The Great American Vacation: Vanishing Into Thin Air?

"Vacations can be stressful," says Nancy Rothbard, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. That's particularly true if a vacation is financially taxing or involves travel.

"Right before you go on vacation your stress levels climb," she says. And although those levels do tend to drop over the course of the vacation, research has shown the relaxation effect lasts on average for just three days once workers have returned.

The BlackBerry Effect

Then there's the BlackBerry effect: Thanks to new technology like cell phones and portable e-mail devices, people are increasingly taking their work with them on vacation. That may make getting away easier for some. But for others, it makes vacation less enjoyable and in some cases, not worth it.

"Even if you're sitting on a beach working on a laptop, you're still working," says Sullivan.

According to the CareerBuilder.com survey, the phenomenon of people always being reachable has gotten so bad that some workers have resorted to lying. Eleven percent of workers admitted to making up "bad wireless connections" to avoid work while on vacation.

Still, despite the fact that more and more workers are choosing not to get away, Americans actually put a higher premium on leisure than ever before. A new Washington Post survey this week finds 53 percent agreed with the statement that leisure time is "the important thing" and that the purpose of work is to make it possible to have leisure time.

Only 37 percent agreed with the statement that work is "the most important thing" and the purpose of leisure is to recharge people's batteries so they can do a better job. When the same question was asked in 1970, the results were nearly reversed, with work beating out leisure by 12 percentage points.

But academics like Hunnicutt don't see the current trend of less vacation time letting up anytime soon.

"I think it will be substantially worse for my grandchildren," he says.

Better get to Disney World now, while you can.

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