up vacation is going to make your colleagues think how important you are,” she tells Forbes. “Take your vacation and let them miss you.”
Joan Kane, a Manhattan psychologist, is on board with this thinking, calling vacations “underrated.” She says, “People think they’re fluff. I believe they’re crucial.” In addition to keeping you on an even keel, vacations help you feel like you control your time. Even if this is only a brief sensation, it’s one you should allow your self to feel every now and then.
Kane notes, “On vacation you have no boss to satisfy … “You’re not under constant surveillance.
One of the biggest appeals of a cruise ship vacation is its all-inclusive aspect. Your meals, port stops, and on board activities are pre-planned and available for your enjoyment, pretty much whenever you feel like enjoying them. Unfortunately, a cruise ship’s “all-inclusive” element doesn’t mean it’s an on board free-for-all. All those port excursions, soda and alcoholic beverages, beauty services, and photos are made available for an extra charge.
Because your cabin key functions as an on board credit card, it’s easy to go overboard with your spending. If you’re not careful, you could end up with a hefty bill when your cruise ends. Here are a few tips to save money while on board a cruise ship.
Stay away from on board gift shops.
If you’re trying to save money on the cruise ship, staying out of the ship’s shops should be your first line of defense. Duty free shops are always tempting. After all, there’s no sales tax!
It’s easy to get carried away, but keep in mind that, while the items are tax-free, the prices may be inflated. A small-ish, inexpensive memento is fine, but if you go on an all-out shopping spree, you may get home and wonder, “Why did I buy this?”
Don’t use the phone or Internetservices.
Many of the convenient technologies we depend on in our normal, everyday lives are nearly nonexistent on a cruise ship. You’re not going to have cell phone service while at sea, and Internet services are priced at a premium, by-the-minute fee, usually around $0.75 to $1.00 per minute. (This isn’t even counting the one-time “activation fee.”)Instead of paying cruise prices, try using your cell phone while on land at a port-of-call — chances are, you’ll get reception. (Consider calling your cell carrier before leaving home and arranging for an international calling package, making these calls cheaper still.) Also, Internet cafes can be found in most ports and are often less expensive than the ship’s service. If you’re planning on emailing your friends or updating your blog, consider typing the text offline to save time. Finally, don’t be afraid NOT to call or email home. Your friends and family know you’re on vacation and probably don’t need to hear from you.
Book port excursions independently. By booking an excursion on your own, you’ll save money, you’ll be with a much smaller tour group, and you’re less likely to have a tour guide that takes a twenty minute “bathroom break” conveniently located near or at the gift shop.
Make sure to book your independent excursions before you leave for vacation, as they fill up quickly. However, if you’re an inexperienced traveler or if you have anxiety about getting back to the ship on time, you might want to book via the cruise ship for that extra peace of mind.
Don’t feel obligated to take excursions at all.
Excursions are part of the appeal of a cruise ship vacation, but don’t feel like you must book one for every port in which the ship stops. If there’s nothing in the port-of-call that piques your interest, skip it. Sometimes walking around the port is an adventure itself.
Just say, “No!”
It’s the simplest rule of all, but it can be the most difficult rule to follow when on vacation. The advertising spiels start the minute you board the ship — from the loudspeaker announcements, to the advertisements in your daily newsletter, to the aggressive bartenders hawking pricey cocktails. You feel like you’re being beaten over the head with a nonstop sales pitch, and it can be difficult to stand your ground.
Learn to say, “No thanks.” Remember, you won’t be the first to decline a sales pitch — and you won’t be the last.
Avoid the specialty restaurants. Your cruise ship fare includes access to the dining room and the all-day buffet, but these aren’t the only eateries on the ship. Several specialty restaurants are available — for an extra charge — and serve “premium meals,” such as sushi or gourmet pizza.
These specialty restaurants offer a nice break from the dining room, and it’s great to enjoy a meal with folks from your own party instead of eating dinner with Bob and Judy from Des Moines, Iowa. These restaurants can get expensive, though, and often times the food isn’t anything special, so use with caution.
Pass on the pictures.
Most cruises offer trivia games. These fun events are free to play, and winners receive champagne, certificates for restaurants, and drink coupons.
On most cruise lines, the ship’s photographer snaps photos of you and your party twice during your cruise vacation — once when you board the ship and once during formal night. While these pictures are nice, they’re obnoxiously overpriced for what amounts to a simple snapshot of your group in front of a tacky backdrop.
You brought your camera, right? Chances are, your own pictures will turn out much better than what the ship’s photographer provides.
Skip the soda card.
Cruise lines offer free water, iced tea, fruit punch, and lemonade, but soda is extra. Soda typically costs $1.50 to $4.00 per can, unless you purchase a soda card for the entire length of your stay. A soda card often will not pay for itself unless you plan on drinking soda nonstop for the duration of your cruise.
If you must have soda, think about buying a few cases before boarding the ship. Some cruise lines allow you to bring outside non-alcoholic beverages into your cabin, but check your cruise line’s FAQs before dropping serious cash on cases of pop. You don’t want to get denied entry at the last minute, just because you’re toting a case of Diet Pepsi.
Finally, DO play trivia games.
Most cruise lines offer trivia games for all ages. These fun events are free to play and winners receive prizes such as bottles of champagne, certificates for the specialty restaurants, and drink coupons.
In the end, vacation is a time to relax, not to worry about penny-pinching. Don’t deprive yourself or your family of a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the sake of saving $10. However, you don’t want to come home from your cruise ship vacation knee-deep in debt with a major case of buyer’s remorse either. Use discretion when purchasing extras and you and your family will come home from your cruise vacation happy!