Vacation Vs. Staycation: Is One Better Than the Other?

Updated: May 18

We have all been in a tough spot with restrictive lockdowns and canceled travel plans this past year. A global pandemic had many of us redefining the terms vacation and staycation in ways that we have never before imagined.

beach bag

The studies are pretty clear -- employees need time off. Most employees are happier and more productive when they are allowed to take time off from the daily grind. But is it better to spend that time traveling the world on new adventures or relaxing at home?

How Much Time Off Do You Need to Be Happy?

From European norms starting at a minimum of four weeks vacation per year to American norms of one or two weeks per year, the amount of time we take off from work varies. Other factors like how well your job fits your lifestyle and how satisfied you are with your job overall can also factor into the amount of time off that you need.

While time off may sound like a great idea, we also need to feel connected and useful so there is a limit to how much time off is good for our well-being. The consensus on surveys conducted by some of the happiest countries in the world found:

The positive impact on mental health and well-being begins almost immediately once time off begins and peaks after about eight days.

Taking time off is good for your well-being, but extended vacations don't necessarily mean more happiness. Most workers prefer to take vacations in increments of one week because after the first seven or eight days we tend to adjust to the normal and stop reaping the benefits of time off.

Does Travel Make People Happier Than Taking Time Off?

A vacation usually means an opportunity to get away or venture out and see something new. For many people, traveling is exciting and the experience is enough to release feel-good endorphins that make us feel happy.

woman on bus

But the experience is different for everyone. And, possibly different for each person under different circumstances. Categorically, we cannot say that travel does or does not make us happy because it depends on many factors. However, we can say that out of the people who choose to travel it does make these people a little happier to explore the world.

Travel speaks to our need for self-growth and by fulfilling that need with experiences we can become happier.

Taking a trip can be educational, it can give you a new perspective, or just allow you to appreciate your every day life.

Does a Staycation Have the Same Effect?

If you live life on a budget or have had the unfortunate experience of having a vacation canceled -- you may have heard the term staycation. A staycation is a vacation that doesn't require extensive travel. No cramped airfare, no stuffy hotels...just the fun stuff!

A staycation can be every bit as good as a vacation, but it depends on where you live and how you do it. If you stay home and binge Netflix for the entire week the effects won't compare to a cruise through the Carribbean or a zipline in the mountains.

Make the most out of your staycation by doing new things.

  • Splurge for dinner out at a fancy eatery.

  • Go for drinks at a hot, new cocktail bar.

  • Take a culinary class.

  • Book a spa day.

  • Visit a museum or cultural center.

  • See what your local university or extension has to offer.

  • Make a short drive to hiking trails.

  • Go antiquing or boutique shopping.

  • Pitch a tent in the backyard.

  • Set up an outdoor movie screen.

  • Rent an Airbnb in the local community with a private pool.

  • Participate in a craft workshop.

Don't skip the vacation. It is important to take time off from work and change up your regular routine to recharge. It doesn't matter whether you travel the globe or to the next town over as long as you are engaging in something a little different than your normal routine.


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