US workers facing 'alarming vacation deficit': Here's where to go to fix it

The end of the summer is nearly here. For those who haven’t yet planned that summer vacation, it’s time to stop procrastinating and get going.

Workaholics and procrastinators should know they’re far from alone in putting off vacation. According to Allianz Travel Insurance’s annual Vacation Confidence Index, more than 170 million Americans (53 percent) haven’t taken a vacation in the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, 37 percent haven’t been on a vacation in more than two years. That’s down three points from 2015, when 56 percent of respondents reported not having taken a vacation in a year and 41 percent admitted to having not been on a leisure trip of at least a week to a place 100 miles or more from home in more than two years.

“We’ve only seen the slightest increase in Americans taking a vacation this year,” said Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA. “Our findings show that Americans continue to be plagued by an alarming vacation deficit.”

This vacation deficit is not that surprising, “when you consider that consumer confidence still hovers at relatively low levels coupled with uncertainty about the economy and specifically consumers’ own job security,” said Laura Mandala, managing director of Mandala Research, a tourism and travel company.

“Policy and regulatory uncertainty has kept so many companies in a holding pattern, and that gets passed on to workers,” said Mandala. “It’s difficult to plan on travel when you’re waiting for the next shoe to drop.”

Still, there are plenty of travelers trying to fly the coop this Labor Day weekend. Airlines for America, the industry trade organization, projects that over this seven-day Labor Day travel period, 15.6 million people will fly on scheduled U.S. airline flights, up 4 percent over the same period in 2015.

Many of them are embarking on their journeys via car, and with good reason.

“Gas prices are currently at the lowest levels in more than a decade, thanks to a glut of supplies around the world,” said Julie Hall, AAA spokeswoman.

According to the organization, the national price of regular gasoline is hovering above $2 per gallon, down more than 30 cents from the comparable period last year. “This is motivating millions of Americans to drive and travel more,” Hall added.

A report on travel stress by the CMO Council, a global network of executive brand marketers, shows that Western Europe is still the most desirable destination for global travelers — despite terrorism fears, political discord and regional socioeconomic issues.

“While headlines might be shouting danger, traveler research and dreams of the romance of Europe are still winning,” said Liz Miller, senior vice president of the CMO Council.

The CMO Council data found that a third of North Americans said Western Europe is their favorite destination. Meanwhile, the top four most popular destinations were listed as Western Europe, the U.S., Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean, respectively.

That study reinforces what several online travel agencies are reporting. Over the last few months, travel site Hipmunk looked at searches for international destinations to see if unrest in Europe and elsewhere is having a negative impact on Americans’ desire to travel abroad.

They found that international travel searches are actually up 32 percent as a share of overall searches, with Asian and European destinations topping the list. Southeast Asia saw an 11 percent increase, while Western Europe saw a 2 percent rise, Hipmunk noted.

Kayak is finding some intriguing search patterns for the Labor Day travel holiday as well.

Comparing state-by-state flight searches for travel over the end-of-summer holiday to last year’s Labor Day searches, Kayak’s data crunchers found that online searchers in Michigan, Oregon and Tennessee have been checking out vacations in the U.K. — now more affordable thanks to a deep swoon in the British pound.

Separately, a weak Canadian dollar has vacation hopefuls in other states checking out adventures in the north. And with relaxed travel restrictions and sanctioned commercial flights on the horizon, there’s plenty of interest in flights to Havana.

Cheapflights, meanwhile, is offering up a list of 10 destinations to consider where the airfares are more than 15 percent lower than they were at this time last year. Auckland, Rome, Ho Chi Minh City, Nashville and Dublin top that list.

— Harriet Baskas is the author of seven books, including “Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can’t or Won’t Show You,” and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at
. Follow Road Warrior at @CNBCtravel.

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