Surprising Facts from Staying Sharp for a Stress-Free Vacation

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Vacations should be taken to reduce stress and help you find happiness that will ultimately make you more productive, right? However, according to AARP’s Staying Sharp program, researchers are discovering that all not all vacations are created equally when it comes to overall well-being. Staying Sharp helps you maximize your days off by making choices that minimize your stress.

I am a huge advocate of taking vacations, especially if you plan your travel with points and miles. But, many of my readers say travel is stressful ‑ juggling conflicting schedules; parting with money; making the most of points to book travel; deciding on hotels, flights, etc.

Staying Sharp has taken a closer examination on whether you should take an adventure vacation in an exotic location, travel nearby, or book a relaxing trip to completely unplug.

Positive vacations have a significant effect on stress and energy. Happiness expert Shawn Achor found in a study through the Institute of Applied Positive Research of 414 travelers that 94% had as much or more energy after coming back after a good trip, and 55% returned to work with even higher levels of energy than before the trip.

The U.S. is the only developed country that does not legally require a single paid vacation day. Many employers do allow us to accrue vacation time, but that time is limited, especially if you have recently started a new job. Most Europeans legally get 20 paid vacation days as a minimum and many are lucky enough to have 30 days of vacation, so they have more options for length and frequency. While we can’t all move to Europe, there are ways to make the most of your hard-earned vacation time.

Give yourself lead time with travel planning. People find the most stressful aspect of travel is figuring out the details. You have to find a hotel, plan transportation, organize trip activities and possibly even navigate a foreign language. The week before your vacation starts can be very stressful, too – getting ready for taking time off can be a lot of pressure due to an increase in workload and preparing the household with care for your pets, cleaning the refrigerator, and paying bills. What you do in a week now has to be done in an accelerated timeframe.

Watch stress levels. You should find planning for a vacation a way to boost happiness. So to reduce pre-vacation stress, plan one month in advance and don’t leave packing and errands until the last minute. Stress can lead to high blood pressure and poor sleep quality, which can lead to avoiding taking any type of vacation. The earlier you plan, the better.

Weekend getaways can go a long way: A 2011 study concluded that shorter, more frequent vacations are better than longer, less frequent ones, because, as researcher Jessica de Bloom told the Wall Street Journal: “Holidays work more like sleep. You need regular recovery from work in order to stay healthy in the long run.”

Get out of town. Staycations are wonderful, but research has shown traveling for vacation is more meaningful for a lot of people. Staying Sharp’s research found that traveling to warmer locations, getting better sleep, and exercising while on vacation tend to bring out restorative qualities. Big time-zone changes, health-related problems, and cold climates, however, can increase stress, according to Staying Sharp.

What happens if you have to work? Not everyone has the option of completely unplugging, but you can minimize your stress level by knowing exactly when you will be working while on vacation. Instead of being accessible the entire trip, set aside specific times you will work. When you decide the starting and stopping time for engaging in work activities, you still can have ample time to devote to leisure activities.

Americans are notorious for not taking all their vacation time, but there is ample evidence that taking time off can work wonders on our stress and happiness levels. By spreading out vacation planning and making thoughtful decision on what type of trip you take, your time off can make your time on much better. So, take advantage of those points and miles you’ve collected, book a fifth night free at a hotel, get upgrades, and have a great trip!


Ready to introduce a stress-free credit card into your wallet? We love the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® . The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® waives the annual fee the first year and is only $89 the second year. So, if you’re ready to trust yourself and want a credit card that offers you flexibility in redemption, and a good earnings value consider the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, even if don’t have travel plans in the near future. This is a card that allows you a cash back option as well. If you do find you made a purchase that was more than you can pay off in one month, know your miles can be used as cash back on your billing statement and help pay down the balance.

Do you have a credit card story that you would like to share? Please comment below. We would love to hear from you.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

  • Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days – that’s enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. There is a fee for balance transfers.

40,000 miles

Balance Transfer
0% Intro APR for 12 months

Ongoing APR
16.99, 20.99%, or 23.99% variable

Annual Fee
$0 first year; then $89

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.