U.S Workers Who Plan Vacation Days Work Less than Non-Planners: The #PlanforVacation Movement

It's the end of January. Have you planned a vacation or a trip this year? Studies show that if you have already planned a trip for sometime this year then you are more likely to work less than those non-planners out there. And that's a good thing because that means you are more than likely taking all the vacation days earned to you. 

According to research from Project Time Off,  fewer than half of Americans (49%) take the time to plan their vacation days out each year.

Why you should plan for vacation each year

Yes. I know. We have a day for everything for these days, but Tuesday, January 30 is National Plan for Vacation Day. This national observance is dedicated to encouraging Americans to plan their vacation days for the rest of the year at the start of the year. By failing to block the calendar, Americans are creating a stockpile of 662 million unused vacation days and a $236 billion missed opportunity for the U.S. economy.

"At the beginning of the year the calendar is still full of possibility and there is no better time to start planning vacation days," said Katie Denis, chief of research and strategy at Project: Time Off. "Americans who want to use more of their vacation time can put themselves in a better position to do so by planning ahead—and their request is more likely to be approved by the boss."
The lack of planning has implications in the office. Managers are near universal (91%) in saying they want to approve vacation requests, but a significant 43 percent say they are sometimes unable to because their employees did not provide enough notice. Nearly half (48%) of employees give six weeks or less notice when taking at least a week off; just 19 percent give three months or more.
Employees may be intimidated to give more notice. About a quarter of employees fear that their boss would not approve of them asking about all their plans for the year up front (27%). But an overwhelming majority of managers say it would be helpful to know their direct reports' vacation plans for the year at the start of their company's fiscal year (78%) and think that employees who share their plans that far in advance are being responsible (88%).

#PlanforVacation is a U.S Movement to stimulate the economy and to have the workforce be less stressed.

Planners have a distinct advantage over non-planners. According to Project: Time Off's The State of American Vacation 2017, workers who set aside time each year to plan out their vacation days use more of their vacation time, take longer breaks, and report greater happiness than non-planners with their relationships, health, and well-being, company, and job.
To help Americans plan, Project: Time Off launched a vacation planning tool that lets employees enter in the number of days off they earn, plot out how they want to spend them, save to their calendars, and export to their friends and family—and even their bosses. Travel organizations are also offering discounts, giveaways and sweepstakes, and itineraries for vacations.
"It's time for Americans to reclaim their calendar and vacation time," said Cait DeBaun, director of communications for Project: Time Off. "Make 2018 the year you check an item off your travel bucket list…not just your to-do list."

50 percent of North Carolinians take the vacation days owed to them. That's better than the national average.

In the Triangle, it appears we have some planners who live here.  Some workers I spoke to said that they need to put in vacation days in October or November for the following calendar year. While a business owner said, they require at least a 30-day notice for planned days off. 
Most people I spoke with said that they try to plan a vacation when they know they may not be needed at work as much. But, aren't we always need at work. So....just plan!!

In preparation for National Plan for Vacation Day, North Carolina developed a five-question quiz to helps workers gauge their losses and offers a chance to win back the amount on a Visa gift card. Those who take the quiz also will receive inspiration from Visit NC to help them plan 2018 vacations instead of leaving time-off compensation on the table.
My home state fares slightly better than the national average, with 50 percent of the workforce leaving a total of 16.6 million vacation days unused in 2016. The loss in potential spending is $2.4 billion.

 “Putting plans in place on Jan. 30 gives us time to build a budget for the trip,” Wit Tuttell, Executive Director of Visit NC said. “By the time vacation rolls around, we’ll be past the point of thinking about the trip as a luxury of time and money. We’ll simply see it as priceless.”

Where would you like to go vacation in 2018? 

For NC inspiration, check out my North Carolina tab and also my hotel/travel section for national travel. 


Essential Winter Must-Have Wardrobe Items for Walking the Dog

We adopted Andy, our toy poodle, in November. After a week having him, I realized I needed to get together some dog walking clothes that were practical, yet comfy and stylish enough for me to be seen walking around my neighborhood.

Andy the Toy Poodle

In late November, it started to turn colder here in North Carolina. On this particular walking day, it was cold and maybe even a little wet.

I changed out of my pajamas and put on an old grey wide-legged Jockey brand pull-on pants that were about as old as my first child (He's now 12), a grey baggy Carolina sweatshirt (it's older than both of my children), a kid's NC State toboggan that was too small for my head, black Ugg boots which are comfy, warm, and great, but they looked absolutely ridiculous with the pants. I then found some gloves, but they had holes in them. I also was make-up free and I had bed-head.

Andy, in his new little Argyle sweater, looked better than his owner. My wild slept-on hair barely flattened under the too-small toboggan that would not cover my ears properly.

I put Andy's leash on, looked at Will and said, "I look like I've been living on the streets. Don't I?" He hesitated because I don't think he knew how I would react with the truth.

He smiled and said, "You kind of do!"


The Best Lip Balm for Winter ( I use it all year)

It's a harsh winter in North Carolina. I say that because my kids have been out of school more than they have been in school so far in January. We're not used to that in the South. When we get an inch, it cripples us. Our first big snow hit us this week, and it was gorgeous. I'm smitten because it was our first big snow in our house. In Raleigh, we've not had a snow like this one for several years.

A pop of color in Raleigh, NC in this winter scene.

The winter scene is stunning and it is one that we do not see too often in Raleigh.

Snow in Raleigh, N.C.

As much as I love these winter scenes, the extreme cold takes a toll on my skin. I'm still working on my skincare, but I have found the perfect solution for my chapped lips. I use Beautycounter's lip balm in Peppermint. It comes in two varieties: Peppermint and Calendula. The calendula balm is more healing and is a best seller for the company, but I just love the tingle of the peppermint one so it is my absolute favorite.


Seafood or See Food: Either Way it's Culinary Art for Holland America Cruise Line Master Chef

High-end chefs are certainly artists. Every plate that comes out of a restaurant kitchen is usually a work of art when it comes to the table. One chef is taking the phrase "playing with food" in a new direction. 

New Food Faces Book by Holland America Master Chef Rudi Sodamin

Holland America Line's Master Chef Rudi Sodamin has a new culinary masterpiece, an art table book called "Food Faces" that features more than 150 vibrant images of edible creations that display a cast of unforgettable characters expressing a whimsical spectrum of human emotion.


Quick and Easy Pantry Meal: Pasta and Bean Soup

During the winter, I like to eat soups. My children not so much, but I just give them pasta with butter and then make what I want for dinner. I have found that if you keep chicken stock in your pantry, pasta, beans, and canned tomatoes then you can pretty much make some type of soup.

I made this soup recently by rummaging through my pantry and old cookbooks.

Use your Pantry and serve this easy pasta and bean soup.

Pasta and Bean Soup


1/4 cup of olive oil plus a little more for drizzling
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of fresh or dried rosemary
2 14 oz diced tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
7 cups of chicken stock
6 ounces of pasta (elbow or tiny shells)
2 19-ounce cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed. 


Heat oil in a large stock pot. Add garlic and rosemary and saute about two minutes. Add the tomatoes plus salt and pepper. Simmer for several minutes. 

Add the chicken stock and bring soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Add the pasta and cook 7 to 10 minutes. 

Add the canned beans to the pot and simmer for several minutes.  Add salt and pepper, if needed. Once soup is in serving bowls, drizzle with olive oil to taste. 

Serve with my cornbread

This soup is great later in the week. It also makes enough to freeze. 

Are you a soup lover in the winter, too?

#Soups for weeknight meals. Quick and Easy from your pantry with #pasta #beans and #tomatoes. Get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes with this soup recipe. Budget-Friendly, too.


New Year. New Parenting Tale. What Do you Know About China?

I celebrated my 7th year blog anniversary this week. When I first started this blog in January 2011,  I wrote an online parenting column for the News and Observer. As a result, I wrote a lot about life as a parent and the challenges (good and bad) that I faced being an older mom with two small children. I have some of those stories archived in my parenting tab for my writing portfolio.

However, when both of my children entered elementary school, I no longer wrote about the kids as much here. There were many reasons I did that with one of them being the fact that they were old enough to find and read my blog.

Yesterday, I went through some of my old content and realized that a lot of these stories are priceless to me as a Mom and my collection makes me remember all the times that busy parents sometimes forget when children age. Liza just turned 8 and Jack turned 12 last week. Some stories need remembering. This morning, I thought of a tale I wanted to preserve and so this story begins.

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