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Taking vacations is as American as apple pie, right? Most Americans grow up with memories of summer vacations every year. In fact, Americans take vacations far less than people do in other countries. According to a UCLA article, American workers only use 1/2 to 2/3 of vacation time due them. Do Americans put enough value on recreational time? Based on several research studies, the UCLA team concluded that not taking R&R opportunities could be a costly mistake, which leads US workers to forfeit a higher level of happiness associated with vacations.   

Changing Perspectives About Vacations

Taking one vacation per year, if at all, is usually due to lack of funding and time. Paid vacations average two weeks per year, for which most Americans save all year. Does that one vacation accomplish the happiness and well-being that researchers say may be achieved? The studies which implied that happiness was increased with vacation time were based on surveying two groups, regarding use of their weekend time off. Some folks used weekends for errands, chores and normal activities, while the others treated the two days as a vacation to get away, relax and unplug. 

The results implied that changing the focus of a weekend to a “vacation mentality” could positively impact general well-being. When making allowances for workers who retained the “get away mentality” with fewer resources, the panel concluded that being intentionally focused on the moment, or “being present,” was the true element inspiring happiness rather than any specific activity. They further concluded that frequent, inexpensive “mini-vacations” could increase well-being. 

Treating Weekends as Vacations Can Increase Happiness | HealthSoul

Regular Weekend Vacations

Since the findings stressed that being “vacation-minded” was a key in raising happiness levels, perhaps it’s worth considering what types of affordable activities can be planned around a two-day vacation. Make a bucket list of places to visit overnight. Think there’s no time to schedule around busy weekends? Think again. For a five-day week, 52 weeks per year, there are 104 weekend days, and 10 legal US holidays. This leaves 34 two-day weekends, and eight with three days. That’s a whopping 42 mini vacation opportunities to choose from without having to take off work. 

Time is no longer an excuse. Money might not be an excuse, either. Planning ahead allows inexpensive deals on travel. Careful budgeting might pay for your trips, too. What you spend ordering pizza, going to the movies or to dinner can go toward traveling, instead. How much do families throw away on non-essentials like $6 coffee, other vices or stuff you don’t need? Prioritized budget dollars can go farther than aimless weekend-at-home spending. Like successful dieting and exercising, you can develop a vacation-minded lifestyle that focuses on quality of life to achieve more real happiness.

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