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Orbitz wants you -- to lead the (Vacation) Party

President Obama likes Martha’s Vineyard, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney favors Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, and both Vice President Joe Biden and Romney's running mate Paul Ryan recently took a little time off.

Hey, if vacations are good for the candidates for the highest offices in the land, isn’t it about time for a candidate to stand up and do something for vacations?


Orbitz.com wants you to be that candidate. Declaring that vacations are 100 percent awesome, yet concerned that only 57 percent of Americans take all of their vacation time, the online travel company has announced that it is seeking a Vacation Party candidate who will “cut the vacation deficit, provide universal access to beachfront views and fill hotel rooms from sea to shining sea.”

Think you’ve got what it takes to snag the nomination? You don’t have to hit the campaign trail, participate in debates or kiss a single baby. Instead, would-be nominees will need to make a 60-second video touting their worthiness and upload it to the campaign’s Facebook page, aka Orbitz Vacation Party headquarters, by Aug. 27.

The winner, who will be chosen from a short list of three finalists and determined by public voting between Sept. 6–19, will be announced on or around Sept. 25 and receive $25,000 in free travel.

It may not be super PAC money, but since neither Karl Rove nor Jeffrey Katzenberg is likely to fork over any cash for the cause, it’ll have to do.

In the meantime, the field is already getting crowded. According to campaign spokesperson Marita Hudson, nearly 125 contenders have already submitted their clips. Presumably, they’re pleasantly devoid of the mud-slinging that typifies the current crop of campaign ads, although we suspect some sand will get flung.

Obviously, the campaign is tongue-in-cheek, although it does tap into the idea that Americans get less vacation than their counterparts in other developed countries and don’t even take the days they’re entitled to.

Last year, for example, American workers received an average of 14 vacation days, according to an annual survey conducted by Expedia.com, down from 15 the year before. Of those, they took 12, a far cry from the 25 to 30 days that many Europeans get and take.

Of course, travel companies releasing statistics that fit their corporate agenda is just another form of lobbying, and political spin has probably been a fact of life since the plebeians and patricians went at it in ancient Rome.

As for the Orbitz campaign, the company has created merchandise — United We Tan water bottles and Give Me Vacation or Give Me Death (Preferably Vacation) bumper stickers — and gathered nearly 13,000 signatures on a Take Back Vacation pledge.

Could this be the unifying issue that puts an end to the partisan bickering and name-calling that constitutes political discourse today? Despite high unemployment and a rocky recovery, the folks at Orbitz clearly think so.

“With numerous studies documenting the physical and mental health benefits of vacation, we believe most companies are like Orbitz and want employees to take their vacations to rejuvenate,” said Hudson. “That said, people have to feel comfortable with being away from the office and need to assess their individual situations.”

Personally, we’d settle for a permanent vacation from the endless stream of political ads those other candidates have in store for us.

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him on Twitter.

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