Getting away from it all offers travelers a wide array of benefits—from recharging to reconnecting with family and friends, and encountering new people, places and experiences. So, why has it become so difficult for American workers to feel good about taking a much-needed vacation?

New research* from the 2017 Alamo Rent A Car Family Vacation Survey shows U.S. workers are feeling more guilt than ever before about planning and taking their vacations. Overall, around half (49%) of all American workers report feeling vacation shamed—being made to feel shame or guilt by co-workers for taking a vacation—compared with only 47% in the 2016 Alamo Family Vacation Survey. And, vacation shaming is particularly on the rise among Millennials. Significantly more employed Millennials in 2017 reported feeling guilty for planning and taking a vacation (68% versus 59% in the 2016 study)—a 19% year-over-year increase.

Millennials are more likely than non-Millennials to say that vacation shaming would likely keep them from planning or going on a vacation (40% vs. 17%). On the other hand, millennials report that they’re significantly more likely than older generations to shame their own co-workers (33% versus 14%). Overall, 53% of workers feel their colleagues are serious when they engage in vacation-shaming activities.

Also for the first time, Alamo’s annual research indicates that fewer than half of all workers—only 47%—are using all of their paid vacation days, compared with 60% in the 2015 study and 57% in the 2016 study. Equally surprising, just one in five (18%) workers use all of their vacation days to actually go on a vacation, as opposed to activities such as staying home and running errands. Among workers who left paid vacation days unused, more than half (57%) report feeling guilty when they do go on vacation because their co-workers have to take over their job duties, and nearly half (48%) feel the need to justify to their employer why they’re using the time off to which they’re entitled.

The survey shows the quality of family vacations is being affected as well. While roughly half (49%) of American workers continue to believe the most important benefit of traveling together as a family is spending quality time together, nearly two-thirds (65%) of working families† say they put at least some amount of pressure on themselves to work while on family vacations. About half (48%) of working families say they work on family vacations because they don’t want to come back to a mountain of work, with moms more likely to say this than dads (52% versus 38%). More than one in five U.S. workers (23%) say they are expected to at least check in, even though most (53%) prefer to completely unplug from work while on family vacations.

“Our research shows roughly one in four U.S. workers say the biggest benefit of vacation is feeling less stressed at work—yet, the majority still choose to limit their vacation days and forgo some much-needed rest and relaxation,” said Rob Connors, Vice President of Brand Marketing for Alamo Rent A Car. “This year’s survey suggests that American workers are putting a lot of pressure on themselves in workplaces when it comes to planning and taking vacations, especially in vacation-shaming environments.”

In January, Project: Time Off, an organization that studies American vacation trends, launched National Plan for Vacation Day—a call-to-action for Americans to take back their calendars and plan their time off. Project: Time Off’s recent report—The State of American Vacation 2016—showed vacation planners not only use more of their vacation time and take longer vacations than non-planners, they are also happier at home and work. “American workers are at a critical crossroads: reclaim our time off and reap the benefits of downtime or continue down the path of work martyrdom and burnout,” said Katie Denis, Senior Director of Project: Time Off. “With a solution as simple as planning, the decision here is an easy one.”

Alamo’s commitment to helping families make the most of their vacations extends across all aspects of what we do,” added Connors. “In fact, we created The Scenic Route on in order to share travel tips, guides and inspiration with families so they can enjoy all the benefits that come from taking time away to relax.”

Additional workplace perceptions and trends identified through the research include:


Vacation Shaming: When It Comes to Vacations, Millennials Can Dish It Out, But Can They Take It?

As previously mentioned, Millennials are significantly more likely than non-Millennials to say they vacation shame their co-workers all of the time or sometimes (33% versus 14%).

  • At the same time, Millennials are:
    • The least likely age group to say they used all their vacation days (60% versus 49%).
    • The most likely age group to say feeling shame would keep them from going on or planning a vacation (40% versus 17%).
    • The most likely age group to feel the need to justify to their employer why they’re using their vacation days (46% versus 23%).
  • For the second year in a row, Millennials are significantly more likely than non-Millennials to say they’ve ever felt vacation shame (68% versus 37%).
  • Their feelings of guilt are also on the rise. Significantly more Millennials say they feel vacation shame compared with last year’s survey results (68% in 2017 survey versus 59% in 2016 survey).
  • Millennials are significantly more likely than non-Millennials (53% versus 33%) to say they pressure themselves to work on vacation because:
    • It feels good to know they’re needed (34% versus 22%).
    • Their co-workers are working on vacation (26% versus 11%).
    • They want to impress their bosses (23% versus 9%).


Less Than Half of Workers Using All of Their Paid Vacation Days

As noted above, for the first time the survey results show that less than half (47%) of workers who receive paid vacation use all of their vacation days.

  • Who uses more of their vacation days?
    • 60% of Millennials left unused vacation days on the table compared with 49% of non-Millennials.
    • 63% of dads left unused vacation days on the table compared with 51% of moms.
    • Employees with 10 years or less of tenure are more likely to have left vacation days on the table (58% versus 43% of employees with 11 or more years of tenure).
  • Only one in five workers (18%) who get paid vacation use all of their vacation days to actually go on a vacation (rather than stay at home, do errands, etc.).


Kids and Social Media Envy Dictate Millennial Vacations

  • Across all decision factors surveyed, Millennials are significantly more likely than non-Millennials to say their kids influence the following aspects of their family vacations:
    • Family vacation activities
    • Family vacation location
    • Date of the family vacation
  • Millennials are significantly more likely than non-Millennials to say they’ve decided where to go or what to do based on seeing photos on social media (66% versus 31%) and how good they think their vacation photos would look on social media (47% versus 17%).


Multigenerational Travel: Do Millennials Vacation with Grandma for a Built-In Babysitter?

  • Among families, Millennials are significantly more likely than non-Millennials (81% versus 57%) to say they’ve ever traveled with their parent(s) on a family vacation since becoming an adult.
  • So why have Millennials in families traveled with their parents? They are significantly more likely than non-Millennials to say:
    • Because it’s a tradition (37% versus 23%)
    • Because their parents help watch their kid(s) (24% versus 14%)
    • Because they simply have to/are expected to (19% versus 9%)


Alamo is a value-oriented, internationally recognized brand serving the rental needs of airport leisure travelers. For in-depth results of the 2017 Alamo Family Vacation Survey, visit


*The 2017 Alamo Family Vacation Survey was conducted from January 5 – 10, 2017, with 2,100 adults from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey was fielded using the Research Now online consumer panel. At the time of the survey, participants had to have been at least 18 years of age or older and taken one or more trips with their immediate family and/or their extended family in the past five years.

†Respondents were identified as either “families” (married/in a domestic partnership and/or have a child under the age of 22) or “non-families” (neither married nor have a child under the age of 22). Age and gender data is reflective to the adult population based on U.S. Census data. Millennials are defined as 18- to 35-year-olds.