It’s 4:00 pm on a Friday in Advertising, and there is truly nothing else to do. Client mishaps have been mended, weekend ads have been approved, emails and calls have been returned, and people are literally spinning in their chairs, gazing out the window towards the sunny beaches to the east and tracking the Parkway traffic on their phones.
“Whatcha doin this weekend, Gina?” I ask my coworker, who is currently studying the screensaver on her computer, a snapshot of her timeshare in Florida. “I’m going to Disney,” she says casually concerning the resort that lies 1,000 miles away in Orlando, Florida.
America hates vacations. We hate wasting time, we hate having too much fun, and we hate not working, which is probably why Americans have the second to lowest average number of vacation days in a year at 16 compared to 20 other “rich countries.” Whether you’re 25 or 55, you’re already probably pretty aware that the average number of vacation days an American employee receives after one year on the job is eight and the average number they receive after 25 years on the job is 15. And the number of days employers are legally bound to provide them with? Zero. Now please tell me what the hell I am supposed to do with eight days.
Seem stingy? Probably because it is, especially when you’re already getting frustrated with squirreling away the few vacation days that you do have and trying to make sure you can still make it to the doctor for regular checkups. On top of this pathetic number of vacation days, it turns out that only 25 percent of Americans even use the full amount of the days they are provided with. To paint a global picture, France tops the list (but not by much) by legally providing employees with 30 paid vacation days per year, followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden at 25 and trailed by Austria, Portugal and Spain at 22.
When you’ve got about two weeks of fun to last you for an entire year, you really need to work to make it count, which is why my friend Gina was, and is, taking plenty of long weekends – the new week-long vacation.
Until the United States changes its vacation policies and trends (which isn’t due to happen anytime soon since these kinds of work ethics are deeply embedded into our culture, but anyway) the long weekend is slowly becoming the new seven-day getaway. Because really – why are you going to use all those precious days in one shot (half of which you will spend bored with the family) when you can do it over and over again for two and three day snippets at a time, even if it means rolling into work Monday operating on four hours of sleep like I often see my dear traveling coworker do? (She chugs two coffees and gets going, no complaints).
The Grand Cascades Lodge of Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, New Jersey
Just because you don’t live on the Amalfi Coast (well, maybe you do) or you don’t have the dollars to finance these types of grandiose trips doesn’t mean that your travel bug has to fall to the wayside. Instead of blowing all your days at once, put together day and weekend trips that will give you vacations to last the year… until you finally get that coveted job transfer to Paris, that is.
One thing goes without a doubt – planning a long weekend getaway is a lot more tiring and requires you to get a lot more creative than getting on a plane and picking up a guidebook once a year would be. You have to give nearby cities and landmarks a second look, clean out the car so you can fit all the kids, and squeeze all your errands into the weekdays.
But on the other hand – you’ll save money, have more fun more often, feel like you made the most out of your time, spend more meaningful time with your friends and family, pick up landmarks you probably should have seen a long time ago, and most of all, when your bored coworker asks you what you’re doing this weekend, your answer will always be exciting.