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Although we could all use extra time off as we struggle to find that elusive work/life balance, countless vacation days go unused every year. Approximately 72% of Americans plan to give up at least some vacation time to work. The reasons? There are several: workers feel taking vacation might derail their career, they feel pressured by their bosses not to take time off, feeling like there’s too many projects or deadlines to take a step away from work, and the stress of simply planning a vacation can often negate the benefits the vacation was intended to provide in the first place.

However statistically, taking more vacation results in greater success at work as well as lower stress and more happiness at work and home. According to Project: Time Off, a study by the US Travel Association which surveyed 5,641 adult Americans with a series of questions designed to understand their perception of time off and the impacts on various business or health measures, people who took fewer than 10 of their vacation days per year had a 34.6% likelihood of receiving a raise or bonus in a three-year period of time. People who took more than 10 of their vacation days, however, had a 65.4% chance of receiving a raise or bonus.

And, consistent with Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage’s findings, research indicates that when the brain can think positively, productivity improves by 31%, sales increase by 37%, and creativity and revenues can triple. To be truly engaged at work, your brain needs periodic breaks to gain a fresh perspective and energy.

In this sense, when you look at the bigger picture, taking time off actually works in your best interest. In other words, don’t fear that it will put you behind at your company. Instead, think of how it will help you in the long run as you return more productive and avoid the costly effects of burnout, which can impact not only your work performance but also your overall health.

But Travel Can Have Downsides, As Well

The Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life conducted a study where researchers found that the majority of people were in fact not happier after a vacation. Why would this be?

According to their survey of 1,500 adults, and how they felt both before and after travel, the findings showed that there was no happiness gain if there was moderate to high travel-related stress. This included managing the plans around transportation, trip details, unfamiliarity with the location, and feeling unsafe.

So how does one gain the happiness and increased productivity vacation affords, while staying clear of the planning issues that ruin the effects of time away?

In a study of over 400 travelers from around the world, researchers on the Applied Positive Research study found that 94% of vacations result in higher levels of happiness and energy if travelers plan ahead, go outside their hometown (the further the better), meet with a local host or other knowledgeable guide at the location, and have the travel details set before going.

How To Lose The Stress

Here are some key ways to alleviate many of the stressors caused by vacation-related stress and maximize your time off:

1. Plan Ahead: 90% of the respondents had planned the details for more than one month before going on a good trip. For the negative journeys, 28% were still figuring out details at the last minute or even on the trip itself. The earlier you plan, the better.
2. Get Help: in the Applied Positive Research study, 74% of respondents found the most stressful aspect of travel was figuring out the details: travel uncertainty, transportation, wasting time to figure things out on the trip, and being unfamiliar with the towns they were visiting. Instead of suffering, ask for help. Find a reputable travel provider to help plan some (or all) of aspects of your trip for you.
3. Go Far: A Twitter study found that the happiness level of users increased the further the post was geotagged from the user’s home. And 94% found traveling during the vacation to be more meaningful than staying in their hometown during time off.
4. Make a Local Connection: The biggest causes of stress and uncertainty on trips were managing the travel details, feeling unsafe, and being unfamiliar with the area they were visiting. On the best trips, 77% knew and met with a local host or had a friend in the area. If you don’t know someone in the area you’re traveling to, companies like Travelous specialize in providing travelers with logistics support before and during the trip, with expert guides and private transport.

Travel planners can help alleviate much of the travel-related stress, and maximize the benefits of travel. Their work involves listening to all the details about what you want to see and where you want to go so that you can simply relax and fully enjoy the intended purpose of utilizing your vacation time: rest, increase productivity, and renew energy.

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