Now is perfect time to plan those 2019 vacations

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Journey vs. Destination

How disappointing… We missed it, if only by a tiny bit!

Jan. 29 was the annual National Plan for Vacation Day date. After a little online research, I now realize this is a yearly thing that occurs the third Tuesday of January. Gosh darn it, isn’t there a day for just about any hobby, animal or whatever?

Speaking of which, I’m truly sorry we missed Squirrel Appreciation Day on Jan. 21. But I will live my enjoyment of the squirrelly-bobs, as I call them, daily. May they continue to eat their acorns on the ramp at the entrance to my place – and nearly giving me a heart attack when I oh-so-casually, ignorantly open my door and one, nearly in my face, jumps up and then scurries off. That’s just one small example of squirrelly-bob fun that keeps me entertained, once I regain my composure and find whatever I might have previously been holding.

But I digress. I’m not seeking squirrelly-bobs on my vacation. They’re a singular joy I can almost readily take in at home. Maybe a trip to see elk or alligators would take me to a fabulous destination. Still, the squirrelly-bobs . . . bless their little hearts.

I am writing this column in the wee hours of Jan. 30, listening for artic, polar vortex winds to tear shingles or siding loose or send non-staked-out garbage cans blowing klunkily (isn’t that a fine adverb I made up?) away – perhaps from a building on the other side of town!

So, I barely missed National Plan for Vacation Day. I even bet I could still book a trip somewhere, should my brain unfreeze and finances cooperate.

We didn’t need National Plan for Vacation Day to spur on our love of getting out to see somewhere new and wonderful, or old, comfortably familiar and wonderful. You must admit, however, this yearly date of Jan. 29 is well-planned by the U.S. Travel Association. The organization for – you guessed it, travel agencies and planners – has picked a date when, barring a January thaw, those of us in northern climes are huddled under blankets with visions of sunny beaches dancing in our heads. Did I say it already? Excellent planning. Then again, planning is what they do; they’ve got this down to both an art and a science.

The U.S. Travel Association makes some good points on its website: “National Plan for Vacation Day, celebrated on the last Tuesday of January, is a day to encourage Americans to plan their time off. Join us . . . help get Americans to commit their time off for the rest of the year at the start of the year. Regardless of travel style, our country offers something for everyone.”

The argument for planning now seems to be threefold: One, making sure American workers take their hard-earned vacation time; two, traveling is a great way to use that vacation time; and three, travel to one, some or many of America’s wonders.

The website states, “It’s no surprise America has a problem taking time off — to the tune of 705 million unused days — but we’re getting better about it. In 2017, Americans used nearly a half-day (0.4 days) more than the previous year. And the best part about it? It’s the third year in a row we’ve seen an increase. In 2014, America reached its lowest point of vacation usage and since then, we’ve seen a positive trend upward. Americans are now taking a full day more than back in 2014 of their well-earned vacation days, but did you know that there are serious benefits to taking time to travel?

“While the average employee is taking 17.2 days of vacation, less than half (47 percent) of that time — just eight days — is used for travel. And many Americans do want to use it to travel: the majority (84 percent) say it is important to travel with their time off.”

I may or may not plan far ahead for a vacation; if it’s a set event I want to attend, well, then I plan. The logic is certainly there for planning ahead. Maybe . . . just maybe . . . you’ll want to get your plans closer to being set in stone and start your vacation countdown after reading this.

Just one more thing – travel smart and stay warm!

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this column weekly for over 15 years.