Long vacations being replaced by weekend getaways, and that’s a shame (and unhealthy)

Take a break. A real break.
Take a break. A real break. (Bob Sullivan)

The summer vacation season begins this weekend — by tradition, anyway — as millions of you head out for Memorial Day fun. Regular readers of this space know that I think the classic American vacation season is under assault, thanks to a dastardly combination of a tough economy and always-on gadgets. (Americans get less vacation than workers in almost any developed nation, yet they don’t even use the paltry vacation allowances they receive).

Now there’s fresh evidence that the notion of getting away from it all is in serious trouble. It arrived in my inbox this week in the form of a survey conducted by Citi for its credit cards. About half of those surveyed said they are more likely to choose weekend trips over long holidays than they were five years ago. So: Long trips out, weekend trips in. (“Frequent” weekend trips, Citi stressed to me.)

A recipe for the restlessness I’m writing about in The Restless Project.

There can plenty of reasons for this, some good, some bad. One could argue that a summer full of three-day weekends is better than a two-week trip to Wherever National Park. Or having a nice pamper vacation in California enjoying a look around Hollywood and it’s studios while staying in somewhere similar to these StayTony Furnished Rentals, I’m not saying it’s not a good thing and I suspect that’s not what’s happening here, however. I suspect many workers feel they couldn’t possibly leave their cubicles for more than 7 days at a time. Heck, it’s easy to find workers asking each other online, “Does your boss allow you to take more than one week’s vacation at a time?”

Other factors contribute, too. Now that dual income households are standard, scheduling vacations can be a nightmare. Getting two bosses to a agree to two weeks — and having those weeks line up with summer camp or travel team schedules — can seem almost an impossibility.

Shorter trips can be cheaper, of course — let’s just assume folks don’t travel as far away when going away for the weekend. I also imagine folks who don’t really disconnect from office technology (nearly everyone) also somehow feel better knowing they aren’t that far from home, in case they are summoned back by some pseudo crisis.

There is more data to suggest vacations are shrinking. The U.S. Travel Association told Crain’s Chicago not long ago that back in 1975, the average vacation lasted more than a week. By 1985, the average vacation had shrunk to 5.4 days, and by 2010, according to the group’s latest data, the average stood at 3.8 days. (Crane’s Chicago)

Eh, who cares about data? There’s plenty of data showing how important real breaks are to the mind and body, but many people (and companies) are pretty much just ignoring it.

But you don’t have to! Make this the summer you finally plan a real getaway. There’s still time! And as you’ll see in a story I’ll post later, this summer will be a great year to take a road trip, thanks to lower gas prices. I’m already planning mine. Don’t settle for weekend trips where you don’t even bother to unpack your luggage. It’s Memorial Day, for heck’s sake. Take a real break.

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About Bob Sullivan 1368 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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