The 1983 film, National Lampoon’s Vacation, depicts a family vacation that has become less common in America over the past two generations.

Did you take a vacation this summer? I’m not talking about a long weekend but a real full week off and away. According to a post on Factually, if you are an American and you did, then you are part of the shrinking 56% that will in 2014.

In 1976, 80% of Americans took a week’s vacation. What has happened?

On this Labor Day weekend that marks the end of summer vacations, looking at other countries, you find that many give full time workers guaranteed vacation time. In Australia, four weeks of paid vacation is guaranteed each year. In Japan, it’s 10 days, and in Canada it is a minimum of 19 days of paid vacation.

The United States is not typical of the wealthier nations in that we do not guarantee paid maternity leave. So, the fact that we lack a federally guaranteed paid vacation time is not shocking.

No guarantees may be a factor in the drop in people taking vacations over the past two generations, but the real changes are cultural. We don’t seem to value vacation in the same way as we once did.

The odd part of this shift is that Americans working full-time who do have the option to take some paid vacation time may not use that option. I have known co-workers during the past 20 years who were “banking” vacation time and some who were told to use their banked weeks or lose them. It does seem strange that someone would not take their vacation time, but it happens more and more.

I see it with friends and family. They feel that taking all of their vacation days or taking them in one or two-week blocks makes you appear lazy or unmotivated. It might hurt your chances at getting promoted.

My son’s employer requires that vacation time be taken in at least a one week block. They see this as less of an interruption than someone taking off five Mondays.

Do you and your friends feel obligated to read work email when you are on vacation (weekends included)? Is that a true vacation? Another article tells me that some French companies ban employees from responding to work emails after work hours.

Both our work days and days off have become less work-free because of the Internet and smartphones. Several studies have shown that even though an employee may not be required to read mail after hours, on weekends or on vacation, they do it anyway. I tend to check my work mail every day, though I am not required to, because I a) I don’t want to have hundreds of unread message when I return  b) fear that there is something urgent that I need to deal with.

And what about the emergence of the “staycation” in our culture when people are taking vacation time but not going away? When I first heard the term, the idea seemed to be connected to economic concerns, such as high gas prices. After the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, terrorism caused concerns about traveling. But it seems that Americans are doing staycations even if money or security isn’t the major concern.

iphone-batteryMy neighbors took a week and went away recently. (Interestingly, they had friends who were house-and-dog-sitting for them and that was their “vacation.”) When I next saw my neighbor, I asked “How was your vacation?”  He said, “It was fantastic. We had a great time. But after two hours back at work, I felt like I had never been away.”

We need true vacations to recharge, but in many case that full charge runs down as fast as a iPhone running too many apps and services.