insight magazine

Rest & Recovery

With year-end closing, and tax season wrapping up in just a few short months, it’s time to start planning your post-busy season escape. By Bridget McCrea | Winter 2017

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For more than 15 years, American vacation time was drifting in a downward spiral. For those in accounting and finance professions, some would argue it has been even longer. Our always-on work culture is a challenge in itself. But, let’s face it, year-end and tax season are historically even more grueling times for everyone in the tax, accounting, and finance spaces. That’s why “taking the time to clear your head, destress, and recharge afterwards will help you excel at your job and find better balance in your own personal life,” says Jeramy Kaiman, vice president of executive search firm Parker + Lynch.

Kaiman, who is deeply in tune with staff and executives in the accounting and finance industry, says more of these professionals are getting better about “taking off” after their busy seasons to rest and recharge away from their home bases, especially during the months of May, June, and July. “Given the sheer number of hours and commitments that they’ve had up until that point of the year, taking time off has become the norm,” he adds. “And in many cases that time off involves travel and getting out and experiencing the world firsthand.”

Millennials, for instance, are spending more of their discretionary income on travel than their predecessors, enjoying “sensible” trips that germinate from budget travel websites and platforms like Airbnb. Internet Marketing Inc.’s numbers tell the story: 86 percent of millennials travel to experience a new culture; 85 percent check multiple sites before booking to get the best deal; 75 percent wish to travel abroad as much as possible; and millennials enjoy last-minute trips to satisfy “sudden wanderlust.”

But couldn’t we all benefits from some newfound post-busy season wanderlust? Research says, “Yes.”

So, we’re here to remind you to take some time off.

WHY WE NEED VACATIONS

“American workers hold fast to the belief that the path to career success requires sacrificing vacation and embracing work martyrdom,” states Project: Time Off’s survey and report, “The State of the American Vacation 2017.” “But the data is unmistakably clear: planning for and taking time off benefits individual wellbeing and professional success, business performance, and the broader economy.”

Kaiman adds that low-tech or tech-free vacations have immediate and tangible perks and benefits, including stress reduction, improved concentration, better mental clarity, and improved health, to name just a few.

And since we’re all numbers people, we’d like to point out that vacation time also has overlooked costs—to you. In 2016, Project: Time Off reveals that the average amount of vacation days earned by employees increased to 22.6 days. But, the average American worker uses less than 17 vacation days per year. That means roughly 662 million vacation days were left on the table last year. “By forfeiting vacation days, American workers gave up $66.4 billion in 2016 benefits alone,” Project: Time Off says. “That means that last year employees effectively donated an average of $604 in work time to their employer. America’s work culture has a long way to go to rewire its thinking.”

THE PERFECT PLAN

Here’s a thought: “After a stressful busy season, my top recommendation is an all-inclusive vacation to the Caribbean or another sunny, warm place,” says Roshni Agarwal, CPA, co-founder of the travel planning company The Vacation Hunt.

A major advocate of post-busy season vacations for weary accountants, Agarwal adds that such packages are pretty straightforward to book online, which means “CPAs don’t have to take the time to plan an elaborate trip right in the middle of their busy seasons.”

Agarwal points to late spring as a great time to get away too, because it's after the peak holiday travel and tourist seasons. And the further out you plan, the better deals, flights, and hotel availability you’re going to find, she adds—and the more likely you are to actually take that time off.

“The most effective remedy for American workers who want to use more vacation days is better planning,” Project: Time Off says. “A majority (52 percent) of workers who say they set aside time each year to plan out their vacation days take all their time off, compared to just 40 percent of non-planners. The benefits of planning extend beyond the days spent away from the office. Planners are happier than non-planners in every category measured. Planners report they are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ happy with their relationships, health and well-being, company, and job.”

“Start by sitting down and figuring out some dates that will work with your schedule,” Agarwal says. “Next, consider exactly what you’d like to do during your time off. Do you want a relaxing beach getaway, an ‘active’ vacation that involves hiking and adventure, or one that incorporates that destination half-marathon that you’ve wanted to do? Whatever your preference, find a place that incorporates these ‘wants’ while also allowing you to destress.”

And, while you’re trying to get away from the numbers for a bit, Agarwal reminds to factor your budget into the equation. The good news is that there is a mix of in-state, out-of-state, and far-off travel options that can accommodate any taste or preference. “Everyone loves Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, especially during the summer months,” Agarwal says, “but there are also more exotic things you can be doing depending on your budget and goals.”

As a lifestyle writer for Travel + Leisure and a regular on-air CBS contributor, Jeanette Zinno travels a lot for work and understands the need to “get away” and destress. For accounting and finance pros looking for the light at the end of the busy season tunnel, Zinno says one of her top tips is to pick a destination that has no cell service—or at least a hotel with a “digital detox concierge.” Hotels like the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in Miami and the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit in Mexico use clever strategies—like curated, non-digital itineraries and removing TVs from rooms—to help guests wean themselves off phones, tablets, laptops, and other electronics. “This is a great way to totally disconnect after a long work season that doesn’t allow you to leave your phone for a minute because a client may call,” Zinno says.

Of course, using technology ahead of your trip can still be helpful. Zinno suggests tech-savvy travelers could explore some mobile apps to help plan the perfect getaway. For example, Chatnbook allows you to enter a destination to be presented with hotel choices to “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” as you browse the options, while TripHappy helps you pick specific areas and neighborhoods to stay in. “This app is best for someone who is going to Paris, for example, and wants to find a chic area to stay in that’s close enough to great restaurants, but far enough for a quiet escape,” Zinno says.

Your time away from work doesn’t have to conform to the traditional idea of a “vacation” either. Wellness getaways are very popular all around the world. Bookyogaretreats.com, for example, helps users find the best possible destinations that meet their needs. “If you’re not into yoga, try a destination like Canyon Ranch,” Zinno advises. “It’s a luxury all-inclusive resort and spa with destinations around the country.”

Finally, don’t overlook the staycation. “It may not be the most glamorous option, especially if you have a beach cabana in mind, but think of how many amazing things there are in your city or close by that you’ve never seen,” Zinno says. “From museums to sightseeing, to shows to restaurants, there are plenty of things you’ve been too busy to do over the last few months.”

At the end of the day, Zinno says picking the right R&R spot depends on what you’re searching for and how you want to spend your time. “And if you can’t decide on where to visit,” she adds, “I recommend writing your top three destinations on a piece of paper and picking one out of a hat.”


Three Overlooked Escapes


The Caldwell House
Every year, The Caldwell House Bed & Breakfast in New York’s Hudson Valley puts together a special travel deal for tax preparers: Stay one night at this country inn and get a second night free in April. The stay includes complimentary three-course breakfasts each morning, bottomless snacks, complimentary parking, and free Wi-Fi. “Plan ahead and you can add on a massage to help with stiff calculator neck and carpel tunnel,” quips Maria Coder of Bed & Brunch PR.

The Big Easy
As much of the country is still emerging from the cold, New Orleans is just reaching its ideal season. Even better, New Orleans is affordable to the point of downright cheap. Because New Orleans is such a destination for food, nightlife, and festivals, it’s easy to get an amazing experience. At the end of April, New Orleans celebrates both the French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. “With a flight time of just over two hours from Chicago,” says Sam Olmsted of La Galerie Hotel, “New Orleans is a great destination even for a weekend trip.”

A Jamaican Jaunt
Tensing Pen offers a tropical sanctuary where you can truly be alone and intimately celebrate the end of a busy season. Hugging the turquoise waters of Negril, Tensing Pen is much different from most touristy Jamaican hotels with large pools, crowded lobbies, and hundreds of rooms. “Instead, guests may peacefully recharge in a secluded paradise with breathtaking views after feeling drained from months of interacting with clients and crunching numbers,” says spokesperson Maggie Sullivan. Accommodations include private bungalows and cottages, and rooms without phones or televisions, giving guests an opportunity to disconnect from technology and reconnect to leisure.