TRAVEL
10/01/2014 03:25 pm ET Updated Oct 01, 2014

Cute Kids (And Credit Card Companies) Are Begging You To Take All Your Vacation Days

Kids say the darndest things -- and sometimes, also the smartest things. After hearing that more than 400 million vacation days go unused in America each year, one little boy's response is simply: "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

The cute kid -- who is actually an actor in an advertisement -- has a point. Awareness and frustration are rising around the deplorable state of vacation in America. Currently, the U.S. lags behind almost every other developed nation when it comes to vacation time, and is the only advanced economy that does not require employers to offer paid time off. The average American worker takes advantage of only half of their vacation days -- and bear in mind that the average employee only gets 10 vacation days per year to begin with. Even when we do clock out for a few days or a week, 61 percent of workers work while they're on vacation.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that marketers are beginning to cash in on our unfulfilled dreams of travel and carefree days of family fun. Following the lead of Hotels.com -- which recently launched the Vacation Equality Project to take the issue of mandated vacation time to Congress -- MasterCard has jumped on the vacation bandwagon with a new television ad encouraging viewers to take #OneMoreDay of travel, and to pledge to take advantage of the time off that they've earned.

As part of MasterCard's "priceless" campaign, the ad looks to the wisdom of children to remind busy working parents that even "one more day" spent enjoying time with their families is priceless.

"We're not asking for much," a chorus of adorable, heart-string-tugging children says. "We just want one more day."

The ad couldn't have come at a better time. The ongoing debate over the death of the American vacation was revived last week when Virgin Group founder and CEO Richard Branson announced a new unlimited vacation policy for every staff member.

While not everyone agrees that unlimited vacation policies are all they're cracked up to be -- employees may still feel too busy to take their paid time off, even if it's not being tracked -- the policy reflects a larger cultural shift in the way we look at vacation time and workplace dynamics.

Tony Schwartz, productivity expert and Energy Project CEO, goes so far as to say that vacation is the "secret sauce" to success at work.

Schwartz's advice for American workers, which MasterCard would certainly endorse? "Take every day of vacation you’re given."

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