What can we do to help America #TakeFamilyTime more?

What can we do to help America #TakeFamilyTime more?

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Two weeks ago, we presented some of the obstacles you see preventing parents from taking more vacations. Since then, eight more of you filled out our feedback form and provided us with your input. THANK YOU for your engagement. THIS is why we launched #TakeFamilyTime.

The practical side of us understands that having 58% of American parents (and other adults with children in their home) NOT utilizing all of their paid time off means fewer clients for travel advisors, fewer cruise cabins sold, fewer hotel rooms filled, etc.

Equally important is the fact that American families are missing out on all of the benefits children and parents (as well as grandparents and others) receive vacationing together. That loss resonates with FTA Members — and with the FTA management team too. And the emotions that loss conjures up inside all of us can be a powerful motivator to take action.

After all, knowing a problem exists addresses only half the problem. Figuring out what we can do to solve the problem, and how we can motivate people and organizations to focus on it, is what we ultimately need to do.

So what can we/you do?

You’d be reading here for an hour if we shared all of the insights our FTA Members submitted over the last four weeks. I’ll try to summarize below, but know we’ll promote all of our members’ ideas and thoughts through our social media handles in September when our movement goes public.

Many FTA members would like to see corporations change their work culture, and remove the “guilt” factor of being away from the office. You also would like to see employers educate employees on the value of taking the time to “refuel” our creative energy.

Joy Hess, one of our Rock Star Travel Advisors, at Outside the Lines Travel, would like to see companies educate and encourage employees to spend time with their families by posting “vacation/staycation photos in the office,” in company emails and other visible places.  EXACTLY! If we want to elevate the importance of time away with family, we should equate it with other elements of corporate life, like community service, performance awards, and the like.

“Enforce time off,” said Karen Akpan, Media Center member at Mom Trotter. “Assure employees that they will return to their jobs and that in their absence the company will survive. When employees take time off to refresh, everyone is happier and the company runs better.” “Stop paying people for their unused vacation days!” said Elizabeth Newcamp at Dutch, Dutch, Goose.

Susanne Walsh, head of marketing at White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, AZ, offered similar sentiments, and would like to see employers reinforce with employees that time away, even if it’s 3-4 days and close to home, “is better for their health, attitude and productivity. I wasn’t taking all of my time off and realized I was burning out. Spreading a weeks’ vacation over several long weekends really helped me return to work more rested and with a healthier new attitude,” Walsh told us.

“Make it part of the work culture: posters promoting vacation destinations, books/brochures available to motivate, vacation giveaways at holiday parties,” suggested Travel Advisor Lauren Goldenberg at The Family Traveler. Host in-house travel advisors to help employees plan their vacations, she offered, and find ways to share frequent traveler points with employees, or offer dog sitting shares for families boarding pets while they’re gone.

Kids Love Greece Travel Advisor Aikaterini Makatouni would like to see employers encourage parents to take all their vacation and “not make them feel bad if an employee asks for multiple days off in a row,” while Ann Forstenzer, a travel advisor with Magic Family Getaways, pointed to Europe’s example of offering more vacation time.

Other members would like to see employers separate out “sick time” from “vacation time” or be more understanding about parents of young children needing time away to be caregivers. Employers also should consider basing vacation on an employee’s seniority and the annual vacation time they had accrued at their previous employers, “rather than time spent with a company,” Eileen Gunn at FamiliesGo! told us. “If a person has school-age kids who have 10 weeks of summer vacation, plus three full weeks off during the school year, a mid-career parent cannot go from 3-4-5 weeks of vacation back to 2 weeks each time they start a new job,” she said.

Shellie Bailey-Shah — Editor at KidTripster— would like to see employers mandate that they take all of their PTO, and encourages the industry to not charge peak season premiums, while Makatouni would like to see the industry increase its messaging and marketing, “to support the notion that kids’ happiness is linked to traveling more with their families. The same applies to productivity at work… productivity after vacation is higher.”

Gunn would like to see more marketing around “staycations and nearcations,” as well as “transparent and consistent pricing with an eye on value. Not all families are budget travelers, but we focus on getting the most we can out of our travel dollars because we’re spending more than we used to on airfare, meals, admission, etc.” She also would like to see tools that make planning simpler. “Planning a one-week vacation takes 10 hours and most parents dread it,” she said.

Of course, travel agents (like our highly skilled and focused FTA Travel Advisor members) are an excellent resource for parents who don’t have all of that time for planning. We’ll go deeper into what the industry can do to help America #TakeFamilyTime more in my next letter. Meanwhile, here’s hoping your workplace encourages you taking time away.

Rainer Jenss

FTA President & Founder

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