You Won’t Believe How Many Vacation Days Americans Wasted Last Year (Hint: It’s A LOT!!)

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Anticipation, a break from the routine, and making new discoveries are three aspects that I love about traveling.

Recently, I went on a scuba diving trip off the coast of Oman. On the 30 minute boat ride from the marina to the dive site, I was engaged in friendly small talk by a married couple who were on an extended trip through the Middle East.

Just before we pulled back into the marina, the following conversation takes place:

Wife (of the other couple): This was such a great way to spend the last few days of maternity leave before returning back to Canada.

Me: Oh wow! Congratulations. I agree, this is a nice place to spend a few days. Did…your…kids travel with you? Are they here…in Muscat?

Wife: Oh, no. They’re at home with grandma. We’re just celebrating the end of my year on maternity leave. I return to work next week.


She said the end of her YEAR on maternity leave. Of course, I just glossed over it and said “oohh..gotcha! Well enjoy the rest of your trip.” But her response sent me down a rabbit hole!

I had not done any research on maternity leave around the world but I was vaguely aware that other countries had different standards. However…a year??? Wow! That is A LOT more than the US! So I started thinking, are other aspects different too? For example, do other countries receive more vacation days that Americans?


Well, apparently, it’s no secret that many other countries get significantly more vacation days than Americans do. It’s all over the internet.

If you are aware of that but didn’t find it surprising, I trust you will find this shocking…despite having fewer vacations days than most countries, Americans fail to use all of their annual vacation days.

In fact, in 2018, Americans who earned vacation days wasted a record-setting 768 million of those vacation days, according to a survey from the Washington, D.C.-based initiative Project: Time Off.

The survey found that 55% of U.S. employees left at least some of their vacation days unused last year and roughly 33% of workers took absolutely ZERO vacation days during the last year.


My jaw was on the ground while researching for this blog post. I found this surprising. I mean…if you have paid time off, why would someone not use it??

Although the 2019 report has not been published yet, it appears that over the last year there has been some positive progress. This past year, approximately only 52% of Americans left vacation time unused (opposed to 55%).

Interestingly, 84% of Americans say it is important to them to use their time off to travel. Yet, workers used less than half of their vacation time to travel.


I think it’s apparent that I LOVE TRAVELING and also recognize that I’m at the far end of the spectrum…closer to “obsessed with travel.”

I understand that not everyone shares my passion for seeing other countries but I do recommend taking time off to, simply, stay at home for a day – with your kids, significant other or just yourself. Those days will be just as memorable as flying to another country.

However, I beg that you please DO NOT let your days go to waste!

It may sound counterintuitive but when you do take a break (i.e. no work email, work phone calls, or thinking about work, etc.), you’ll find yourself happier, more creative, and even more productive at work.

We live in a busy world, so finding time is impossible. However, being intentional and making time is not.

So who’s ready for a break? Better yet, who’s going to actually take a break? Make sure to save the date for National #PlanForVacation Day January 28, 2020.


  1. Wow! I cant imagine leaving a vacation day untouched. It’s amazing now working 100% for myself that people think I am crazy because I literally try to vacation at least once a month even if it’s just a mental health vacation. I’ve never studied the maternity leave stats but wow a whole year is awesome!


  2. I spent a lot of time reading different articles (despite needing to pump out other blogs) but the country comparisons were so fascinating that it deserved I had to write about it.


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