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Got unused vacation days? Plan for Vacation Day is Jan. 30

A blue heron walks along the beach at sunset in Orange Beach, Alabama. The travel industry hopes Americans will use Jan. 30 to schedule their vacations for the year and take advantage of any paid time off they are entitled to from their jobs. (Brynn Anderson / File/Associated Press)
A blue heron walks along the beach at sunset in Orange Beach, Alabama. The travel industry hopes Americans will use Jan. 30 to schedule their vacations for the year and take advantage of any paid time off they are entitled to from their jobs. (Brynn Anderson / File/Associated Press)
By Beth J. Harpaz Associated Press

NEW YORK – Stop making excuses. Start making plans.

That’s the message behind the second annual National Plan for Vacation Day. It’s an effort by the travel industry to persuade Americans to use Jan. 30 as a day to schedule their vacations for the year and take advantage of any paid time off they are entitled to from their jobs.

Destinations, tourism agencies and others in the travel industry are expected to offer promotions in conjunction with the effort. It will be promoted on social media with a #PlanForVacation hashtag.

Alamo, for example, will publicize vacation-planning tips and offer a 10 percent discount on base rates for weekly car rentals (bookable Jan. 23-Feb. 6, for travel March 1-Aug. 30).

Las Vegas is also taking part in the campaign, planning a video showing entertainers taking over jobs of bartender and card dealer. A couple of visitors to the city will get a surprise trip as part of the promotion, including airfare to Las Vegas from Allegiant along with two hotel nights and show tickets.

Last year, more than 600 organizations from all 50 states participated in National Plan for Vacation Day. Among them was Visit California, which used the campaign to publicize its annual California visitors guide.

“Our social media posts were liked and shared 29,000 times, all driving traffic to VisitCalifornia.com to get a guide and plan your trip,” said Visit California spokesman Ryan Becker. “The payoff was immediate. Our website traffic spiked to nearly 200,000 page views on Jan. 31, about double its normal traffic for January.”

Plan for Vacation Day is part of Project Time: Off, an effort by the U.S. Travel Association to get Americans to use up their paid vacation days. “We as Americans do not take enough time off,” said TV travel show host Samantha Brown, a spokeswoman for the effort. “Unfortunately we do need a project to tell people to take time off. Americans leave on the table over 659 million paid vacation days. They let them go unused every year.”

Research for Project Time: Off, conducted online by GfK, found just 49 percent of workers with paid time off plan their vacations out for the year. The top three impediments to planning ahead cited by respondents were uncertainty with personal schedules (64 percent), work schedules (57 percent) and kids’ schedules (50 percent).

Brown, who just launched a new travel series on PBS called “Places to Love,” is promoting Project Time: Off in four videos in which she chides viewers for putting off vacations because they’re too busy at work. “There’s no perfect time,” she says in the videos. “Work will always be busy.”

Brown also talked about the campaign in a recent AP Travel podcast , noting that travel has an economic impact as well: “You are supporting an incredible industry of hotel workers and restaurant workers and bell people. So to not take your time off is … psychologically not the best approach to your professional and personal life, but it also has an effect on our economy.”

Project: Time Off estimates the lost spending from unused vacation days cost the U.S. economy $236 billion in 2016, money that would have supported 1.8 million jobs.

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