New research shows people living in Colorado, Virginia and Arizona take the most vacation time from work. The advocacy group "Project: Time Off" finds last year, Americans used around 17 vacation days, which is the most since 2010. But 52 percent of workers still report leaving unused vacation days by the end of the year.
New York Times contributing science columnist John Tierney has been researching how to make the most of that vacation time. He says people who take more vacations see real health benefits, like fewer heart attacks or bouts of depression. He says they're more productive at work too.
"When you do new things, it stimulates dopamine in your brain and that gives you more optimism, that gives you more energy, and it's the same brain system that gets activated when you fall in love. So it's a nice way to reignite a romance, it's a great way to build any kind of relationship," Tierney said.
Instead of focusing on one long trip, he recommends shorter, more frequent trips.
"I think a week is good, you can even do shorter than that," Tierney said. "But one of the big advantages of vacations is that it's the anticipation beforehand makes you happy, for one or two months beforehand. So the more you can do that, the better."
In order to avoid that feeling of disappointment once you return from a trip, Tierney says give yourself some buffer time before returning to work. Planning another vacation right away will jumpstart your anticipation for another getaway. Don't feel pressured to do what everyone else is doing.
"It's nice to get away someplace new, it's nice to do new things, but if you're the kind of person that gets stressed out by that, you know going to the same place every year is fine too," Tierney said. "It's your vacation, do whatever makes you happy."