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The reality is, 58 percent of parents today do not use all of their earned paid leave, according to the Family Travel Association (FTA)’s 2018 Family Travel Survey. In comparison, 52 percent of all Americans told the USTA’s Project: Time Off program that they don’t take all of their paid time.

That’s a sad reflection on our society, and a real problem for anyone in our industry focused on family travel. If parents don’t use all of their vacation time, they won’t be going on more cruises, visiting new countries, staying at resorts, or consulting a travel advisor. In turn, families won’t gain all of the benefits that come from vacationing together.

This is why the FTA is launching #FamilyVacationsMatter, an advocacy campaign focused on changing the mindset and behavior of parents who don’t use all their days. The campaign makes its public debut in September, but recently we asked our members to tell us what they thought about the fact that nearly two out of three parents do not use all of their paid time off.

What they told us won’t surprise you, probably. They said work can consume us, that it’s hard to prioritize family vacation time against everything else going on in a household (like work schedules, school, and sports travel teams). They also told us some families struggle to afford regular vacations, especially during peak seasons when prices and availability are at a premium.

“It is too easy to get caught up in schedule conflicts or just too much to do, and vacation seems to be the first thing to fall on the wayside,” one FTA member told us.

“To me it is about time off = switching off, and not working at all! I am feeling really guilty every time I try to disconnect,” said Katerina Makatouni, travel advisor and owner of Kids Love Greece. “I find it very hard to switch off when I am on vacation as I am constantly checking emails.”

FTA Media Center Member Eileen Gunn, Families Go Travel, told us that her husband gets four weeks off every year. But “who has the money to travel for four weeks out of the year? Few people. I think it’s about not knowing what to do with the time if they can’t afford to go anyway or they don’t know where to go. Leaving the money on the table is easier than trying to plan a fun, affordable trip.”

Members also talked about the stress and time it takes for busy parents to plan vacations, a perfect opportunity for more families to work with travel advisors. According to the FTA 2018 Survey, of those families who worked with travel advisors recently,

  • 31 percent said they are glad to pass on researching and booking vacations because it’s too time-consuming
  • 21 percent said researching vacations presents too much confusing information

Checking in with your family clients who haven’t booked with you recently may reveal issues you can resolve. And who’s better positioned to help families find solutions to their challenges than you?

You have the most comprehensive picture of options to both save families money, and get the most value for every dollar. You have inside knowledge about destinations and suppliers who offer discounts and sales. And you can take the burden of planning great family memories off their shoulders, so that all they have to do is sit back, relax, and take it all in.

We’ll be supplementing what we learned from our members through the annual FTA Family Travel Survey, which will be published this fall. But we want to hear from you too—visit our website at and tell us about the challenges you’ve identified.

We’re hoping you’ll join us on this important crusade. Why? Because #familyvacationsmatter, and our families and our industry depend on you.

Recommend magazine has partnered with the Family Travel Association to bring you monthly columns to help travel agents sell family travel. This column was written by Rainer Jenss, president and founder of Family Travel Association.