10 Places to Spend the Last of Your Vacation Days in 2016

Editors' pick: Originally published Dec. 7.

You don't use vacation days, and, at this time of year, it comes back to haunt you.

If you can't carry over vacation days to 2017, this is the part of 2016 where you're wondering how you can make the most of your remaining days off. In a survey by travel site Expedia, U.S. workers reported earning 15 vacation days, but used only 12 and left twice as many vacation days on the table in 2016 as they did in 2012. Not only does that vacation day allotment trail the 30 earned by workers in France, Spain and Gemany, but the days U.S. workers actually take off exceeds only the eight taken by workers in South Korean and ten by laborers in Japan. Meanwhile, a Harris survey indicates that more than 91% of U.S. workers do work-related tasks on their personal time, with 37% devoting more than ten off-the-clock hours to work each week.

A survey by the U.S. Travel Association industry lobbying group in Washington, D.C., found that U.S. workers used to take as many as 20.5 vacation days a year as recently as 2000. Now, roughly 55% of U.S. workers leave vacation days on the table, putting an estimated $61.4 billion worth of benefits back into employers' pockets. Are employers aware of this? Sure. Why else would they discourage the use of vacation days to the point where employees who take ten or less days of vacation time are more likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took 11 days or more. That's right, taking another day of vacation is viewed as weak and uncommitted.

That's created a neurotic base of employees that frets over each minute spent outside the workplace. Workers fear they'll return to a mountain of work (37%). They think no one else can do the job (30%). They feel it's harder to take time off the higher up you get in a company also featured prominently (28%). Most depressingly, they believe the only way to show complete dedication to their company and not be seen as replaceable (19%) is to forfeit vacation days.

Here's a hint, drones: the Great Recession showed that just about anyone can be laid off, and no one is irreplaceable. Also, every time you don't take a day off, you empower bad bosses to be even more horrible. While 80% of workers would take their full vacation time if their boss supported it, just 42% of employees feel their boss supports the use of vacation days. Even worse, 53% of their sycophant employees look down on coworkers who take all the time off allotted them.

But companies don't have to do anything to reinforce this idea: their silence makes it fairly clear. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of employees get either no direction, mixed messages or outright discouragement when they ask about taking time off. Meanwhile, 25% of employees think their company expects them to work while on vacation, with 31% of employees say they put "a lot" or "some" pressure on themselves to check in with work when they are on vacation. That's nearly double the percentage who report feeling pressure from their boss (17%).

As it turns out, working on vacation is the least of their fears. A Gallup survey finds that full 30% of U.S. workers are afraid they're going to have their benefits cut, down from 46% at the peak of the recession in 2009 but still worrisome. Another 20% see a pay cut in their future, while 19% are worried that they'll be laid off. Gallup also finds that not only do many U.S. workers absolutely hate their jobs, they've grown to resent their employers for exploiting their misery. Roughly 51% of all full-time workers in the U.S. are not involved in their work and put only as much into it as they're forced to. Another 17.2% are "actively disengaged" and so bitter about their work that they're actively trying to sabotage the workplace and make life miserable for everyone else.

Don't become that person. If you have vacation days left and don't want to play approval games with the boss, there are still plenty of "dark weeks" in December to unleash them on. With the help of the folks at TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, we've put together this list of ten destinations to help use up the last of your 2016 vacation days:

10. Boston
10. Boston

Vacation days left: 3 or fewer

Average nightly rate for two bedrooms in December: $235

Average nightly per person for four guests in a two-bedroom: $59

The Amtrak will be slammed and the Mass Pike will be packed solid during Christmas week, but this gray, chilly spot on the calendar is a great time to take in a city that doesn't put a whole lot of focus on this holiday. Sure, you can take in the Boston Pops holiday concert, look at the decorations at the tourist mall known as Faneuil Hall and even skate in Boston Common, but if you have some decent winter clothes, a CharlieCard and a few daylight hours to kill, this is a great time to hit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Museum of Fine Art, the Freedom Trail and a pub or two. Quite frankly, if you're looking for some of the better Christmas decor in the city, head to this cozy, two-bedroom North End that's right near the New England Aquarium, the Paul Revere House and all the Italian restaurants, cafes and bakeries along Christmas-light-strewn Hanover Street.

9. Savannah, Georgia
9. Savannah, Georgia

Vacation days left: 3 or fewer

Average nightly rate for two bedrooms in December: $225

Average nightly per person for four guests in a two-bedroom: $56

Temperatures have ranged from the mid-70s to high 50s thus far this month, but there hasn't been enough rain to deter walks through the historic gardens, strolls through the neighborhoods of historic homes or nights out at the restaurants and theaters. In fact, this two-bedroom loft in the center of Savannah's Historic District not only gives guests 1,100 square feet to spread out, but puts much of the city's premier destinations within walking distance.

8. Minneapolis, Minn.
8. Minneapolis, Minn.

Vacation days left: 3 or fewer

Average nightly rate for two bedrooms in December: $163

Average nightly per person for four guests in a two-bedroom: $41

Yes, it's already below freezing here. No, it isn't a particularly great time to go biking along the river or strolling through downtown. But if you're here for the Mall of America, some hearty Scandinavian eats, some strong local beers and maybe a bit of ice fishing or ice skating on the lakes (though not in that order), Minneapolis is a cold-weather destination worth warming to. Especially when you have a snug little two-bedroom spot along the light rail to come home to.

7. Salt Lake City
7. Salt Lake City

Vacation days left: 3 or fewer

Average nightly rate for two bedrooms in December: $206

Average nightly per person for four guests in a two-bedroom: $52

No, it isn't a chalet near the lift in Park City, but a place in Salt Lake City at the beginning of ski season isn't such a bad getaway. Ski buses will take you to Brighton, Solitude, Snowbird and Alta -- peaks within minutes of the city. You'll also be within a half hour's drive of the Park City, Canyons and Deer Valley ski resorts. While this isn't the greatest of times to see the Great Salt Lake, there are two-bedroom homes within striking distance of some of the best skiing in the country. Get it in now, because it'll be far more packed by the time your new vacation days arrive in early 2017.

6. New Orleans
6. New Orleans

Vacation days left: One week

Average nightly rate for two bedrooms in December: $324

Average nightly per person for four guests in a two-bedroom: $81

No, that's not quite as inexpensive as some of the other offerings on this list, but winter is right around the time that New Orleans heats up. Think you're the only person who's thought of spending New Year's Eve on Bourbon Street? The folks attending the New Orleans Bowl and Sugar Bowl have a surprise for you. Think you can wait until February for a better deal? Mardi Gras festivities start on February 24. Yep, New Orleans's peak season lasts well through the Jazz Festival in late April and early May, so if you're going to book that sweet exposed-brick condo in the French Quarter or that swank spot with the gym and rooftop pool just 50 feet off Bourbon Street, now's the time.

5. Washington, D.C.
5. Washington, D.C.

Vacation days left: One week

Average nightly rate for two bedrooms in December: $225

Average nightly per person for four guests in a two-bedroom: $56

After the National Tree is lit and Congress's holiday break is in sight, everyone pretty much checks out for the season. Sure, it can get frosty here around this time of year, but would you rather be here in the dead of summer when the air is made of sweat and the city constantly reminds you that you're in a swamp? No? O.K., then make the most of your free entry into the Smithsonian museums, take advantage of perhaps the only mall that isn't bustling this holiday season and go see all the monuments before the city packs in for the inauguration. A 1,300-square-foot rowhouse in Shaw just steps from the metro station awaits your arrival.

4. Montreal
4. Montreal

Vacation days left: One week

Average nightly rate for two bedrooms in December: $114

Average nightly per person for four guests in a two-bedroom: $28

Poutine, bagels, a friendly exchange rate: What's not to love about Montreal in December? O.K., so the high temperatures are in the 20s and 30s and you're going to have to pack your winter finery. So? The city looks like a European wonderland plunked in the middle of North America. Have some mulled wine, stop into a cafe for a Canadiens game, grab a bite at a bistro and go to a late-night jazz club and come home to a luxurious modern apartment in an amenity-laden building in the middle of it all or a slightly more spartan flat in the heart of the Latin Quarter.

3. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
3. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Vacation days left: One week

Average nightly rate for two bedrooms in December: $263

Average nightly per person for four guests in a two-bedroom: $66

A little on the nose? Sure, but it's still going to be in the 80s and adjacent to lovely beaches. However, you know what it won't have around this time of year that it will have in high supply by February? Scads of U.S. tourists getting in your way. Yep, blowing all of those vacation days on holiday travel is tough, but it leaves you a two-bedroom condo in a gated community with a balcony looking right out onto the ocean and a pool just a few floors below.

2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Vacation days left: Two weeks or more

Average nightly rate for two bedrooms in December: $326

Average nightly per person for four guests in a two-bedroom: $82

With the Olympics over and much of the upheaval surrounding it waning, now is just about the best time to head down to Rio and get a taste of the city. It's the beginning of summer down there now, with temperatures in the '90s, the beaches packed and the medical community finally getting a handle on prevention and treatment for the Zika virus. From a newly furnished two-bedroom apartment, you can take in views of Rodrigo de Freitas lake and Christ the Redeemer statue, walk to the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches and take in some of the best shopping and nightlife the city has to offer.

1. Cape Town, South Africa
1. Cape Town, South Africa

Vacation days left: Two weeks or more

Average nightly rate for two bedrooms in December: $381

Average nightly per person for four guests in a two-bedroom: $95

Since bottoming out around 6.50 rand in 2010, the dollar's value has more than doubled in South Africa. That doesn't mean you can pick up everything dirt cheap in Cape Town, mind you -- inflation still takes a bite of our own dollar and Cape Town is still a fairly remote destination for airline travel -- but it does mean that certain items come more cheaply than others. That includes a two-bedroom condo overlooking Camps Bay beach and within reach of the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek wine regions.

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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.