Under-Vacationed America: A State-by-State Look at Time Off

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August 8, 2018

Leaving vacation days unused has become an unfortunate national pastime. America is not, however, monolithic. There are also more severely under-vacationed areas that give clues to why Americans pass on time off. And there are bright spots across the country to learn from and emulate. Equally varied are the travel preferences state-to-state. From the vacation budget to what goes in the suitcase, differences abound from coast to coast.

Great American Vacationers

When it comes down to it, Colorado, Virginia, and Arizona lead the nation in vacation taking.

Colorado workers hit a Rocky Mountain high, taking 20.3 vacation days on average, the most of any state and three days more than the national average of 17.2. The Centennial State’s employees report earning the most time in the U.S. as well, averaging 27.9 days, compared to 23.2 days earned on average nationally.

Coloradoans used 57 percent of the vacation days they used to travel, far more than the national average of 47 percent. While a strong majority of them still feel they have not seen enough of the country (74%), they are the second-least likely state after Minnesota (73%) to feel that way. With more than six national parks visited on average—many in their own backyard—Colorado workers are above the national average of four parks and close to the top of the list for all states.

Virginia comes in second for vacation usage with an average of 18.9 days taken. They also earn above the national average at 25.0 days. It may be the supportive work cultures that are helping Virginians put that out of office up. More than half (52%) of Virginians say their company cultures encourages vacation usage, the second-most encouraged state after Washington for the top spot, and far more than the 38 percent of all Americans who say the same.

Arizona clocks in at a close third, with 18.8 days used. Workers in Arizona are tied with those in Washington for the highest rates of happiness with their company, with a resounding 68 percent saying they are happy, compared to 54 percent nationwide. Their contentment at work translates to leaving work behind on vacation, as half (50%) of Arizonans unplug when they take time off.

Montana, Delaware, and Rhode Island are the worst at taking vacation. At the bottom of the list for vacation usage is Montana, whose workers take an average of 16.3 days. But employees in the Treasure State also earn less time, with an average of 21.8 days, the third-lowest of all states, behind Rhode Island and Delaware (both earn on average 21.6 days).

Leaving vacation days unused has become an unfortunate national pastime.

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Travel-Happy America

State of American Vacation 2018 found that workers who use the majority of their vacation days for travel are significantly happier than those who travel less or not at all. Americans taking all or most of their vacation days to travel report being 20 percent happier with their personal relationships and 56 percent happier with their health and well-being than those who travel with little or none of their vacation time. They also show greater evidence of success—and enjoyment—of their careers. Those who travel with all or most of their time are 28% happier with their companies and 24% happier with their jobs than those that travel with little to none of their vacation days. These frequent travelers are also 18% more likely to report receiving a promotion in the last two years.

Virginia, Colorado, and New Jersey are the states most likely to be unlocking these benefits with their vacation time.

Virginia is for lovers—of travel. Virginian’s use 64 percent of their vacation days to travel, the most of any state by a large margin and significantly higher than the American average (47%). Employees in the Old Dominion State earn more time off than the average American (earning 25.0 days and using 18.9). But unlike most Americans who are only using eight days to go explore, Virginians commit 12 of their days to seeing the world. They are supported by their employers in doing so. More than half (52%) say their companies encourage vacation usage, far more than the 38 percent of employees nationally who say the same.

Under-Vacationed America 4South Dakota is at the bottom of the list. Perhaps when a state is home to some of the most breathtaking sights in America, from the Black Hills to the Badlands, its residents are more reluctant to leave. It is not that they do not want to travel—only 45 percent say they are happy with how they spend their time off, compared to 65 percent nationally. What’s worse is that just 20 percent of employees in the state report being happy with their health and well-being, far below the national average of 49 percent. Stress levels are higher in South Dakota as well: 64 percent report home-life stress, compared to 44 percent nationally; 78 percent report work-life stress, compared to 66 percent nationally. Unfortunately, the work culture in South Dakota is especially prohibitive, with 74 percent of workers saying their company culture says nothing is negative about vacation usage—just 62 percent of workers nationally say the same.

Missourians take more time than the average American, using 18.0 days of the 24.4 days they earn; however, just over five of those days are used for travel vacations. Though not as severe as South Dakota, they also report lower than average happiness with their health and well-being (39% say they are happy) and how they spend their time off (50% say they are happy).

State Vacation & Travel Rankings

RankingStateDirect Spending Potential Total Days Unused Average Days EarnedAverage Days UsedUsed PercentageVacation Days Used for TravelPercentage of Vacation Time Spent TravelingLeaving Days Unused
1Colorado$3,496,640,387 15,597,472 27.9 20.3 73%11.758%68%
2Virginia$3,170,124,001 18,393,329 25.0 18.9 76%12.264%54%
3Arizona$3,587,265,443 13,240,610 25.0 18.8 75%9.953%48%
4Connecticut$867,294,494 7,225,385 24.2 18.6 77%7.540%60%
5Minnesota$1,610,213,172 13,501,685 24.5 18.4 75%7.943%58%
6New Mexico$822,976,803 5,691,625 27.3 18.4 67%6.234%61%
7Maryland$1,923,610,217 15,998,832 26.0 18.3 70%9.854%51%
8Ohio$2,075,093,383 21,252,756 23.4 18.2 78%6.737%44%
9Washington DC$1,948,086,999 5,200,671 26.9 18.1 67%9.754%65%
10Florida$14,611,254,308 37,046,788 23.7 18.0 76%8.849%48%
11West Virginia$821,860,263 3,342,053 24.3 18.0 74%6.235%45%
12Missouri$1,971,451,708 13,941,980 24.4 18.0 74%5.229%49%
13Oklahoma$706,503,854 9,805,010 25.7 17.9 70%7.441%57%
14Wisconsin$1,596,187,201 11,764,645 23.1 17.8 77%7.341%47%
15Idaho$479,392,993 3,227,665 23.6 17.7 75%8.347%60%
16Mississippi$1,854,505,346 8,384,285 27.0 17.6 65%8.247%58%
17Texas$8,526,088,719 66,797,915 24.7 17.5 71%8.046%48%
18Massachusetts$3,327,699,007 14,917,833 23.0 17.5 76%8.247%48%
19New Jersey$4,631,623,026 15,438,259 22.5 17.5 78%11.163%35%
20New York$11,167,249,833 40,908,174 23.3 17.5 75%8.850%60%
21Georgia$2,926,206,985 22,570,455 24.1 17.5 73%7.543%53%
22Illinois$4,476,700,918 25,061,746 22.9 17.4 76%7.241%55%
23Wyoming$769,311,442 1,210,337 23.1 17.4 75%10.762%61%
24Pennsylvania$4,044,979,702 24,205,248 22.7 17.4 76%7.543%43%
25South Carolina$1,830,077,692 10,221,090 23.8 17.4 73%7.946%55%
26New Hampshire$590,341,303 3,193,649 23.7 17.4 73%8.046%47%
27Indiana$1,212,836,715 14,730,050 23.7 17.4 73%7.342%40%
28Iowa$1,217,097,431 7,236,795 23.4 17.4 74%5.431%55%
29Michigan$2,718,307,304 17,931,570 22.8 17.3 76%7.342%49%
30Nevada$5,592,639,273 7,398,183 24.6 17.3 70%6.638%50%
31Hawaii$5,005,578,948 3,846,702 24.5 17.3 71%6.035%64%
32Alaska$661,038,360 1,713,855 23.8 17.3 73%10.963%64%
33North Dakota$372,821,517 2,856,934 25.9 17.3 67%5.632%61%
34North Carolina$2,534,100,595 19,063,916 22.7 17.2 76%7.946%50%
35Washington$2,438,736,944 15,270,596 23.0 17.2 75%10.762%58%
36Oregon$1,455,554,568 9,659,147 23.9 17.2 72%7.543%61%
37Louisiana$2,476,288,406 8,872,397 23.0 17.2 74%6.940%56%
38Kansas$547,801,143 6,568,379 23.2 17.1 74%8.851%58%
39Maine$744,278,623 2,519,697 22.5 17.1 76%7.041%46%
40Tennessee$2,371,601,649 17,471,574 24.8 17.1 69%7.242%62%
41Arkansas$535,090,456 5,542,565 22.9 17.1 75%7.342%53%
42Vermont$784,514,246 1,520,635 23.4 17.1 73%7.645%40%
43Kentucky$827,476,458 8,453,058 22.8 17.1 75%6.337%41%
44Utah$1,316,192,557 7,832,458 24.0 17.0 71%6.035%65%
45Alabama$886,883,066 9,192,633 22.9 16.9 74%5.633%45%
46California$19,855,216,701 97,025,716 24.1 16.7 70%7.847%58%
47Nebraska$413,823,086 4,447,310 22.5 16.7 74%6.740%55%
48South Dakota$433,583,604 2,078,852 22.8 16.6 73%4.326%47%
49Rhode Island$334,053,028 1,875,131 21.6 16.5 77%6.539%46%
50Delaware$229,370,738 1,755,693 21.6 16.5 76%6.439%45%
51Montana$747,288,814 1,968,694 21.8 16.3 75%8.049%64%
RankingStateCold climateWarm climateActiveRelaxingIndulgeBe healthyRuggedLuxuriousDrive thereFly thereSaveSplurge
1Tennessee13%87%34%66%72%28%27%73%65%35%36%64%
2New Jersey9%89%34%64%67%33%29%70%27%71%34%64%
3Arkansas16%84%29%71%76%24%32%68%65%35%38%62%
4Hawaii42%58%35%65%74%26%22%78%9%91%39%61%
5Louisiana24%75%31%69%68%31%30%69%57%42%40%59%
6Maryland10%90%45%55%70%30%36%64%52%48%43%57%
7Massachusetts8%92%28%72%63%37%25%75%33%67%45%55%
8Illinois10%90%43%57%71%28%22%77%35%64%45%54%
9Virginia9%91%39%61%66%34%25%75%44%56%46%54%
10Wisconsin9%91%33%65%69%31%25%73%43%57%44%54%
11South Carolina7%93%27%73%60%40%15%85%60%40%47%53%
12Nevada12%88%28%72%78%22%38%62%49%51%47%53%
13Nebraska8%92%42%58%72%28%30%70%49%51%48%52%
14Oklahoma5%95%26%74%77%23%30%70%50%50%48%52%
15Alabama12%88%19%81%64%34%24%76%56%44%48%52%
16Kansas17%83%36%64%69%31%38%62%49%51%48%52%
17Connecticut20%80%22%78%51%49%32%68%37%63%49%51%
18Georgia12%88%45%55%58%41%17%82%43%57%48%51%
19Minnesota9%88%31%65%65%32%33%63%40%57%46%51%
20Iowa11%89%32%68%67%33%38%61%49%51%48%51%
21Michigan9%91%32%68%64%36%29%71%32%68%50%50%
22Washington15%85%50%50%71%29%35%65%38%62%50%50%
23West Virginia3%97%27%73%71%29%26%74%67%33%50%50%
24Mississippi7%93%36%64%48%52%23%77%47%53%50%50%
25Pennsylvania10%90%33%67%63%37%28%72%45%55%51%49%
26Utah13%87%35%65%64%36%40%60%49%51%51%49%
27Oregon13%86%42%57%58%41%44%55%50%49%51%49%
28Vermont12%88%33%67%63%37%38%62%42%58%52%48%
29Delaware10%90%41%59%68%32%25%75%31%69%52%48%
30Alaska15%85%33%67%61%39%32%68%22%78%53%47%
31Montana10%90%43%57%70%30%35%65%35%65%53%47%
32South Dakota11%88%28%71%65%34%35%63%41%58%52%46%
33Wyoming7%93%40%60%51%49%44%56%55%45%54%46%
34Florida21%79%38%62%57%43%34%65%43%57%54%46%
35Missouri4%96%41%59%69%31%33%67%54%46%55%45%
36Maine15%85%38%62%70%30%38%62%53%47%55%45%
37Ohio6%94%39%61%76%24%22%78%41%59%56%44%
38Indiana5%95%33%67%62%38%42%58%43%57%56%44%
39Kentucky10%90%24%76%68%32%24%76%62%38%58%42%
40New York10%90%39%60%57%43%25%75%29%71%58%42%
41Washington DC21%79%44%56%62%38%32%68%8%92%58%42%
42North Carolina12%88%33%67%60%39%21%79%58%42%57%42%
43California15%85%41%59%59%41%40%59%33%67%59%41%
44Rhode Island9%91%37%63%60%40%31%69%33%67%59%41%
45Texas13%86%33%66%58%41%23%76%40%60%59%40%
46North Dakota6%94%37%63%66%34%44%56%38%62%62%38%
47Arizona16%84%37%63%57%43%45%55%29%67%62%38%
48Colorado8%92%48%52%60%40%35%65%27%72%62%37%
49Idaho22%78%46%54%46%54%47%53%62%38%66%34%
50New Hampshire3%88%43%48%53%38%44%56%52%48%57%34%
51New Mexico10%88%41%59%60%39%24%75%48%51%67%32%
RankingStateHappy with companyHappy with jobHappy with personal relationshipsHappy with health and well-beingHappy with how much time off is takenStressed with home lifeStressed with work life
1Alabama55%58%84%60%63%40%71%
2Alaska46%57%78%38%61%40%68%
3Arizona68%64%78%59%74%37%48%
4Arkansas52%60%79%48%71%35%74%
5California55%53%75%55%57%45%62%
6Colorado45%46%74%42%54%40%72%
7Connecticut49%49%75%39%53%44%71%
8Delaware58%56%75%53%60%43%66%
9Florida61%54%70%52%63%45%60%
10Georgia53%56%75%49%59%33%74%
11Hawaii44%39%67%39%54%67%79%
12Idaho64%58%71%72%72%42%61%
13Illinois65%57%77%45%57%54%72%
14Indiana47%45%68%37%59%39%76%
15Iowa55%58%68%55%61%41%69%
16Kansas45%50%81%35%59%42%79%
17Kentucky54%52%74%45%58%54%72%
18Louisiana53%61%77%49%66%42%55%
19Maine49%43%74%35%68%49%71%
20Maryland63%60%81%55%72%53%72%
21Massachusetts57%54%71%51%65%35%69%
22Michigan47%41%66%44%55%44%65%
23Minnesota60%55%81%59%63%49%73%
24Mississippi66%64%74%47%81%39%68%
25Missouri48%49%68%39%57%40%71%
26Montana44%42%61%48%48%60%77%
27Nebraska63%54%74%49%72%38%64%
28Nevada51%53%76%53%76%53%68%
29New Hampshire62%52%72%51%57%64%73%
30New Jersey50%51%75%58%66%48%63%
31New Mexico51%57%85%42%70%54%65%
32New York45%37%76%47%55%49%75%
33North Carolina55%56%82%53%67%39%74%
34North Dakota60%57%77%50%51%54%80%
35Ohio46%48%78%47%60%43%73%
36Oklahoma50%48%61%34%42%28%76%
37Oregon60%69%71%43%62%46%73%
38Pennsylvania44%47%75%47%62%39%75%
39Rhode Island50%59%69%39%57%47%71%
40South Carolina54%62%80%58%58%33%65%
41South Dakota60%55%71%20%46%64%78%
42Tennessee62%54%80%48%52%46%73%
43Texas54%53%75%54%60%36%63%
44Utah66%70%65%46%69%51%68%
45Vermont59%56%74%41%67%61%63%
46Virginia47%47%66%43%64%50%70%
47Washington68%56%85%52%71%59%80%
48Washington DC59%55%85%51%60%50%75%
49West Virginia46%48%70%42%61%49%77%
50Wisconsin42%44%69%47%66%47%71%
51Wyoming52%56%69%43%79%48%64%
RankingStateWork Culture Encourages VacationUnplug on Vacation
1Washington DC39%13%
2Virginia52%26%
3Nebraska47%27%
4Connecticut32%27%
5Arkansas34%27%
6Maryland37%27%
7Mississippi44%29%
8Hawaii32%31%
9North Carolina41%31%
10West Virginia36%31%
11Washington52%31%
12Idaho50%31%
13Delaware34%31%
14Wyoming33%32%
15Alaska44%32%
16South Dakota26%32%
17Montana35%33%
18Minnesota39%33%
19Florida38%33%
20Ohio37%34%
21Illinois38%34%
22California36%34%
23Maine46%34%
24South Carolina45%35%
25Kansas41%35%
26Louisiana41%35%
27New Hampshire40%36%
28New Jersey41%36%
29New York36%38%
30North Dakota36%38%
31Kentucky39%38%
32Wisconsin32%38%
33Tennessee14%38%
34Massachusetts43%39%
35Nevada43%39%
36Colorado40%39%
37Oklahoma31%39%
38Texas37%40%
39New Mexico32%41%
40Vermont51%41%
41Alabama39%41%
42Iowa38%42%
43Missouri34%43%
44Oregon32%44%
45Georgia35%45%
46Pennsylvania40%46%
47Arizona43%50%
48Utah46%50%
49Rhode Island23%51%
50Michigan35%52%
51Indiana40%60%