How Long Your Vacation Should Last, According to the Experts

(Photo: Alex D’Alessio,  Unsplash )

(Photo: Alex D’Alessio, Unsplash)

Companies aren’t legally required to offer their employees vacation time, but more than 90 percent of all full-time employees working in the private sector receive paid vacation. Why? Because even your stingy boss knows that a burnt-out employee is just about as useful as a poopy-flavored lollipop. It’s a universal truth: everybody needs a break now and then.

But what is the appropriate amount of time to spend on vacation? Most often, people head off for a three- or four-day weekend, or for an entire week or two. That’s all fine and dandy, of course, but if you’re looking to optimize the time you have away from the office, the experts agree: eight days is the mark you should aim for. That’s according to a study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies a few years ago in which researchers examined the effects a vacation has on health and well-being.

After tracking the mood, energy level, overall satisfaction, and other health and well-being indicators of over 50 people who went on vacation in different parts of Europe anywhere from 15 to 34 days, the authors of the study concluded that vacationers tend to feel an increase of happiness during the first few days of their trip, with that happiness ultimately peaking on the eighth day. After that eighth day, you start to see diminishing returns in terms of those positive vibes and wellness benefits.

This would seem to make sense, because eight days is just enough time to get settled in, get into “vacation mode,” and actually be able to relax and enjoy yourself — without risking that whole “too much of a good thing” thing. As someone who has spent some time significant time abroad (the longest trip being a six-week stint in Argentina and Uruguay), I can certainly attest to the fact that there comes a point where things seem to simply be dragging on and you’re just ready to get back home so you can resume your normal routine.

Maybe I’ll sound crazy saying this, but sometimes even a two-week vacation seems a bit too long (though this probably depends somewhat on your destination). Part of this may be due to the amount of time it takes you to settle back into your regular routine once back from vacation, a process that may be directly correlated with the length of time you’re away (i.e. the longer you’re gone, the longer it takes to get back to normal once you return to work).

The key here is finding the happy medium — a vacation that isn’t too long, but not too short either. And if the experts say eight days is right on the money to reduce stress and experience an overall feeling of well-being not only during your trip but also for a period of time after you return, why fight science? Submit that PTO and go, go, go. Whether it’s a trip abroad you’ve been dreaming of for months or a good, old-fashioned staycation, you deserve it.


*P.S. — Check out this Expedia page dedicated entirely to eight-day getaways.