Fewer Americans traveling during summer

Sep 20, 2014, 8:13 AM | Updated: 2:01 pm

Many Americans haven't hit the road, booked a flight or kicked their feet up at the hotel pool — even as the summer comes to an end.

The season brings time in the sun, the sand and a world of vacation possibilities.

But while most of the world is spending their summer relaxing and recharging, many Americans haven't left the office.

Consider this: 3 of 4 Americans don't use all of their vacation time, and even on vacation, 61 percent admit to doing some work.

So what's keeping us in the office? For some, it's fear.

“We had unemployment rates nearly 10 percent not that long ago,” University of Utah Economics professor Tom Maloney said. “There might be a sense that, even though I'm entitled to this, I better be careful about taking it.”

Maloney also points to American culture. Among 21 rich countries, the U.S. is the only one that doesn't require paid time off for employees.

The French get about one month off. Austrians get 25 vacation days and 13 paid holidays. Japanese workers get 10.

Gary Sume, creative director at Richter 7, doesn't fit the norm. He just came back from a month-long sabbatical offered by the advertising agency where he works.

He spent his time working around the house.

“I feel better about things, though. I feel more relaxed,” he said. “I did come back more relaxed, I was getting a little tense. So that helped.”

Sume says he always takes his vacation, but he's not surprised some don't.

“Reality is it's not the way it used to be,” he said. “So I think people are a little more nervous. I mean more companies I know are having fewer people doing more work.”

Here is something to think about: all that extra work Americans are putting in has little payoff.

Oxford researchers found employees are more productive, focused and dedicated when they jet off to a tropical paradise or take that backpacking trip.

“If you've earned vacation time, you've earned it,” said Nic Dunn with the Department of Workforce Services. “That's something you have a right to use.”

And if all Americans used their full vacation time, it would add 1.2 million U.S. jobs and $52 billion to the economy.

Sume said he is happier and his relationship with his family improved after taking time off: “I mean, on the weekends, I should probably turn my phone off,” he said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

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Fewer Americans traveling during summer