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Unplugged Vacations Appeal To Majority Of Americans, But Obstacles Remain

According to the fifth annual 2019 Alamo Rent A Car Family Vacation Survey, a growing number of Americans are going back to basics with a simple idea: Unplugging from work, devices, and social media during vacation. For the fifth year in a row, survey respondents ranked “spending quality time together” as the No. 1 benefit of traveling as a family.

However, the pressures of work and life can get in the way. Approximately three in five workers (61%) put pressure on themselves to work while on a family vacation, up from 59% in the 2018 survey. In addition, 27% of families say they sometimes feel pressured to post photos of their vacation on social media to show they’re having a good time (up from 20% in last year’s survey). These factors may be contributing to 41% of families saying they often need additional time off to “recover” from their vacations, up from only 29% just a year ago. Other findings show:

  • The majority of workers (54%) would prefer to completely unplug from work while on vacation and nearly half of social media users (48%) sometimes wish they could take a vacation from social media. Overall, an overwhelming 91% of families find the idea of an “unplugged” family vacation appealing.
  • 56% of social media users say they use family vacations as a time to take a break from social media. More than a third of families (37%) have gone a step further and actually committed to unplugging from computers and mobile devices altogether while on vacation; of that group, 92% were successful. The benefits to families who committed to an unplugged vacation are clear: 41% enjoyed themselves more, 40% had better conversations, 38% felt more relaxed and 36% felt closer as a family.
  • Nearly half of families (49%) have decided where to go or what to do on vacation based on photos they’ve seen on social media, and nearly a third (28%) have planned their vacation simply based on how their photos would look on social media.
  • While on vacation, 21% of social media users say that they log on more than usual, compared to 15% in the 2018 survey. And while more than half of users find social platforms beneficial in keeping family and friends updated (58%) or to record fun memories (55%), a third (34%) admit that they post their vacation photos on social media simply to “show off” the places they visited and the things they did (up from 27% a year ago). For others, social media causes anxiety during a time meant for fun: 21% admit feeling concerned when followers don’t like or comment on their vacation posts. A third (33%) say they’ve seen social media actually ruin a family vacation, citing examples such as too much time spent on the phone (42%), arguments or hurt feelings (24%), and even letting would-be robbers know when they’re out of the house (5%) or catching a cheating spouse (2%).

Since 2016, the Alamo Family Vacation Survey has tracked the phenomenon of “vacation shaming” in the workplace – the tendency of co-workers, supervisors, and others to make workers feel shame or guilt for taking time off to go on vacation. This year’s results show a resurgence of vacation shaming:

  • In Alamo’s 2019 survey, 48% of workers said they have felt vacation shamed – an increase from the 2018 survey (41%).
  • In particular, parents feel vacation shame (55%) more than non-parents (36%).
  • Generation Z (76%) and millennials (63%) are significantly more likely to feel vacation shame than Generation X (44%) or baby boomers (24%).
  • More respondents thought their co-workers were serious when they engaged in vacation-shaming activities (50%, compared with 41% in the 2018 survey).
  • According to this year’s survey, 28% indicated that they have taken a shorter vacation and 26% have taken fewer vacations because of being shamed, up from 24% and 21%, respectively, the prior year.
  • More than a third of workers (36%) admit they vacation shame others at work (up from 27% in the 2018 survey). Alarmingly, more than half (53%) say they’re serious about it (up from 44% and the highest percentage in four years).
  • Those with unused vacation days are more likely to feel vacation shame (66%) than those who used all their paid time off (36%).
  • Only 45% of workers who receive paid vacation used all their vacation days, compared to 51% reported in the 2018 survey.
  • Those who don’t use all their vacation days are more likely to feel the need to justify why they’re taking a vacation (59%) versus those who used all their paid time off (35%).
  • Those with unused vacation days (52%) are more likely to vacation shame others than those who used all their paid time off (27%).