When I went out on my own last year, I left a full-time job with a local non-profit organization that offered amazing benefits. For a travlin’ girl like me, the greatest lure was the five weeks PTO for exempt staff – to start! Five weeks, in one year. Now, that time was combined vacation and sick, but I’m not one for taking sick time. And no, I wouldn’t go into the office deathly ill!

And so for nearly five years, I’d sit and plan and plot my vacation time, checking to be sure that each hour was accounted for, and HR didn’t accidentally take more of my time than allotted. I was an eagle when it came to my time off.

Which is why it surprised me when I recently read the results of a survey conducted by Hotwire that working Americans will have an average of 12 – 12! – paid days off leftover in 2013. TWELVE DAYS! That’s over two weeks (of work days), and is up from 30% from nine days in 2012, and nearly double the 6.2 unused paid vacation days in 2011.

“What the what?!?,” to quote Liz Lemon.

Here’s a concept I simply cannot comprehend – losing time that you have worked so hard for, that’s a benefit to you, and for what? I wonder if employers even recognize that their employees are essentially throwing that well-deserved and well-earned time away.

The point really hit home two months ago when we realized my husband had two weeks he needed to use by the end of the year. His company is a bit lenient in that he can carry over a week until March 2014 (and I’m already scheming as to where we’ll go), but he was still left with five days he needed to use or lose. How could I let this happen?!

There are plenty of places to go and explore whilst using PTO; I know my list for 2014 is quickly filling. I’m not even sure there’ll be enough time! 

How about you? Do you take all of your earned PTO/vacation time, or do you lose it? And where are you looking forward to visiting in 2014?