Just a few days away will recharge your energy, mood, and health. Here's how to pack maximum enjoyment into a mini trip.
Frequent getaways with little stress involved–those are a couple of the perks of microvacations, trips that last two to four days. People who take these vacations tend to be happier, calmer, and more energized than those who rarely take time off, according to Jessica de Bloom, Ph.D., the author of several studies on the health benefits of travel. (Project: Time Off, an organization that analyzes vacation time. "The fear of returning to a mountain of work is the number-one reason people don't take vacations," Denis says. "Shorter trips mitigate that." In fact,microgetaways are so rewarding that more and more Americans are opting to take several short trips each year rather than a single longer block of time. These days, the average duration of a paid-time-off request is 2.34 days, according to a recent survey.
Ready to plan a micro-jaunt? Here's your checklist for packing the most joy, excitement, and relaxation into your few days away.
Plan another trip.
Start thinking about your next microvacation as soon as you get back from one. Anticipating your getaway or holiday boosts your happiness, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science. "The best thing you can do for your health is to block off your vacation days for the entire year," Denis says. "That way, you'll always have something to be excited about and look forward to."
Be completely honest about your desires.
With fewer days to explore a new place, visit only the sights you really want to see and forget anything that feels like a should. Vacationers who felt they had control over their itinerary scored greater health and wellness benefits, including less stress, extra energy, and a happier mood, one of de Bloom's studies showed. (Here's one thing you can do to be happier at work.)
We've found that the duration of a vacation matters less than the quality," Denis says. The lesson: You can get more from two days of doing exactly what you want than from 10 days of activities you're not so psyched about.
Make it an active escape.
There's nothing wrong with the lazy beach vacation, but when you have just a few days, staying on your feet (or bike, surfboard, or yoga mat) is a better bet. (Take one of these adventure vacations for the fitness thrill of it.) Physical activities help you unwind more effectively than lounging does, a study in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology found. The mood-boosting effects of the endorphins released when you exercise may speed mental recovery, the researchers say. In addition, lying around gives you too much time to worry about what's happening at work, which negates the benefits of being away.
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Extend the vacation vibe.
"Vacation memories enhance mood and well-being and may act as a buffer against future stressors, even months later," de Bloom says. "People say they think about past getaways in difficult times, and that gives them back their happy vacation feeling." But, she says, the memories may fade with time. To keep them fresh, find interesting things to collect on your mini trips, and put them on your desk or display them at home for constant hits of getaway bliss.