How Vacationing Can Boost Your Well-Being

They say vacations are good for you. But why?

woman in a wheelchair enjoying an outdoor scene

Medically reviewed in July 2021

Updated on March 3, 2022

Several years ago, I took a two-week vacation to Europe. I ate pizza in Rome, wandered through tulip fields in Amsterdam, and got starry-eyed in a little town in Germany. A few days after my trip, it occurred to me how important this vacation had been for my well-being. The trip wasn’t just a fix for my wanderlust—it was a recharge for my health.

People are busier than ever and we tend to guilt ourselves out of taking a vacation, or even a simple break. In fact, a 2019 survey found that among Americans whose jobs offer paid time off (PTO), over one-third don’t use half or more of their vacation days, and about 1 in 10 skip vacations entirely.

But time away from work and other daily responsibilities is important. Being overworked and stressed out can lead to health issues. Here are a few of the mind, body, and social benefits of taking a restorative trip.

Improve your physical and emotional health 
Vacations can do wonders for your health, both physically and mentally. For one thing, taking time off allows you a mental break from thoughts of work, errands, and to-do lists. In addition, vacations give you a chance to relax and change up your daily routine. They’ve been linked to higher life satisfaction and better overall health.

Taking time off can help decrease stress and potentially prevent heart disease. Taking a vacation may even improve your immune system.

Explore new places, foods, and activities
Discovering a new place not only allows you to explore fun tourist attractions, but also helps you become more  aware of how others live and to appreciate their way of life. This new perspective could increase your creativity. And getting out of your comfort zone forces you to try new activities or new cuisines—and potentially fall in love with them.

Strengthen relationships 
Going on a trip with loved ones can provide much-needed quality time. Sometimes you have to problem-solve and work as a team to get to your next destination or learn to compromise when it comes to the daily itinerary. Going on vacation with family can help you build stronger bonds  and create memories. But don’t rule out solo travel. Traveling alone is great for strengthening your most important relationship—the one with yourself—and fortifying your confidence and independence.

A chance to unplug
Vacations are the perfect time to take a digital detox. It’s great to share our experiences with our friends and family, but taking a vacation can show us the importance of being in the moment. When we’re fixated on our digital devices, we unintentionally give up time that could be spent on important things like relationships, sleep, or productivity. A chance to unplug not only lets you unwind, but it can help us practice mindfulness and recognize beauty that we may not see otherwise.

Of course, it’s not always possible to take two weeks off, and you certainly don’t have to fly over the ocean to rest and reset. A staycation over the weekend or a few days to yourself in a nearby town might be more practical and just as healthy. So if you haven’t taken some time off in a while, do yourself a favor and plan a getaway soon.

Article sources open article sources

Andrea Robinson. Four reasons to take a vacation. Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse Newsletter. July 2017.
Epel ES, Puterman E, Lin J, et al. Meditation and vacation effects have an impact on disease-associated molecular phenotypes. Transl Psychiatry. 2016;6(8):e880. Published 2016 Aug 30.
Jeffrey Borenstein. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. The Importance of Taking Vacation Time to De-stress and Recharge. Posted July 27, 2019.

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