Since it is officially summer now (my favorite season) I wanted to write an article about one of my favorite things, vacation! As many of you may already know I truly love vacationing. It’s one of the things that my husband and I will consistently splurge on. Small trips or big trips; domestic or international; it doesn’t matter. If I am on vacation I am happy. Which is why I was surprised to see that many Americans are letting their vacation days go to waste! A recent study expressed that 55% of Americans stated they were not using all of their vacation time. Further, the study by Project Time Off reported that “the 55 percent of under-vacationed Americans left a total 658 million vacation days unused”. That seems absolutely crazy to me, so I started doing some of my own research. Based on my research I compiled a list my top 4 reasons for taking a vacation and the benefits associated with each.
1. Destress and Reset
One of the biggest benefits to taking a vacation is that it allows you to destress and focus on something other than work or your daily chores and responsibilities. People today, especially millennials, are taking less vacation time because they want to try to get ahead of their peers by either working longer or taking on more work to show their worth. These people believe that by taking time off they will fall behind the others. The problem with that mindset is that it’s simply not sustainable for longer periods of time and, eventually, those individuals will burn out.
Vacation can help people destress just by getting your mind off of work. In fact, multiple studies have proven that vacation has helped reduce stress and anxiety levels while increasing both mental and physical health. Vacation also offers people a chance to reset, both physically and mentally. Have you ever worked really hard on a project or studied really hard for a test or presentation for an extended period of time? At the end did you feel completely drained and exhausted? I know I have. Going on vacation can help relieve that feeling and refuel your tank so you are ready to get after the next project. My husband is the prime example of this. Being in public accounting, he often works long hours for 2 to 3 months during busy season (6 to 7 days a week, working 15 to 18 hours a day). At the completion of busy season, he usually takes about a week off to unwind and reset. Even if we don’t go anywhere, he just like being able to relax at home for a few days and not have to worry about work or anything else. He also always takes the last week in August off as a last chance to enjoy the slower pace of summertime before it’s crunch time again.
2. Boost Productivity
Going on vacation pays dividends when you return to work. Studies have found that employees are more productive when they return from a vacation. An article by Forbes stated that “most managers recognize the benefits taking time off from work provide to employees: higher productivity, stronger workplace morale, greater employee retention, and significant health benefits.” The reason we are more productive after vacation is simply because that’s the way humans are wired. According to a study documented in the New York Times, humans aren’t designed to expend energy continuously; rather, we are meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy. Vacations don’t need to be long either. Sometimes just a Friday or Monday off to create an extended weekend can do the trick. As mentioned above, vacations can help you destress and reset, which leads to better productivity at work. I know when I feel run-down and overworked, I tend to have trouble focusing and I have a shorter attention span. Taking even a day off can sometimes get you back into the right frame of mind to be more productive.
3. It’s Healthy!
Yes, that’s right; I said it. Going on vacation makes you healthier. This point goes hand in hand with number one. Vacation allows us to relax, catch up on sleep, smile, laugh and have fun, all of which are good for your health. We talked about reducing stress in point number one, so I will focus this on sleep. Restless nights or nights with little sleep are often driven by the fact that we have too much on our minds. Maybe it’s that big meeting tomorrow at work, or making sure you catch the right train to watch your kid’s baseball or softball game; all of these things keep us up at night. Research shows that people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep to function at their best. Those of us who are getting less than 6 hours of sleep are putting ourselves at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Vacation allows us to forget about all the things that keep us up at night and catch up on some of that much needed sleep. If you are fortunate enough to take a week off, you may even be able to reset your sleep pattern so that when you return you can get to sleep earlier and follow or more normalized sleep cycle.
And I saved the best for last. To me making memories is the best part of vacation. Whether it’s with your family, friends, husband or maybe your pet, vacation allows us to get closer with each other. It doesn’t matter where we go or who we are with, we always seem to have a good time and come home with at least story or two. It’s those stories and memories that you take away that will stay with you forever. There are stories from vacations I went on as a kid that are retold at holiday dinners because everyone gets a good laugh from them. To me, memories are invaluable and I often catch myself at work thinking back about some of our recent vacations (my honeymoon was last year, so that is certainly one that keeps popping in my head). Sometimes just thinking back feels like a little mini vacation, even if it’s just for a minute or two while I’m still sitting at my desk at work.
As you can see there are some real benefits to taking a vacation. I encourage all of you, if you can, to try to use that vacation time you are granted. I know how hard it can be to step away from work with all the competing demands, especially for those of you who are trying to achieve FIRE, but it’s important to take some time for yourself, slowdown for a little, and just enjoy life. I mean isn’t that the whole reason you are working so hard in the first place?
If you’re worried about not being able to afford a vacation, be sure to check out my post on How to Save (and Make) Money While Traveling.