The Importance of Taking Vacation

importance of vacation_family on vacation at the beachBurnout is real. As Americans, we’re pressured to excel, get ahead, and never take a break, or we might miss out on the next big step up the ladder. Unfortunately, what often gets forgotten is that to do well,—and truly succeed—it’s critical to plan downtime to recharge and renew. Enter: Vacation. Ironically, time away from the office can actually increase your productivity at work and even your life span.

The thing is, we’re not using all of our vacation opportunities. Victor Lipman, in his Forbes article, “Why America Has Become ‘The No-Vacation Nation’,” shares that “47% of Americans didn’t take all of their vacation time last year and 21% ‘left more than five vacation days on the table.’” What is this, America? Why are we not taking the vacation days we’ve worked so hard to earn? Why aren’t we allowing ourselves to relax and recharge?

The U.S. Travel Association is aware of this national problem. They’ve actually selected the last Tuesday of January as “National Plan for Vacation Day” as an effort to raise awareness about the importance of taking vacation and to encourage Americans to actually use that hard-earned PTO. Check out their site for a nifty vacation planning tool if you need some added inspiration.

For the betterment of our health, happiness, and relationships, it’s time we start taking more vacations. So, consider this your permission to use that PTO you’ve been building up over the last few months. Tell your boss you’re taking a week off, or heck, even just a day off.

If you need a little more convincing, here are just a few reasons why travel and taking vacations is so, so important.

Vacation Makes You Healthier

The Framingham Heart Study followed women who rarely took vacations (no more than once every six years) over the course of 20 years. They found that these women were almost eight times more likely to have a heart attack than women who took at least two vacations a year. Why? Stress hormones like cortisol increase when we’re overworked. Taking a vacation allows our stress hormones to settle down and regulate.

In addition, studies show that vacations improve sleep quality. Sleep quality, or a lack thereof, can negatively affect health markers. Studies show participants who took vacations more regularly experienced an almost 20% improvement in sleep quality. On average, they experienced an hour more of quality sleep during vacation, which carried over even after the trip.

Plus, taking vacations can help keep you young. Board certified emergency physician Dr. Leigh Vinocur says on TakeBackYourTime.org, “Chronic stress is believed to accelerate biologic aging and the aging process. Why not do yourself a big favor? Make yourself a priority and take some time off. Medically speaking, taking regular vacations is one of the most rewarding prescriptions I can recommend for staying healthy!”

So, get yourself away from the grind and take that family vacation you’ve been dreaming of. And when you get back, bring your newfound laid-back attitude with you and find ways to take mini vacations once you return to work (lunchtime massage, anyone?).

Vacation Makes You Happier

Research is finding that experiences create more happiness than possessions. A combination of the following activities while vacationing lead to happiness: meeting new people, gaining self-confidence, the chance to decompress, learning new things, and creating lasting memories. All of these combined can increase your “happiness ratio.”

Studies show that happiness levels increase while on vacation but tend to return to pre-vacation levels once we return to daily life. Still, those who take vacations report a higher happiness level than those who don’t. So, while there may be a crash (culture shock and post-vacation blues are a real thing), you may just be going through an adjustment period after returning home. Remember—the good times can keep on rolling all year long.

Vacation Strengthens Relationships

Taking a vacation with loved ones strengthens bonds and increases contentment. In fact, family vacations positively affect family bonding, communication, and solidarity. This means your trip to Disney World is not only giving you time away from the office but bringing your family closer together. You’ll be talking about those experiences for years to come.

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., states in Psychology Today that vacations promote what is called the “crescive bond,” AKA, a “shared experience,” by fostering growing and enduring connections. Shared family memories and time spent together isolated from your ordinary everyday activities (school, work, your 5 p.m. spin class) help to promote these positive ties.

You’ll Be More Productive at Work

After some much-deserved time off, you’ll return home rested, motivated, and ready to tackle that new project with gusto. Shannon Torberg, Psy.D., LP wrote on the Allina Health blog, “A number of studies have shown that taking time away from the job can have physical and psychological health benefits. People who take vacations have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life, and more motivation to achieve goals.”

How Long Should You Go?

In a study published in the Journal of Travel Research, researchers found that the length of a trip affects happiness levels. The ideal length was found to be eight to 13 days (we won’t object to that). Happiness climbs by the second day and remains high almost until the end of the trip.

While a shorter trip of seven days or fewer starts happy, the level declines through the week. And longer trips of 14 or more days show less happiness early on, with happiness increasing during the second week. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take shorter trips than the “ideal” length found in the study,—and we’re also not opposed to 14+ day vacays either—but for optimum travel time happiness, aim for eight to 13 days. Looks like the two-week vacation actually has a foundation in science.

Need Some Inspiration?

For any or all of these reasons, submit that vacation request now and book that next adventure. Trust us, your mental and physical health will breathe a collective sigh of relief. And you never know, taking a week off could be exactly what you need to finally finish that report you’ve owed your boss for two months. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll be here to help you find the perfect hotel.

Here are some other articles we’ve written designed to get your vacation planning wheels turning and get you closer to your next trip: