Long Weekends Sub for Long Vacations


By Stephanie Armour, USA TODAY

The two-week vacation is fast disappearing. Instead, employees are using their vacation days to extend weekends and take shorter breaks from the office. 

The shift is being blamed partly on rising gas prices as well as mounting pressure for workers to be available to clients around the clock. And more dual-income couples are finding it difficult to coordinate vacation schedules due to work demands.

Only 14 percent of Americans plan to take a two-week vacation in 2007, down from 16 percent in 2006, according to a new study by Harris Interactive for Expedia.com, an online travel site. One-third of workers do not always use all their vacation days.

“(I) consistently use my vacation time to extend weekends,” Tim Allen, 29, an executive with New York-based electronic retailer Interactive Corp., says in an e-mail.

What’s behind the shift:

— Travel costs. While nearly 65 percent of Americans plan to take a summer vacation, gas prices are taking a toll, according to a May survey of 1,003 adults by WNBC/Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Fifty-five percent of vacationers will take several shorter weekend getaways instead of the traditional long summer retreat.

“It’s in the context of feeling hard-pressed financially,” says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College poll. “There are people opting for shorter, closer-to-home getaways.”

— Work demands. Work demands have employees skipping long vacations, says Liz Bywater, president of Bywater Consulting Group, an organizational consulting firm based in Yardley, Pa. 

“The demands on the average worker today are pretty intense,” Bywater says. “There’s this mentality of keep working. They feel they’ll come back and be flooded with work.”

The burden is even worse for entrepreneurs. Twenty-three percent of small business owners have not planned a vacation that lasts at least a week in more than four years, according to a May survey commissioned by Riverwoods, Ill.-based Discover. The survey polled 1,000 small business owners with five or less employees.

— Dual-income couples. For families comprised of working parents, it’s difficult for each spouse to coordinate a long stretch of time away from the office.

That’s partly why some places are trying to cater to the rise in weekend vacationers. The Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego just introduced a family camp program, but only on weekends. The hotel is tailoring its family activities specifically to weekends.

But some employees say taking short bursts of time off isn’t enough of a break from work.

“For the past three-plus years, I simply take a Friday or Monday off when I can,” says Alison Bailin, 26, an account executive at HMA Public Relations in Phoenix. “It takes a toll. I’ve become addicted to e-mail, and I have yet to take a vacation without a computer.”

Have you seen a trend to more long weekends or short vacations? Is it a good thing or bad?


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