On the Road, Or Airways, Or Seas: Travelers Reveal Top Destinations

Heart Tail

The Consumer Travel Survey from the Travel Leaders Group always offers some interesting results. A few of the 2015 highlights from the recent responses of 3,300-plus American travelers:

  • Australia tops the “ultimate dream international destination” list for the fourth consecutive survey. Other top choices are Italy, Ireland, New Zealand and a Mediterranean cruise
  • 67% of vacationers will travel by land, 6% plan cruises and 27% are looking to do both
  • The top responses (multiple answers allowed) to how far people plan to travel are: Within the U.S. and farther than a bordering state, 71%; within home state, 43%; bordering state, 37%; Canada/Mexico/Caribbean, 31%; international, 24%
  • Interest in travel to Cuba: 39% say no way (down from 47.6% a year earlier), 35% will consider it and 23% are ready to go either now or when they believe Cuba is ready for Americans

Unlimited Vacation Days? Not That Crazy, According to Inc.

We could all use some good old R & R. Like most of us, I wouldn’t mind more days off to experience it. Just think of what I could do with all that extra time: go to state parks; make my own ketchups; or start a rock band consisting of only red heads — "The Ginger Blossoms." (Oh, also, it would strictly be a Gin Blossoms cover band — and we’ll probably just play "Hey Jealousy" over and over… enjoy the concert.) 

To my delight, an article in Inc. contends that the concept of limited vacation days might be getting a little antiquated. 

The 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. workplace is almost dead. Throw your preconceived notions about vacation out the window and give your employees the no-strings-attached, unlimited vacation days they deserve or you’ll soon be a dinosaur.

With an unparalleled culture in which our people actually enjoy coming to work (see Your Employees Need a Treehouse and Let Your Employees Choose Their Titles) as the foundation, every last Red Frog employee is unflinchingly focused and devoted to our mission. Producing vast amounts of quality work is the norm, so we reward them with unlimited vacation and they, in return, reward Red Frog with outstanding work that blows me away every single day.

Taking vacation at Red Frog is encouraged (and even celebrated). And it’s not abused. Ever. By anyone. Simply make sure your work is getting done and make sure you’re covered while you’re away and that’s it—no questions asked.

The pessimists and naysayers have said this policy would either be abused or that it’s not entirely real—that our employees feel pressured to never take off. I assure you they’re underestimating a positive work culture and are simply wrong. Also, I feel sorry for their workplace.

Through building a company on accountability, mutual respect, and teamwork, we’ve seen our unlimited vacation day policy have tremendous results for our employees’ personal development and for productivity. There. I said it. I think Red Frog is more productive by giving unlimited vacation days. Here’s why:

  1. It treats employees like the adults they are. If they’re incapable of handling the responsibility that comes along with having unlimited vacation days, they’re probably incapable of handling other responsibilities too, so don’t hire them.
  2. It reduces costs by not having to track vacation time. Tracking and accounting for vacation days can be cumbersome work. This policy eliminates those headaches.
  3. It shows appreciation. Your employees will need unexpected time off and some need more vacation than others. By giving them what they need when they need it, you show your employees how much you appreciate them and they reciprocate by producing more great work.
  4. It’s a great recruitment tool. We hire a mere one out of every 750 applicants at Red Frog. When you combine fantastic benefits with a positive culture, it’s noticed.

Furthermore, the newsletter HR Specialist lists a couple of current examples:

  • At tech giant IBM, each of its 355,000 workers earns three or more weeks’ vacation each year, but the company says it doesn’t officially keep track of time off.

  • Netflix lets its 400 salaried workers take as much vacation time as they want, saying workers are evaluated on performance, not "face time."

Hat tips on the info to Chamber staffers Ashton Eller and Michelle Kavanaugh.

Why You Need to Take Time Off

As I write this, I’m about three days from taking a vacation spanning eight work days. After three days of driving and a stop at a casino on the way, I (plus my father and two others) will ultimately wind up in northern Ontario on a quest for walleye and northern pike. Aside from eating enough fried fish to make Adam Richman blush, I also hope to use the time on the lake to re-focus and ponder how I can be better at my job — and more importantly, my life. According to the blog The 12 Most, there are at least 12 reasons we should all make sure we take time off and smell the roses — or in my case, rotting fish carcasses. Here are a few reasons, but check out the entire post:

2. This is your brain on vacation
I’ve found it takes a few days to shut off the manic, ever-present and ever-busy chatter in my head. The “OMG I forgot to do xyz” or the “If I don’t find time to do xyz, my business will never be what I want it to be” drifts away after the 3rd day. I’ve found I focus on amazing things like hummingbirds, novels and hearing myself belly laugh in a way that’s been gone for a while.

3. The unbearable lightness of being unscheduled
I go out of my way to not have too much of a plan on vacation. The decadence of enjoying a second cup of coffee while still not having a clue what the day holds is something rare and sacred. My body literally lets go of the tension I carry around in my neck and shoulders the 51 other weeks of the year.

4. The realization life/work/committees go on without you
We all love to make ourselves a little too important. How can our businesses, our organizations, the PTA go on without us? Take a week away, and it becomes crystal clear. Not only CAN they, but they SHOULD. Take that, Ego.

5. Creative Inspiration when you least expect it
Gaze at the mountains, study the waves or take in the view from a hammock and you’ll be amazed at what comes to you.

6. Discovery, discovery, discovery
I like all types of of vacations – adventurous, new places, and relaxing with nothing to do. Whatever kind you take, you’re bound to discover something new. A small town in Michigan might bring you a new favorite beer discovery. A tour of new places in Europe might lead you to a new favorite artist. Whatever it is, never stop discovering. It’s good for your whole being. Vacation helps you do that.

Survey Says: Vacations!

You might have guessed that more Americans would be spending their tax refund money on paying down debts (like a mortgage or student loan) – one of the main pieces of financial advice during this year’s tax season.

But, it seems, according to a recent survey by Travel Leaders, that many Americans aren’t heeding that financial guidance. Instead, over half (57%) of survey respondents who are receiving a tax refund are planning to use at least part of the money for vacations and leisure travel this year.

Additionally, a majority (83%) of those surveyed indicated that they would spend the same or more on leisure travel this year than they did in 2010. Only 17% of respondents indicated they would spend less this year than they did in 2010.

In terms of where those polled want to spend that leisure time, Australia was chosen as the No. 1 “ultimate dream international destination.” Italy, Ireland, New Zealand and Mediterranean cruising followed respectively. The most traveled to (or anticipated to travel to) states include Florida, followed by California and New York.

Other findings include:

  • 89% of those polled noted that they have already or will take at least one leisure trip in 2011
  • Nearly 62% indicated they had already taken at least one trip in 2011; 22% have already taken multiple vacation trips
  • Almost 87% of respondents said they are planning to take the same amount, or more trips this year
  • Just over 75% of respondents plan to travel within the U.S. and further than a bordering state.

The group conducted the survey this year between March 10 and April 10 with responses from 953 U.S. consumers.

Vacating the Workplace

The economic woes may not be over yet, but times have changed enough for more employees to enjoy summer vacations in the coming months. So say the workplace experts at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

I do, however, have a problem with the advice on staying connected even while away. Read on.

According to John Challenger, "Where we will see the change this year is among the employed who, despite their job status, were hesitant to take paid leave during the recession for fear that it would further erode their already fragile job security. This year, while employers have been slow to ramp up hiring, they have clearly shifted from a strategy focused on downsizing to one emphasizing retention. In this environment, it is much easier to put in for vacation days."

Through the first quarter of this year, announced job cuts declined 69% from the same period a year ago. In fact, the first-quarter total was the lowest for those three months since 2000. And the 38,326 job cuts in April were the lowest for any month since July 2006.

"The threat of downsizing never really disappears," Challenger adds, "but job security is in a much better place this year. Some employers may, in fact, encourage workers to use vacation time to decompress. The temporary and very mild impact on workplace productivity caused by vacationing staff is more than offset by a rested workforced that is likely to be more productive over the long term and probably more loyal as well."

The workplace authority says that while job security is improving, it is still recommended that employees keep the lines of communication open with employers.

"You don’t have to spend a part of every vacation day working, but you want to take your cell phone and laptop and make an effort to occasionally check in with the office. If you want to be missed a lot, do not disconnect," Challenger says. "As employers shift toward retention mode, many will be eager to let you enjoy your vacation without interruptions from work, but make no mistake, your efforts to remain connected, even if unecessary, will be appreciated and remembered."

Not sure I buy that last piece of advice. Being available for true emergencies, if needed, is one thing. But checking in for the sake of showing you are still engaged while you are supposed to be resting and rejuvenating is another. There’s a reason it’s called vacation.               

West Baden Hotel Earns National Recognition

Do you enjoy the awe-inspiring architecture and amenities of the West Baden Hotel in Southern Indiana? If so, you’re not alone. See how Conde Nast Traveler readers have honored the Indiana resort:

Condé Nast Traveler readers have chosen West Baden Springs Hotel for the magazine’s 22nd Annual Readers Choice Awards.

In the November 2009 issue, on newsstands now, the Southern Indiana destination is ranked 15th in the list of large U.S. (Mainland) resorts, an impressive six places higher than its 2008 ranking.

The atrium of the West Baden Springs Hotel With a score of 89.9 (only 2.9 points away from 2nd place), West Baden outranked 55 other well-known resorts when it was evaluated on activities/facilities, food/dining, location, overall design, rooms and service.

This year, 25,008 readers voted for more than 10,000 properties and destinations. "

The big news is that, undaunted by tough times, our readers are still out there, discovering the coolest experiences and reaffirming an enduring passion for travel," said Conde Nast Traveler Editor in Chief Klara Glowczewska. "It’s clear that our readers are as devoted to the worldwide diversity of travel as ever."

Originally built in 1902, West Baden Springs Hotel re-opened in May 2007, following a meticulous restoration. Nearly 100 million dollars was spent in a top-to-bottom restoration, which maintained the historic integrity of the building, but upgraded its amenities to that of a four star property. "

Last year we were thrilled to be included in the Reader’s Choice awards and on the magazine’s Gold List," said Mark Bommarito, vice president of sales and marketing. "To be back this year and with a higher ranking shows the resort’s commitment to offering a quality experience year after year."

West Baden is a part of the French Lick Resort, which as a whole has undergone a 500 million dollar restoration and development project. In what has been called one of the largest private restoration projects in the U.S., the Cook Group saved two turn-of-the-century grand hotels and brought resort life back to Indiana. No small feat, their work has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

With the opening of the Pete Dye Course earlier this spring, French Lick Resort is quickly becoming America’s most talked about golf destinations. Located on a hilltop behind the historic French Lick Springs Hotel – one of the highest points in Indiana – Dye’s masterpiece offers stunning panoramic views of over 30 miles. The course will be the site of the 2010 PGA Professional National Championship.