The majority of workers (54%) would prefer to completely unplug from work while on vacation and...

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.

Photo via Depositphotos. 

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 number one 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 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.

Unplugged Vacations Have Broad Appeal

Given the constant connectivity, it’s perhaps not surprising that Americans are showing signs of wanting to switch off and spend more quality time with their families. 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.

Fifty-six percent 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.

Pressure for Perfect “Insta-Cation” May Be Contributing to Unplugged Trend

Social media use — both for vacation planning and while traveling — is on the rise. And while it has many helpful benefits, it can also have negative effects that may be at least partially fueling the appeal of spending vacations “off-the-grid.”

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. Both figures are up significantly (10 percentage points and 12 percentage points, respectively) over a year ago and are the highest since Alamo’s survey began tracking the trend in 2017.

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.

In an effort to help vacationing families disconnect from their devices, Alamo has introduced a “Vacation Unplugged” toolkit on its Scenic Route travel hub. Comprised of how-to articles from experts, humorous out-of-office messaging options, a family pledge to unplug, lock screen reminders and more, the toolkit is designed to help families realize all the benefits of unplugging during their next trip.

Other notable trends identified by the 2019 Alamo Family Vacation Survey included:

After a Decline in Last Year’s Survey, Vacation Shaming is Back

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 percent 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).

Workers are Leaving Vacation Days on The Table — A Consequence of Vacation Shaming?

  • 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 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%).
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