Half of Americans won’t take a vacation this summer—and not just because they can’t afford it

This family is making money while traveling the world — here's how they do it
This family is making money while traveling the world — here's how they do it

Vacation is often a time to relax and refresh. Some experts think it could even make you more productive when you head back to work. But a whopping 49 percent of Americans won't be taking one this summer, and while lack of money certainly plays a role, it's not the only reason so many people are deciding to stay home.

Bankrate, which conducted a survey of 1,000 people aged 18 or older, found that, of the 49 percent who aren't planning a vacation, 50 percent said they can't afford it, 24 percent have other family obligations and 22 percent can't take time off work.

Younger people "are most likely to say they can't go on vacation because there's too much on their plates," the survey notes. "They're also more inclined to say that their financial situation is keeping them from taking time off."

A 2017 GoBankingRates survey found that millennials between 18 and 24 years old had less than $1,000 in savings, which doesn't leave a lot of room for discretionary spending. Nearly half of respondents had nothing saved at all.

Older Americans, on the other hand, are more likely to cite family obligations rather than work-related commitments as the reason they won't take a vacation.

Even when Americans have paid time off, the survey points out, they're reluctant to use it: Only 36 percent of respondents who have paid vacation time plan to use all of it this year. And 13 percent of workers with paid time off don't intend to use any of their vacation days.

Bankrate chief financial analyst Greg McBride suggests issues related to workload and staffing could be why more people aren't taking time off. "There [are] 6 million open and unfilled jobs in the economy right now because employers can't find qualified workers," he says in the survey. "A lot of existing employees are carrying a heavier load and that might keep them tethered to the desk instead of taking the time off that they would otherwise like to take."

If you're trying to get away from work, consider spending a day or two out even if you're overwhelmed or don't have enough money to travel. "A vacation doesn't have to be something where you fly somewhere," Melanie Ross, a senior financial adviser for NCA Financial Planners," tells Bankrate.

"A lot of people do something they call 'staycations,' where they just will stay local. Maybe they'll travel two hours in a two-day period or stay at home and take advantage of things that they don't have time to while they're working."

Some people do plan to take a vacation, though, the survey notes. And among them, the average amount they intend to spend is $1,000. But there are ways to cut back, like traveling during an off-season. And consider opening a high-yield savings account, a certificate of deposit or some sort of interest-earning account designed specifically for vacation, as well, if you don't already have one. Dedicating a bit of money with each pay could add up over time.

Consumer finance expert Andrea Woroch recommends being flexible when it comes to travel dates and destinations. The median amount Americans in the Northeast plan to spend this summer is $1,500, for example, or $500 more than the national average.

If you're flying, Woroch tells Bankrate, "compare prices at different airports and consider booking one-way rather than round-trip flights." She also suggests opening a co-branded airline credit card to get bonus miles toward a free flight. "As long as pay your balances on time and in full every month, it's OK to open a card that can reduce the cost of your trip."

You can also save on housing by using a service like Airbnb. If you're staying at a hotel, though, look for perks like free breakfast, parking, Wi-Fi and shuttles, Carrie Sumlin, digital consumer executive at Ally Financial, tells Bankrate. And if you're traveling abroad, she adds, "choose destinations with favorable exchange rates, like Mexico, Iceland and New Zealand."

It is possible to take a vacation, as long as you budget your time and money wisely. Look for deals, too. With a combination of airline miles and hotel rewards points, Grace Cheng and Pedro Pla flew to five continents for free. Here are their five hacks to save.

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Don't miss: Why you should consider working over the holiday if you want to get ahead

Video by Andrea Kramar

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