Forbes: Remember Your Summer Vacation - And Don't Forget This
Christopher Elliott on May 01, 2019
Remember Your Summer Vacation - And Don't Forget This
Are you thinking of skipping your summer vacation? Think again, say experts.
“Americans very well may be underestimating the necessity of vacation," says Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA. "Especially as it relates to their health and well-being."
The closely watched Allianz Vacation Confidence Index found Americans suffering from a vacation deficit -- those who think that a vacation is important but are not confident they will take one this year -- are nearly twice as likely to show signs of moderately severe to severe depression when compared to the national average.
"This vacation deficit disorder highlights a relationship between one’s vacations or lack thereof, and mental health, demonstrating just how important an annual vacation may be,” adds Durazo.
This summer, several key measures of travel sentiments are suggesting that Americans may be skipping their vacation. A new Bankrate surveyestimates a stunning 39 million Americans won’t be taking a summer vacation this year because they can’t afford one. Almost half of Americans say they are either "definitely" not taking one or haven’t decided yet.
As my Washington Post colleague Michelle Singletary noted in her latest column, a staycation may be the right call if you're in the red, but if you're not, experts say you need to get out there for your own good. While you're planning your summer getaway, you'll want to remember a few other things.
Why summer vacations are so important
"The act of traveling has the capacity to provide rejuvenation and inspiration for our overworked American bodies," says Tricia Wolanin, a clinical psychologist and author of "The Fragrance of Wanderlust: How to Capture the Essence of Travel in Our Everyday Lives." "When we travel, we temporarily leave our real world of daily responsibilities, technological addictions, and the boredom of everyday life. For a moment we can live in wonder and actually begin to wander again."
Wolanin says a vacation can fuel and sustain you for the rest of the year. In other words, you recharge your batteries for two weeks -- and it lasts months.
"Virtually all of us benefit from having a time away from the routine," adds Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide." "To disconnect, decompress, and offer new experiences that stimulate our brain and our creativity. When we return to work, it is often with a greater commitment and with renewed passion, and we are far more likely to add value to our company."
Is anyone listening? Sadly, no. Expedia.com’s latest Vacation Deprivation study says U.S. workers took the lowest average number of vacation days last year among the countries surveyed, alongside Japan and Thailand. Vacation deprivation levels for Americans are at a five-year high, with just 59% not taking a vacation, up 8% from 2017. American workers received just 14 vacation days and used only 10, resulting in 653.9 million days left on the table last year.
Experts say that's a mistake.
"I think in this era, where we are linked into work around the clock, vacations have become essential to quality of life and balance," says Rachel Annunziato, an associate professor of psychology at Fordham University. "For families too, it's a chance to be together away from our hectic everyday lives."
What people forget on their summer vacation
Of course, the biggest thing people forget is to even take a summer vacation. But beyond that, there's a long list of things people forget. It explains why companies like Allianz, Bankrate and Expedia are so eager to highlight our vacation deficit problem:
Researching the best summer vacation.
People don't give their vacation destinations that much thought. Unfortunately, that's how you end up with summer vacation disasters that my consumer advocacy site has to help untangle. But that's OK -- it's what we do. But it also explains why sites like Expedia have a horse in this race. And an online travel site is an excellent place to research your next trip. Steve Shur, president of Travel Tech, a trade group of online travel agencies, says online agencies allow for comparison shopping, something you can't do when you book directly. A site like Expedia also keeps prices lower. "When a consumer finds a better deal on an online travel agency, it’s because the hotel reduced their room rates to be more competitive," he notes.
"Travel insurance may not be quite as fun to research and book as hotels and tours, but it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process," says Durazo of Allianz, "and it can save you a lot of money and headaches in the long run. It’s quick and easy to check the box on travel insurance when booking your trip online through an airline or online travel agency." As I noted last week, companies like Allianz are using machine learning and artificial intelligence to power technology that lets it deliver the most appropriate insurance products in the booking phase of its travel partners' websites.
Paying off your vacation debt.
Yes, a travel rewards card can be a good way to get more for your dollar. While some have annual fees, these cards can provide benefits that make up for the price. In addition to points or miles, many cards also offer travel credits, lost luggage reimbursement, or airport lounge access. But read my warning on credit cards before jumping in. "Keep in mind, however, that costs will quickly outweigh benefits if your purchases aren’t paid off quickly, allowing interest to accrue," says Greg Mahnken, a credit industry analyst at Credit Card Insider, a website that encourages the responsible use of credit cards. "If you are planning to finance a trip, using a 0% APR intro offer can help ease the burden, so long as you have a plan to pay the trip off before the intro period is over."
That's the advice of Annunziato, the Fordham professor. "Vacations can be stressful if we don't plan ahead," she says. "I suggest making sure to develop a packing list with your travel companions and a rough itinerary mainly to check in advance if prior arrangements are needed for any activities. I say 'rough' to emphasize the importance of having a real break from rigid schedules while behind mindful of preventing hassles." She's right. I write a weekly nationally syndicated column about family travel, and I'm constantly preaching about the virtues of good planning -- mostly because I'm the world's worst planner. But I'm learning.
No time like the present to remember your summer vacation
There's only a month left to plan your summer vacation, so there's no time like the present to begin thinking about your vacation. Make a plan, research your vacation through an online agency, be financially responsible, and consider giving yourself some peace of mind by buying travel insurance.
What kind of insurance? I asked Justin Tysdal, the CEO of Seven Corners, a travel insurance site, and he recommended a comprehensive "cancel for any reason" policy. "It gives you the option to make a last minute decision to skip your trip, should something come up," he explained. However, if you're more worried about health coverage, you might also want to buy a standalone health insurance policy.
"Purchasing travel medical insurance protects you should any health emergencies occur abroad that wouldn’t be covered by your standard insurance," he says.
Wherever you go, and whatever you do -- have a great summer vacation.