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5 Tips for Making Summer Vacation an Affordable and Fun Reality

The Points Guy and a Healthline expert share solutions for using your vacation days and planning a stress-free trip.

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According to a study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, more than 768 million vacation days went unused in 2018 and those numbers haven’t improved since. In 2023, Pew Research found in a survey that only 48 percent of Americans used all of their vacation days. As a country with one of the worst rates of using paid time off, we are missing out on the endless benefits that taking time off provides.

study released by the American Psychological Association concluded that time off helps to reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments that they associate with anxiety. It has been reported that even anticipating a vacation can boost your mood in the long term. 

The benefits of taking a vacation go far beyond mental health. In a study published in Psychology and Health, researchers found that those who took vacation time more often were less likely to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome such as a stroke or heart disease. 

While many people associate using PTO with an extended vacation to a faraway destination, you don’t have to blow your budget to reap the wellness benefits of taking time off. This summer, Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy, is sharing his recommendations for maximizing your budget so you can take some much-needed time off, while Healthline’s chief health officer, Jenny Yu, M.D., has shared tips to make the most of that time away from work.

“We know that taking a vacation and traveling can be good for your health—the time away can help you destress, build core memories with friends and family, and enjoy activities that help you relax,” says  Kelly,. “However, you don’t need to spend a lot to reap the rewards—some of my most relaxing and rewarding trips have been a car ride away. As many people are cutting back on spending, I’m excited to show travelers how they can make a vacation a reality this summer.”

Kelly’s tips for planning a stress-free and budget-friendly getaway this summer include: 

  •  Choose the right flight: Flight delays and high prices can cause unnecessary stress when planning a getaway. If possible, take an early morning flight to avoid the domino effect of potential delays and cancellations. Flying mid-week on either a Tuesday or Wednesday is a great way to avoid the rush of business travelers and leisure weekend travelers, making it a more pleasant airport experience.
  •  Maximize your points and miles: Looking to take a last-minute trip? You can typically get a better and lower rate for your points and miles if you book your flight last minute, as airlines wait to publish the remaining awards availability. Also, if you are traveling internationally, consider transferring your rewards from a U.S.-based carrier like American to a foreign-based airline like British Airways to get a cheaper rate using fewer miles.  
  • Prepare for chaos: With more people traveling this summer, preparing ahead of time for unforeseen hurdles like missing luggage, unnecessary traffic, and unruly crowds can help you enjoy the journey more. Buy AirTags for your bags so you can track your luggage, and book flights and accommodations with a travel credit card that has insurance. Download apps for your airline or hotel, like World of Hyatt, to be kept up to date on any last-minute changes.
  • Consider driving destinations: Airfare might be out of budget for some, so consider a day trip within driving distance. Even if you aren’t traveling far, the benefits of taking time off and unplugging remain the same as a bigger vacation. There are plenty of amazing getaways within two to three hours of most locations.
  • Explore destination dupes: Travel can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead of traveling to popular tourist destinations, look into lesser-known locations with similar experiences that offer fewer crowds and more approachable prices for food, accommodations, and activities.

“Using your vacation time is not just about relaxation and rejuvenation; it can also be a great opportunity to prioritize your mental and physical wellbeing,” says Yu. “Taking time off to disconnect from the day-to-day ‘grind’ creates an energy that refuels and recharges by giving our brains a break from the stress of our daily routines. Moving in nature, reconnecting with yourself, and making space for unscheduled free time are just a few ways to maximize the wellness benefits of taking time off.”

Yu suggests the following to make sure you maximize your time off and really reap the wellness benefits. 

  • Find the joy in planning: Even planning a trip has been shown to reduce stress, so enjoy the process as much as possible. Create a Pinterest board with inspiration, set aside a planning evening with fellow travelers to chat about your itinerary over a meal, and take your time while planning to enjoy the wellness benefits. 
  • Schedule in some free time: During the vacation, allow for some unscheduled time where you can explore at leisure, enjoy a day at the pool, or just rest. This will allow you to explore hidden gems you find along the way and come back from your trip well-rested. 
  •  Incorporate parts of your routine into your travel days: Unanticipated delays, packed days, and a departure from your routine can throw a wrench in your relaxing getaway. Incorporate parts of your daily self-care routine like meditation, journaling, or stretching into your vacation to help you stay relaxed. 
  •  Unplug and reconnect: While scrolling can feel relaxing, many studies show that engaging in social media can be more taxing for your brain. Take the time on vacation to really unplug from your daily life, limiting screen time and instead reconnecting with yourself and your travel companions. 
  • Ease back into real life: When the vacation is over, find ways to ease back into your routine. Book a flight home on a Friday or Saturday so you can decompress when you get home and slowly unpack and acclimate back to reality. Don’t put pressure on yourself to get it all done as soon as you get home. 

To encourage followers to take some time off, The Points Guy and Healthline are asking fans to share how they plan to take a break for their wellbeing this summer via social media. Followers who follow @healthline@thepointsguy, and @secretsmoxche and tag a friend they would take on vacation will be entered to win a luxury, all-inclusive stay at Secrets Moxché Playa del Carmen, a AAA Five Diamond, adults-only resort in Playa del Carmen, and part of Hyatt’s Inclusive Collection. The five-day, four-night all-inclusive stay for two will allow the winners to fully unwind among the property’s seven pools, eleven dining options, world-class spa, palm tree-lined beach, and three man-made cenotes. The contest will run through July 9th. One lucky winner will be randomly selected and notified on July 12th. 

About The Author
julieKeller_author-1

Julie is the co-founder of Well Defined and a longtime influencer and advocate in the wellness world. Along with her work at Well Defined, she is an executive recruiter and marketing specialist for Hutchinson Consulting. She is also a consultant and content strategist for numerous wellness brands. She is the former editor-in-chief and publisher of American Spa and was named a 2019 Folio Top Woman in Media in the Industry Trailblazers category and a 2018 winner of ISPA’s Innovate Award. She is also a seasoned journalist, specializing in spa, travel, health, fitness, wellness, sustainability, and beauty. She has been published in Departures, ForbesTraveler.com, E! Online, Gayot.com, Insider’s Guide to Spas, Luxury Travel Advisor, Marin Magazine, Ocean Home, Smart Meetings, Spa Asia, and Travel Agent.