Vacation time is money: Don't forget to take it

Take days off of work that are included in your compensation package

(NewsUSA) - As the weather heats up, more people imagine themselves in a new destination taking a much-needed break from their daily routines. But research shows that many Americans never take that all-important next step: actually planning a vacation.

According to a 2013 Expedia study, Americans collectively failed to take an estimated 577 million available days of vacation this past year. That vacation time amounts to billions of dollars in compensation Americans are giving back to their companies. Studies even suggest the valuable health benefits of vacationing and the enhanced productivity refreshed workers bring back to the office. But navigating schedules that are constantly changing often foils plans, leading many people to forget about planning altogether.

To avoid falling victim to these obstacles, here are some tips:

* Value your vacation days. Paid time off is as much a part of your compensation package as your salary. Just as you probably wouldn't refrain from cashing in one of your paychecks, don't forget to cash in on the vacation time.

* Commit to travel. Embracing regular travel gives you the breaks you need to relax and unwind. Vacation ownership, or timeshare, offers travelers a great way to commit to getting away regularly. By pre-purchasing your vacations for years to come, you can look forward to always having somewhere to go.

* Jump-start your planning. Planning a vacation in advance can help avoid the difficulty in scheduling many Americans experience. If you need to travel between school years or major events, or you have a specific type of destination in mind, choose a vacation option with the amenities you want and availability you need, and put your vacation request in early.

* Don't turn vacation into telecommuting. Booking your vacation early can help you plan for your absence at work. Decide which projects to take care of in advance, which to delegate and which can wait for your return. Then, be clear in setting expectations about your availability with your colleagues and clients.