(BPT) - Americans don't take enough time off: that's the consensus of multiple studies on vacation time and how Americans use it - or don't use it. Unused vacation days cost American workers more than $52 billion a year and have left companies on the hook for $224 billion of accumulated vacation time, according to one U.S. Travel Association study. More and more people are taking advantage of their time over the weekend to pursue experiences tied to their passions, with travel topping the list, according to a recent Wakefield Research survey conducted on behalf of Hampton by Hilton.
'Most Americans say they would rather go on a 'bucket list' trip of a lifetime than get a big promotion at work,' says Kristen Hewitt, two-time Emmy Award-winning reporter, columnist, blogger and - as a mother of two - founder of the blog Mommy in Sports. 'A growing group of people are regularly taking advantage of weekends to travel to new places. They're following their passions and making the most of those 52 weekends of the year to seek out new experiences and adventures.'
The new travel trend uncovered by the Hampton by Hilton survey has given rise to the term 'Seekender' to describe these spontaneous weekend travelers. Seekenders are visiting new places to indulge their passion for food, sports, music or the great outdoors. The survey revealed that 68 percent of Americans would take that bucket list trip over a promotion, and nearly half agreed that the best thing about experiencing something new is making a lifelong memory.
'The last few months of the year bring multiple long weekends, making this the perfect time to become a Seekender,' Hewitt says.
Here are some tips for planning the perfect Seekender weekend:
* Timing is always right.Long weekends are ideal for a Seekender getaway, but you can also have a great time in just two days. Since you only have a couple (or a few) days, you can't afford to spend a day in the air or on the road. Simply look for flights with late departures on Friday or choose a destination within a few hours from home.
* Nurture your passion.Throughout fall and winter, communities across the country host a variety of events, including food and seasonal festivals, state fairs, concerts and more. Google what you're interested in - such as 'food & wine festival' - and find one that speaks to you. With more than 2,000 properties around the world, Hampton by Hilton hotels provide comfortable accommodations no matter where you visit.
* Set a budget to spend wisely. Seekender weekends are supposed to be fun and exciting, so the last thing you want to do is worry about overspending. Create a budget for yourself before you go and decide in advance what experiences will be worth investing in. Pre-booking reservations at restaurants can also help avoid going over budget as hunger sets in.
* Pack light. It's only a few days, so you may not want to carry a lot of luggage, worry about checked bags or plan complicated outfits. Take only what you'll really need. You'll save time and money by traveling light.
* You're there for the people - and the experience.Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed said that who they travel with matters more than the destination. Enrich your experience by traveling with people who share your passions - your spouse, significant other, family members, best friends, etc.
Looking for more inspiration and ideas about planning a Seekender weekend? Hampton by Hilton has enlisted the Ultimate Seekender Team, a group of travel-savvy Americans who celebrate the weekend, explore the globe and share their experiences online. For weekend travel inspiration or to book your next getaway, visit www.HamptonSeekender.com and follow the #WeGoTogether hashtag.