By Tom Musbach, Yahoo! HotJobs
The slowdown in the US economy is threatening a necessity for workers: vacations. According to the 2008 Yahoo! HotJobs vacation survey, 51 percent of respondents said they were planning to skip taking a vacation, opting to save money instead.
Not a Frivolous Matter
"Vacations are usually the first thing to go when people feel job or economic pressure," says Joe Robinson, a trainer in work-life balance and author of Work to Live. "We're programmed to believe that free time is worthless, a frill to shove aside, but vacations are as important as watching your cholesterol or getting exercise."
Skipping a vacation can also be bad for your employer.
Milo and Thuy Sindell, founders of Hit the Ground Running and authors of Job Spa, say, "You are not helpful to the company and your coworkers when you are not operating at full capacity. Vacations help you to get rejuvenated to come back to work at full capacity."
Make It Work with Less
For those tempted to skip vacation due to financial worries, experts recommend the following tips:
- Remind Yourself: Vacation Is Not a Luxury: "You owe it to yourself, your family and your company to take care of yourself by stepping out of the office for at least a few days at a time," says Liz Bywater, president of the Bywater Consulting Group, which helps improve organizational performance.
- Put Aside Some Funds Each Week: "Even $50 a week [or less] can add up and make your trip happen," says Robinson.
- Plan Leisure Activities Near Home: "Stay at home and read, garden, hike, jog, bike or whatever you like to do but never have enough time for during the weekends," say the Sindells. "Or be a tourist in your own city."
- Try Home-Swapping: You can swap with someone you know in another city, or use an online service, such as Homexchange.com or even Vrbo.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner). "It can have the look and feel of a vacation at a much more affordable housing cost than paying for hotel or resort lodging," says Michael Haubrich, president of Financial Service Group and an expert in financial planning for career issues.
- Keep the Itinerary Simple: Travel columnist Donald D. Groff recommends selecting a destination within 200 miles (a three-hour drive) from your home. If you're traveling by plane, fly nonstop whenever possible. "The sooner you get to your destination, the sooner your relaxation begins," Groff says.
The economic downturn also added to workers' stress levels. Thirty-five percent of survey respondents said they felt pressured to improve their performance for fear of being laid off. With 57 percent of respondents admitting to being "burned out" by work, stress and fatigue add another threat to vacations. Experts say you can prevent that threat in the following ways:
- Start Small: "Start with an afternoon off to do something you really enjoy, even if it's just a walk at the beach or a visit to a farmer's market," says Beth A. Levin, author of Making a Richer, More Fulfilling Life a Reality.
- If Planning Is a Burden, Don't: "Instead of planning a vacation, just take time off to be at home and figure it out each day as you go," the Sindells suggest.
- Enlist Backup Support: Ask a trusted coworker to back you up while you're away and offer to return the favor, Bywater suggests. "It's much easier to relax when you know someone's got you covered."
- Choose According to What You Need: You may need a peaceful retreat from stress, or you may benefit from something more active and exciting. "Avoid the kind of vacation that will leave you even more exhausted than before," she adds.
- Give Yourself a Deadline: "Stop thinking about it and just do it," says Bywater. "Think of it as 'doctor's orders.'"