It’s ‘National Plan Your Vacation Day.’ Stop paying your boss by not taking time off.

Oriental, the self-described “Sailing Capital of North Carolina,” is among the many places in the state that would make a fine place to vacation.
Oriental, the self-described “Sailing Capital of North Carolina,” is among the many places in the state that would make a fine place to vacation. N&O file photo

Dreaming of warm, sandy beaches and palm trees during this week’s cold weather? VisitNC is encouraging you to make it a reality with a new quiz.

Launched last week, the quiz tells users how much money they are paying their boss each year by not taking their vacation days. On average, North Carolina residents waste $604 each year by not using their paid time off.

“Employers realize time off is important, and studies have shown taking time off makes people more productive,” said Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit NC. “Otherwise, you’re paying to work which is crazy.”

The state’s effort is part of National Plan for Vacation Day, celebrated on the last Tuesday of January. The initiative was started last year by the U.S. Travel Association as Project: Time Off to encourage Americans to declare their vacation days for the rest of the year at the start of the year. In 2016, 54 percent of Americans left a total of 662 million vacation days unused.

More than 600 organizations are involved in the Project: Time Off effort.

Tuttell noted that about 50 percent of North Carolinians don’t take all of their vacation days, which amounts to 16.6 million vacation days that go unused. This often happens because people are too busy to coordinate a trip or because employees feel like their office needs them and don’t want to seem like slackers.

“The point of the whole thing is to get people to think about planning their vacation,” Tuttell said. “A big part of problem is that people don’t take time to plan vacations.”

Setting aside the time now makes you more likely to take longer vacations and be more satisfied with the vacations you take. You can also get better deals by booking in advance.

Plus, planning for vacations is beneficial for your mental health. According to the National Plan for Vacation Day, planners report being happier with their relationships, health and jobs than non-planners.

At the end of its quiz, VisitNC offers suggestions of trips to take in North Carolina, like mountain retreats and beach getaways. There are more than 27,000 listings on its website of things to do and places to see in the state.

Tuttell said that encouraging people to take vacation days could also help boost the state’s economy. More than 200,000 people are directly employed in the tourism industry in North Carolina and visitors to the state spent $22.9 billion here in 2016, according to VisitNC data. VisitNC promotes North Carolina using social media, videos and participating in trade shows.

“We want them take vacations, but would really like if they took their vacation in North Carolina,” he said.