The Last Word of the Day: Take Your Vacations

Tomorrow, we’ll be cutting out early for the 4th of July weekend and perhaps you will be too!

And I hope you will be because Bloomberg reports that Americans are not good at taking time off. From Ben Steverman:

The U.S. stands alone among developed countries by not mandating vacation time. Of those who get vacation time, four in 10 Americans stockpile them, failing to take all the days they’re offered. Those stay-at-work Americans leave an average of 8.1 days unused, according to a 2014 Oxford Economics analysis. That’s about 429 million unused days per year.

As Steverman points out, not taking your vacation days only makes sense if you get something out of it, like money for unused days, though workers often don’t use their days because the financial crisis scared them into thinking that being invested in your job can mean job security (though, I actually don’t think that’s the reality!).

So go on now, git! I’ll be off in the woods somewhere with no internet tomorrow afternoon, which means I won’t be able to work even if I wanted to.

I Am Currently Away From the Office

New York magazine has a list of some of the worst kinds of vacation email auto-responders, and says if you must have one, it should simply say that you're out of the office and will return on [x] date. Plus maybe another contact for emergencies.

Spring Break

The business of spring break.

Stranded at SeaWorld vs Whale Watching

“You know Epcot Center?” a friend asked me yesterday.

“I’m familiar in a general way,” I replied, “but I’ve never been.”

He gave me the same look, an eye-cocktail of surprise, pity, and incomprehension, that I instinctively give people who tell me they haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally or Chinatown. My parents did some mainstream-ish American things: they took my brothers and me to the Southwest, where we gaped at the Grand Canyon, and to New England, where we attempted to go “whale watching” and instead spent an interminable afternoon supine on a wooden bench, moaning as waves lifted and dropped us, lifted and dropped us, and I lost all faith in both whales and God.

They did not, however, take us to Disney, any Disney, or to SeaWorld, where presumably I could see proof that whales, at least, exist, and where, this weekend, visitors got more excitement than they bargained for when the power went out on “the Sky Tower,” stranding 40+ tourists 200+ feet in the air for 4+ hours. To compensate those tourists for their high-altitude suffering, SeaWorld is offering free admission to the park for their next visit, which is kind of hilarious, like the whale watching company saying to me, “So sorry you spent the whole time puking in a nightmare that was equal parts Dante and Melville. Here’s a gift certificate for another go!”

But part of me is kind of jealous of those SeaWorld guests. At least they got a real experience for their $50+, and a story to tell. Have you been “whale watching” – which costs about $30 today – and/or to SeaWorld? Which was more worth the money? Which would you rather subject your children to?

PTO in the USA

Pacific Standard is reminding us that the vacation policies in the U.S. could be vastly improved, and although Congressman Alan Grayson Paid Vacation Act is unlikely to pass, we should start thinking about how to improve our time-off practices (though we're still better off than Japan).

Robinson Crusoe Island

Life right now is an odd balance of privations and possessions. There are no newspapers, broadband is hopeless and there’s neither a bank nor an ATM. But there is a radio station, several restaurants and two breweries (the Archipiélago lager is excellent). The island isn’t used to tourism and, on occasions, it shows. The fisherman who was due to take me to out at 9am went fishing without me – at 5am. Fortunately, another boat, skippered by Rodrigo Chamorra and Bruno “El Loco” González, offered to take me, with the warning that they were going to the south of the island – which meant nothing to me but was whispered in a portentous tone – and we would be out till the end of the day.

In the Financial Times, Chris Moss stays on an island in Chile called Robinson Crusoe—which is perfect for vacationers who want to go somewhere where they’ll see very few people and live like a castaway (this is sort of my kind of vacation). Cost of three nights in Santiago and four nights on Robinson Crusoe Island, plus a flight from London: $6,900. Time to start saving, I suppose.

When Life Sends You To Grenada, Make Grenadine!

A traveler who wanted to go to Granada, Spain, ended up in Grenada, the Caribbean island. He was not pleased.

After two years without a holiday and a lifetime of longing to see the architectural treasures of Granada, Edward Gamson felt he could at last relax as he sat back on a British Airways flight en route to the capital of Moorish Spain. It was only when the American dentist and his partner glanced at the electronic map on the in-flight entertainment system and noticed their plane was heading due west out of London that they became concerned something was not right. …

The mix-up initially resulted in apologies from BA staff on board the flight, and a promise that the couple would be put on the plane’s return trip to Gatwick en route to Granada. Instead, they were subjected to a further three-day ordeal which resulted in them never reaching Spain, and a refusal by BA to reimburse their £2,650 first-class tickets, and which is now the subject of a damages claim before the US courts. Mr Gamson told The Independent on Sunday: “I have a lifelong interest in Islamic art. I’m also of Spanish Jewish heritage so it was something I had always wanted to do to visit Granada and the Alhambra. I made it absolutely clear to the booking agent I wanted to go to Granada in Spain. Why on earth would I want to go to Grenada in the Caribbean if I was flying back to America from Lisbon?”

I feel you, British Airways. You just can’t please some people. Here you give them an exciting surprise, complete with beaches and sunsets and perfect weather, and they complain that they’re not touring ruins. They even refer to a spontaneous Caribbean vacation “a three-day ordeal.”

Things to do if you accidentally find yourself on some warm, heavenly shore: 1) Drink something fun. 2) Go swimming. 3) Thank your lucky stars you’re not in Jersey.

Cruise Prep

Bloomberg Businessweek put together some survival tips to prepare for the next cruise disaster.