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In our culture of packed schedules, hyper-connectivity, and work martyrdom, American workers are in serious need of a break. It’s time to start being intentional about how we spend our vacation days, and plan ahead!

In-depth research proves that Americans who take time to plan how they will use their vacation time in the year ahead are happier than those who do not. They are happier with their health and well-being, their financial situation, their marriage, and even their overall mood. Research also shows that simply having something to look forward to—like a vacation—improves your happiness. But nearly half of American households fail to take the simple step of planning their time off.

Here’s how to avoid that mistake and boost your happiness in the process:

  • First, confirm your paid time off benefits. Don’t take someone else’s word for it: some benefits may have changed from last year (many organizations offer additional days based on your years of service) so confirm what you have available by asking your manager or HR director.
  • Review your calendar for the year. It’s important to see when you could actually take a vacation. Consider:
    • Holidays during the year. If your office is closed for a holiday, could you add an extra day off and turn a one-day holiday into a four-day weekend vacation?
    • Workloads and coworkers. Think of when you are busiest during the year and when times are a little bit slower for your business. Try to plan for the slower times and make sure that your responsibilities are covered by your coworkers.
    • Family events and other important dates. Will you want to take time off for things like weddings, family reunions or birthdays – figure out when they’ll be in advance.
  • What are you going to cross off your bucket list this year? Where have you been wanting to travel? What are you dying to try? This is the fun part, where your dreams and goals come in. You don’t necessarily need to know what you’ll do with every vacation day – just plan the days off now.
  • Talk with your boss and colleagues about your time off. Don’t be anxious, nearly all senior business leaders believe in vacation time benefits for their employees.
  • Think about how you’re going to share your experience with your colleagues when you’re back at work – nearly 28% of people don’t do this. You will benefit from your time off, and your coworkers can, too, by taking a vacation by themselves!

Join Project: Time Off on January 31 for National Plan for Vacation Day. Get excited, use your time off and plan ahead to be a part of taking back the 658 million unused vacation days that Americans leave every year. Learn more about this event here.

 

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The holiday season is upon us. The time of year when your home is filled with cheer, laughter and family – unless of course you are the one hosting!  Your once ideal holiday is now anything but stress free; you have to cook, clean and entertain for your guests non-stop. And on top of all that, you have to think of the perfect gift for each of your loved ones, a daunting task in itself.

Maybe this year it’s time to start a new holiday tradition.  Picture how relaxing a vacation during the holiday season could be! And with most people off work around the holidays, it’s a perfect time for a getaway.  So, instead of spending money on lots of small gifts, consider a holiday vacation and give your family the gift of time together and memories to cherish.

But before you go booking your trip, make sure you don’t “treat” your family to a cramped room where the bed is not only for sleeping, but for eating and watching TV. Remember you want a stress-free holiday with loved ones, not a potentially more stressful holiday due to cramped quarters.  Not to mention, there is no space to cook Grandma’s famous holiday meals.

Fortunately, there is a way to travel during the holidays, without losing out on some of your favorite traditions – timeshare.  A timeshare vacation offers multiple rooms so that family members can stay in the holiday spirit without stepping on each other’s toes…literally!  Timeshares also provide a fully-equipped kitchen so your family can still have those favored holiday dishes.

Once you see just how great it is to get away for a holiday, you and your family may just make this an annual tradition.  So, this year be sure to give the gift of time and start a new tradition that your family will enjoy and remember for years to come.

Taking a vacation isn’t just about the fun you have while on your trip. It’s also about the long-lasting memories that you can cherish for years to come.  No one wants to jump straight back to reality after a vacation. They want to be able to bask in the good times they spent with their close family and friends, and maintain that happiness even when their vacation is over.

A recent survey by HomeAway, discovered what science says about making vacation memories.

  • Those who traveled with a mixed group of family and friends remembered their trips at least 20% better—and for vacationers who had something special to celebrate, their emotional memories soared to 69%.
  • There is no need to break the bank when planning a vacation. According to the study, the cost of a vacation has little to do with the memories you make. So whether you’re planning a luxury vacation or a less expensive stay, dollars do not equal memories.
  • Mountain vacations top the list for most memorable vacations—they’re up to 12% more memorable than other destinations.

Vacationing with timeshare naturally lends itself to retaining those great vacation memories!  Timeshares offer a variety of sizes of rooms that even include kitchens.  So traveling with a large group of family and friends does not mean everyone needs to be cramped into one small room – there’s room to be together….and alone.

Timeshares also offer a world of options at different prices.  Travelers can find a vacation trip for the price that best fits them and there are timeshare resort locations all over the world.  So if you want to have a memorable vacation in the mountains, you will surely have that option.

It is known that U.S. workers are not taking all of their earned vacation days.  In fact, more than half of American workers—55 percent—left vacation days unused in 2015, resulting in a total of 658 million unused vacation days across America!  This trend of not using all vacation days has been going on since the early 2000s, and is getting worse every year!  If the workers are not willing to change, maybe its time their jobs force change.

Offering paid vacation simply isn’t working, employees still fear they will be judged by other coworkers for taking time off or just simply fall behind on their work.  Because of the health benefits associated with vacations, businesses feel the need to get their employees to vacation.  Since offering a paid vacation is not enough, companies are now beginning to offer ‘paid, paid vacations.’

One company doing so is the marketing and advertising company SteelHouse.  Their CEO, Mark Douglas came up with a plan where the company will pay their employees $2,000 a year, through reimbursements, to go wherever they want.  He told Business Insider about the success of this plan, citing that of the 250 people in his company only five people did not use all of their vacation days!  In addition to more people using their vacation days, Douglas finds his employees returning from vacation ‘recharged and more productive.’

SteelHouse is not the only company offering paid, paid vacations.  BambooHR, a software company based out of Lindon, Utah offers a similar deal.  BambooHR offers to pay each of its 200 employees $2,000 towards their vacation.  This money can be spent on things like hotels, transportation, food and other vacation necessities.  In addition to seeing his workers become more productive, CEO Ben Peterson says “We feel very strongly that personal life doesn’t exist to support work life, but vice versa.”  Peterson and BambooHR are creating a work place where it becomes easier to enjoy your personal life through vacations and unplugging from work-life.

When talking about paid time off, Peterson says that it’s “kind of a catch 22. You have it. But then, it’s often looked down upon if you take it. Studies show people actually take less time off when they have unlimited PTO than when they actually have a policy.”

Because of this universal feeling from workers, paid, paid vacations may become more popular among businesses.  In fact there are a growing number of companies that are offering this service in the hopes that their employees can unplug and reap the benefits from a vacation.

 

At this year’s “The Upside Of Downtime” forum hosted by Project: TimeOff, the audience heard from many great speakers on the value of taking time off. One of the most intriguing was Samantha Brown, who has hosted several different Travel Channel programs including Girl Meets Hawaii and Passport to Europe – and is considered to be a “professional traveler”.

Over the course of the last 13 years, she has traveled to more than 220 cities in 49 countries and 30 American states.  Her philosophy is that if you are going to take time off from work…you should travel!  It benefits everyone: the person taking the vacation, their family and friends, and even their work.

In order to achieve an ‘authentic’ vacation, she offers the following tips:

  • Don’t spend all of your time in the past – Don’t just spend time visiting historic sites or museums, but also experience the culture as it is today.
  • Go for a walk – Spend two hours on a certain day to leave the touristy area and just explore the culture. Walk down streets because they look nice to you or go sit in a local coffee shop. Whatever it is, just go for a walk and explore.
  • The best is never in the must sees, always in the mundane – Do not spend all your time going to ‘top-ten’ areas, but instead lose yourself in the culture.
  • Create a ritual – If you are in a location for multiple days, create a ritual to slow down time and relax, saving time for your other experiences.
  • Talk to locals – They hold the key to what is truly ‘must-see’.

Great tips from a savvy world traveler—and with timeshare resorts all over the world, there are endless cultures you can experience!

By Cait DeBaun, Project: Time Off

On October 5th, a diverse and influential group of thought leaders in business and human resources gathered in Washington, D.C. to think about one important question: since American workers aren’t taking their time off, what can we do to reverse that trend?

We’re so glad they asked.

Over the course of this year’s Upside of Downtime Forum, experts like David Dye, Dan Schawbel, Samantha Brown, Juliet Funt, and Guy Kawasaki — in concert with Project: Time Off experts — provided a variety of answers to that broad and important question.

Here’s a taste of five of the biggest concepts that you can start putting into motion at your office today — most of them might be easier to do than you think.

  1. Create a magnetic culture.

In an age when talent recruitment and retention often makes the difference in whether a business succeeds or fails, an engaging culture is imperative. (Not to mention the incredibly high cost of turnover.) But while that can feel like a big issue for one individual to solve — especially if your workplace has several divisions or is geographically spread — it’s important to remember that most employees see their boss as the top influencer in their life. A better culture can be as simple as keeping in mind the three P’s Deloitte’s David Dye believes truly drive employees: pride, purpose, and passion. If you can offer those three things — whether it’s by incorporating an innovative vacation policy or just in everyday interaction — workers will be happier, engaged, and more productive.

  1. Be predictable and flexible.

Our most recent research on the subject shows that over half of Americans don’t take all their time off every year. That’s not the case at Deloitte, where 81 percent of the firm’s nearly 245,000 employees use all their paid time off every year. How? It’s the result of a reinvention of an approach to performance management and new policies that provide local leaders the autonomy to find the right solution for their people.

What that really means is that it’s about communication. Deloitte managers ask three key questions of their direct reports: What inspires you? What’s getting in your way? How can I help? It may seem simple, but even asking these questions can help you better understand employee needs and desires — whether that’s about taking time off or anything else.

  1. Encourage people to take ownership.

Instilling self-engagement in employees is both cost-effective and offers significant return on investment. By fostering a positive culture and communicating — and, in action, empowering them to make decisions like taking time off when they need it — you will encourage them to not only want to stay at the job, but excel as self-sufficient operators. “Say to people, I trust you, I trust your judgement,” Guy Kawasaki explained. “I empower you to take action.” This is especially important for Millennial employees — the future of any organization’s management force. One way Dan Schawbel suggests companies do this is by through flexible work options—that include vacation. Flexibility inherently shows your employees you trust them.

  1. Seek authenticity.

Sam Brown knows a thing or two about experiences. But as someone who travels and talks about travel for a living, even she is not immune to burnout. Her answer? Finding authenticity in her life by not looking at the past, creating rituals — like taking regular vacations to recharge — and doing things not because you have to, but because you think it will lead to something great.

  1. Even for a moment, replace exertion with thoughtfulness.

Not every vacation requires months of planning. But while Americans are often brilliant at process improvement, we’re lagging behind when it comes to thinking improvement.

In fact, as Juliet Funt notes, the first step to taking longer pauses, like vacation, is finding the “whitespace” that lies beneath the constant barrage of emails and meetings that are modern work.

“When talented people don’t have time to think, business inevitably suffers,” Funt explained. “It’s like we’re eating all day and never swallowing.”

We’re all working to solve the world’s biggest challenges. But we owe it to ourselves and our employees to address a challenge that’s in our hands — taking moments that are both recuperative and constructive, even if it’s truly just a moment. After all, tapping into the upside of downtime starts with just that: downtime.

Are you ready to take the lead?

If you missed the Forum, don’t worry, you can watch the recorded livestream here.

Has this election season left you feeling down? Depressed? Anxious? Well you’re not alone.  In fact, the American Psychological Association found that more than half of U.S. adults, regardless of party, felt very or somewhat stressed by the election —which puts it in line with other major life stressors, such as the economy, money or work.

It has gotten so bad that Steven Stosny, a therapist in suburban Washington D.C., has even characterized what he’s seeing in his patients as “Election Stress Disorder.

One great way to help you feel better during this stressful time is to step back, take a deep breath and PLAN YOUR NEXT VACATION!

Simply beginning to plan a vacation can take your mind off of the stressors bringing you down.  Instead of focusing on the negatives surrounding this election, use your day to whisk yourself away to a better place. There is a world of options out there just waiting to be explored!

We know that taking vacations are proven to be good for a person’s health. There have been numerous studies that show vacations lower stress levels and decrease depression.   Take some time to plan one and knowing that you have a vacation to look forward to can help you overcome Election Stress Disorder.

And just think – it’s almost over!

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A recent popular trend has become share or peer-to-peer vacations – like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway – where vacationers rent rooms or houses directly from homeowners.  For most families a vacation is a once-a-year event, where everything needs to go right to fully enjoy the relaxation a vacation provides.  Yet, people are still going on vacations that don’t fully meet their needs, even through these peer-to-peer services.

While this type of vacation can work for some people, a recent survey of over 1,000 vacationers conducted for the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) by research group Leger revealed many drawbacks.  Respondents said they least liked the fact that there was no housekeeping (47%), no concierge/front desk (23%), and that it was not a part of a resort (17%).

Now while this survey showed the things vacationers who use peer-to-peer services did not like, it also showed some of the things that they found very beneficial to their vacation enjoyment.  Two of the main things respondents cited were the fact that their rented unit had a kitchen and that there were multiple rooms.

So, what offers these in-demand amenities without the downside of the drawbacks found in peer-to-peer rentals?  Timeshare!

According to a recent article in Hotel Management Magazine, “A quick glance at the media hype surrounding Airbnb, HomeAway and other sharing economy hotel alternatives would lead many to believe that these companies are the founders of a new concept that is revolutionizing the industry. But, in fact, another facet of the hotel industry­—timeshare—considers itself the ‘original’ sharing economy, and has the facts to make a compelling case.”

Timeshare accommodations offer a large living space that includes a kitchen for when you want to cook your own meals as well as multiple rooms that give you both space to be together as a family or privacy to be alone.  And, most timeshares also offer housekeeping, a concierge/front desk and a resort style property.  Ultimately, timeshares offer the size and space that peer-to-peer services offer while also providing the key amenities that have almost become expected during a vacation. The last thing you should be thinking on vacation is vacuuming!

By Catherine Reynolds, Associate Manager of External Communications, RCI

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Today’s traveler is looking to take something new away from their vacation, and that is often taking the form of newly obtained knowledge. They want to see or do something they never thought possible. In fact, there’s a growing case for experiential travel as the new norm. TripAdvisor’s TripBarometer: 2016 Travel Trends study reported that 25 percent of millennials choose their vacation destination because they are able to do an activity that was not possible elsewhere.

Of this same group, 43 percent even reported that they would be willing to spend more on trips that allowed them to visit somewhere on their wish list. While we often hear this said of millennials, it’s not just for the young and single travelers. Globally, 69 percent of all travelers plan to try something new in 2016 according to TripAdvisor, showing that travelers of all ages are looking for new and novel experiences. Experiential travelers are looking for four main things in a vacation: First Hand Experiences, One-of-a-kind Properties, Fully Immersive Vacations and Experiences of the Future. But where can Experiential Travelers experience all four of these amenities? At timeshares across the world, of course!

First-Hand Experiences

Grupo Vidanta recently announced the opening of new Cirque du Soleil® themed properties that perfectly provide these types of experiences. Opening in 2018 in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, the properties will be intertwined
with a Cirque du Soleil® theme park, where travelers will be able to move beyond spectatorship to become characters within the park’s interactive stage and experience Cirque as never before. An on-site Cirque school takes the experience to new heights and in doing so, travelers will
get a taste of what it is like to actually be
a part of a Cirque du Soleil performance,
an experience that they aren’t able to have anywhere else.

One-of-a-kind Properties

Vacation ownership developers are also creating properties that give travelers a chance to experience accommodations like never before. Karisma Hotels & Resorts capitalized on an opportunity
to create Latin America’s only overwater bungalows with its soon-to-open Palafitos-Overwater Bungalows property in Mexico. It comprises 30 elegant suites with spectacular views, glass bottom floors and private infinity pools, as well as beautiful and well-appointed accommodations where guests and members will enjoy awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets. An experience not offered in many locations.

Fully Immersive Vacations

Family vacations have always been in the wheelhouse of benefits for the vacation ownership industry with the additional space and amenities provided at most properties. Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ new Nickelodeon Hotel & Resort Punta Cana property sets a precedent. This upscale resort mixes luxurious amenities with fun-for-the-whole-family experiences centered around Nickelodeon characters. But it’s not all just for kids! Adults can also experience a family vacation without sacrificing luxury and relaxation. The white sand beaches, tropical beverages, and Karisma’s Gourmet Inclusive Experience help ensure that the grown-ups have the vacation they want, too.

Experiences of the Future

As the appetite for experiential travel continues to grow across all population segments, the timeshare industry is perfectly positioned to offer these types of vacations!