Using your vacation days is important for your mental and physical health. Many studies have shown that taking a break reduces the risk of heart conditions, lowers your blood pressure, helps you lose weight, enhances your productivity, and makes you more pleasant to be around.

Plus, there's some evidence that those benefits last for months after you return to the office.

However, many workers are missing out. According to a 2016 Expedia survey, American workers failed to take approximately 375 million paid vacation days in the past year, and 25% of them consider themselves as "very vacation deprived."

Wouldn't you like having some rest and recreation to look forward to? Try these ideas for filling your vacation days with fun and meaningful activities.

How to Plan a Real Vacation

Planning a vacation is often more pleasurable than the actual experience. After all, you're probably anticipating romantic dinners and beautiful scenery rather than lost luggage and rainy days.

Start having a good time even before you reach your final destination:

1. Do your research. Reduce unpleasant surprises by finding out the facts before you leave home. Check online reviews to see what previous guests have to say about that exotic resort. Confirm the latest airline rules and regulations.

2. Take it easy. It's easy to become overwhelmed when you add vacation planning to your other responsibilities. Give yourself adequate time and treat it like a game to find the lowest prices or most unusual sights.

3. Share the load. One sure way to minimize the workload is to divide it up. Assign each family member tasks that suit their age and skills.

4. Prepare for your return. How about making arrangements so your first day back runs smoothly, Try to postpone any big meetings for at least a few days until after you're back at work. Order dinner from your favorite restaurant so you can skip cooking and cleaning up.

5. Make it a habit. Frequent breaks are likely to make you happier than one long sojourn. If you have trouble getting away for long stretches, take advantage of holiday weekends.

How to Take a Real Vacation

Taking time off is a good starting point, but it's important to know how to use your leisure hours so your vacation relaxes you instead of stressing you out even more.

Try these ideas to increase your chances of having a positive experience:

1. Understand your workstyle. Checking in with the office is okay if it makes you feel more secure. On the other hand, let your colleagues know if you prefer to go off the grid.

2. Stimulate your creativity. Travel broadens your horizons and shifts your perspective. Seek inspiration in new customs and cuisines.

3. Bond with others. Family vacations create shared memories that draw loved ones closer together. You can also spend time visiting friends and relatives you otherwise rarely see in person.

4. Eat healthy. Sticking to your diet can be more challenging when you're dining out. Order dishes that include lots of vegetables, fruit, fish, and other healthy proteins. Buy nutritious snacks, like Greek yogurt, that you can keep in your hotel refrigerator.

5. Be present. Savor an evening watching a sunset on the beach or an afternoon shopping at a bazaar instead of rushing from one attraction to another. Put down your camera sometimes, and appreciate your surroundings first-hand.

6. Have an adventure. Shake up your usual routine, whether you fly across the world or stay in town. Venture out of your comfort zone by playing a demanding sport or greeting others in a foreign language.

How many vacation days do you have saved up, Treating yourself to a little time off can do wonders for your health and career. Plan a vacation that will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated.

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