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More U.S. Workers Plan To Vacay By the Printer Tray

The official start of summer is only 20 days away (for those of us here in the Northern Hemisphere) and we all know what that means: Employees will soon be complaining that co-worker so-and-so is going on vacation!

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It's a well-known workplace fact that at least one co-worker will resent a fellow employee for taking vacation days, even if the employee has more than earned it. Behind the cheerful chorus of "have a nice vacation!" can be the thinly-veiled sneer of "I have to pick up your slack for the next week and I'm already overworked as it is!" Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Actually, these co-workers might hope the door does in fact hit you on the way out, since you're hitting the holiday road.

Or are you? A new Expedia survey says that American workers as a group left 448 million unused vacation days stacked precariously in the cubicle of unrealized vacation dreams last year. That's a whopping $67.5 billion worth of lost Ed Hardy shirt wearing time and getting to watch your two-year-old have a meltdown in the middle of Disney World.

If you can afford to go on a vacation, that is. CareerBuilder says that one-quarter of American workers can't afford to take a vacation this summer, an increase of 21% over last year. This finding is totally believable and quite possibly a low estimate given recent gas prices and the high cost of everything from diapers to paper towels. On top of daily expenses, who can still afford multiple airline tickets, a week-long resort stay, amusement park fees, restaurant visits and that last-minute, overpriced t-shirt purchase you know you'll be making at the hotel gift shop or airport magazine stand?

There could be something more than cost underlying the vacay-by-the-printer-tray trend, however. Namely, the subtle peer pressure that comes along with taking vacation time in this economy. If your co-workers aren't taking much or any time off, then you might feel like a total slacker suddenly verging into dangerous workplace waters for taking a week or two away from work. Will your co-workers hold your vacation days against you, especially if your workplace relies on 360-degree performance reviews? Oh, Jim is a great co-worker! It was challenging to hit the big deadline when he went on vacation, but luckily we managed to get it done without him. But yeah, Jim is a great team player! Our shivering friends in the Southern Hemisphere can already hear these passive-aggressive peer reviews from 10,000 miles away.

So perhaps it's not surprising that Expedia tells us a mere 38% of working Americans will be taking all of their vacations days this year. Managers will be happy, though, because they won't have to email vacationing employees with work-related questions and they won't have to listen to the Debbie Downers of the office mumbling all week that they have to do so-and-so's work. We're all just one, big dysfunctional family working all year long, year after year on our glowing tans fluorescent-bathed glarescapes that never require any SPF 50. At this rate, the "out of office" reply could be a relic on display at museums within a generation.

Sigh. At least we'll always have all those Corona and Sandals commercials to take us to the Bahamas in the back of our minds, right? I don't know about you, but I feel better already.

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