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Americans are taking less vacation time than ever — and it's hurting their relationships

Americans are taking less vacation than ever — but ditching that vacation can lead to problems.
/ Source: TODAY

Thinking about skipping vacation to catch up at work? Postponing because of money? You’re not alone. Americans are taking less vacation time than ever — but ditching that vacation can lead to problems.

A survey of 1,200 adults by the U.S. Travel Association found that Americans are taking fewer vacation days than they did 15 years ago (16 days per year) with many people not taking all the vacation days they earn. And eschewing vacation time for more work can be damaging for relationships.

“A lot more Americans now are working harder than ever," Dr. Sue Varma, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center, told TODAY. "When it becomes a pattern, you start to burn bridges with key relationships in your life,”

And evidence supports this. Seven out of 10 respondents in the recent study admitted that they skip kids’ activities, birthdays and vacations to work more.

“That’s a problem that I often see in my practice," said Varma. "A lot of people [are] finding this tug of war between family and fun and friends."

While people regularly miss important family events, 73 percent realize that spending time with family makes life richer and more meaningful. But they fall short of creating a good work-life balance.

“We don't look at time as a resource, and that's the problem — a lot of times we look at money as a resource,” said Varma.

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Some people do make vacations priority. Take Luke and Jennifer McCammon, two attorneys living in Northern Virginia who are raising a new baby. They know that making time for each other strengthens their relationship.

“If the two of us are stressed out or, you know, it, it plays over into our interaction," Jennifer said. "It plays over into work. I mean I do think that if you don't have it all in the right place, it carries over to everything."

To keep their stress low and their relationship happy, the couple said they make an effort to plan vacations and they find it helps.

“We kind of value our vacations and spending time with each other,” said Luke.

Varma said vacations and time together bolsters relationships. She sees what happens when people fail to take time away from work.

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“The biggest fallout of not taking your vacation time is losing your key connections in your life and those connections are going to support you for years to come,” Varma said.

If your family struggles to plan a vacation, experts recommend sitting down once a year and planning vacations for the entire year. And while it might go without saying, putting down the electronic devices during family time will make the time together more meaningful and memorable.