Travel tips: Maximize your vacation days


With holiday vacations around the corner—and spring break not that far off—my mind always turns to travel. And yet some of my favorite breaks have been extended weekends or mid-week day dates. It amazes me how much good just a single day of vacation can do. In fact, it’s been shown that there is no relationship between the length of a vacation and overall happiness.

But I learned an interesting statistic recently: something like 700 million vacation days are left on the table by Americans every year. 50% of us are essentially donating money (in the form of earned time off) to employers.


So if you’ve got some earned time coming up, here are some encouragements to take advantage of it!

Embrace the Daytrip. One of the most relaxing (and funny) day trips Aron and I ever took remains a trip to Spa Castle in Queens, back when we were living in New York. Essentially a Korean day spa, it’s a giant complex of saunas (“Sauna Valley”), hot and cold pools—some with requisite nudity—sleep rooms, and massage tables. Since moving to California, we’ve gone a few times to a bathhouse called Asha Urban Baths in Sacramento. (Any locals have other recommendations for me?)

Some other favorite day trips have included:
Swimming in the Yuba River; Spending the day on Fire Island; Scheduling a late-season ski day in Lake Tahoe; Swimming in Angora Lake; and shucking oysters in Marin. But even taking a hike or spending a day browsing bookstores sounds amazing.


Extend your weekend. It’s said that taking several three- or four-day-weekends throughout the year can have the same effects (happiness, relaxation, etcetera) as a single long break. Plus, they generally cost less and take less time to plan!

Here are a few of my favorite getaways we’ve taken using a single day of vacation (plus a weekend):
A fall weekend in Yosemite Valley; a first mud bath at Indian Springs in Calistoga; and a family getaway to Monterey where we checked out tide pools! In fact, we just got back from a weekend there—I’d love to share it soon.

Family Travel Tip: For those of you parents who need a weekend away without the kids, we found that the easiest way to ask others for help is to start or end your weekend on weekday, when your kids will be spending some of the time at school, engaged in their usual routine. Bonus—you’ll spend less time in weekend traffic. And if you go on a Sunday and come back on a Monday, you can sometimes get better rates and avoid two-night minimums.

Plan Ahead. Nearly a third of us end up cramming vacation days into these last months of the year, which is already a busy time. I once read that Marissa Mayer (former Yahoo CEO) planned one weeklong vacation every four months. If you come to expect your taking your vacation as part of a routine, you’ll be less likely to let things like office guilt get in your way.

No, seriously. Plan Ahead. A study in the Netherlands revealed that planning a vacation contributed as much to happiness as did the vacation itself.

Do you use all of your vacation days? Any fun travel coming up? 

P.S. A weekend in SF; Plus family travel tips, like Tips for Road Trips with Kids, Favorite Entertainment for Kids, and Flying with a baby or toddler.

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