I think I’ve figured out the reason why “Anything Goes” is my favorite musical of all time, despite it being a production that’s 85 years old.
Sure, it features the lyrics and music of the legendary Cole Porter, a master of language whose playful inuendoes and turns of a phrase were simply brilliant, but “Anything Goes” is not Porter’s only masterful musical, and the arguable star of this show is the S.S. American, the ocean liner the show’s characters are traveling on, bound from New York to London.
One of the 1934 version’s tunes, “There’s No Cure Like Travel,” talks about the benefits of getting away from it all on a trip, and they make a great point.
Cruises are one fun way to get away from it all, and most ships are bound for tropical locales, meaning plenty of sun and sand to boost vitamin D levels. In fact, sun exposure is the best source of vitamin D, which is especially important because low vitamin D levels have been linked to mood disorders. This results from a drop in levels of the mood-elevating neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.1 On a cruise, this sun exposure comes with the added benefit of stress-free relaxation, especially aboard an all-inclusive ship that explores new destinations.
Since more than half of all Americans fail to use all their vacation days—a byproduct of company layoffs nationwide that have forced many workers to take on extra work that makes taking time off difficult—it’s no wonder that the idea of being aboard an ocean liner bound for a new country would inspire happy emotions.
Using up those vacation days not only ensures that you schedule fun, but it also improves your health.
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Those who vacation regularly:
- Are less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.
- Have a reduced risk of developing heart disease.
- Build deeper relationships with their spouses and children because of the time spent together.
- Are more productive at work because they are not suffering from chronic stress on the job.2
Given the benefits outlined above, are you starting to think about where you’d like to go?
Getting Away Recharges Your Brain
The most important part of a vacation is that it jolts you out of your normal routine, reminding you of what is actually important in your life. By seeing new things, exploring new places, forging new paths, and meeting new people, you begin to see things in a different way.
One of my most important life experiences was a seven-day, 500-mile bike ride across the state of North Carolina. It began in the mountains—the same hills where former Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong once trained—and ended at the coast, where small white flowers turned the air subtly sweet.
Set in fall so the oppressive heat that is North Carolina in summertime had faded to cool breezes, our bike tires wove a path through state history while touching on its modern edge as we rode past fields of cotton and tobacco, peanuts and sweet potatoes, celebrating the state’s agricultural interests while exploring bucolic vistas that brought a sense of serenity that made me appreciate the landscape that much more.
While riding, we could take in the scents, sights, and sounds in a different way, and we met many people who used similar bike trips as an affordable way to see the country, up close and personal, noticing sights that would most likely be missed if traveling in a car.
Still, no matter how you plan to recharge, a vacation is the best way to do so, multiple studies have shown.
Planning Alone Brings Pleasure
It’s not just the vacation itself that elevates mood. Simply the idea of traveling to someplace new is enough to trigger a mood boost, experts say, and planning a trip can sometimes be as satisfying as the vacation itself.
According to several different surveys—a 2002 study from researchers at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and a 2014 study from Cornell University—planning a trip brings happiness and joy.
In 2002, researchers at the University of Surrey found that the anticipation of a holiday provided a significant mood boost, especially when compared to individuals with no vacation plans. Those planning a vacation were happier with life in general and were able to see experiences less negatively overall, researchers said.3
Researchers from Cornell found that the anticipation of a vacation was more satisfying than anticipating a purchase and also reviewed other studies to find that vacationing itself led to improved mood, not only while on vacation but also when you return.4
Travel Tops Shopping
A 2016 survey from Priceline conducted by Wakefield Research found that the majority of those who participated in the survey had more of a pleasure boost from travel than shopping.5 Most of the individuals studied said that they prefer shorter, more frequent trips rather than one big trip a year, in part due to the costs associated with travel, including gas, food, and accommodations.
Vacation costs can prevent many people from going on vacation, so short trips—a weekend at a nearby campground, a day trip to a lake where you can swim, hike or grill out—can go a long way toward relieving stress without breaking the bank.
Go Abroad for Happy Travels
If you can afford to do so, however, traveling outside the country is an excellent way to expand your horizons by experiencing new things, something that is an important part of overall growth.
It also makes people more creative, Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky told NBC News, as long as you immerse yourself in your new environment, learning as much from the new culture as possible.6
And here’s what happens to your mood when your travel abroad: getting more exercise, eating foods with different vitamins, and experiencing different landscapes can elevate the feel-good neurotransmitters that control mood, including dopamine, serotonin, and GABA, easing anxiety and lifting mood naturally.
If you can’t afford a trip abroad, a family vacation will still be a good chance to make cherished memories that will bring happiness, long after the vacation itself has ended.
Most Affordable Family Vacations
If you’re ready to start planning for a summer vacation, the following spots are the most affordable family trips, according to U.S. News and World Report:
Yellowstone National Park
Camping in a tent or RV will save money if hotel prices—at their peak during the summer season— might break the bank. Additionally, this route will give you more time in to relax in nature.
Seeing the Grand Canyon is on almost everyone’s bucket list, and it turns out that it’s not so pricy. The place is popular, so make reservations early, and plan for hiking some of the canyon’s trails which will give you the most awe-inspiring views.
While once considered a classic honeymoon spot or a dangerous lure for extreme athletes, the famous falls are a great place for families as well.
This South Carolina oceanfront city is packed with attractions—an aquarium, water parks, and helicopter rides—along with miles of soft, sandy beaches. There are hotels in every price range, so finding something affordable is absolutely possible.
This North Carolina paradise not only offers beaches, but it also has historic sites including the Wright Brothers National Memorial, which showcases the famous first flight of the two brothers. The region’s charm is accentuated by lighthouses, pastel beachfront homes, many of which are available to rent, as well as seafood restaurants that take advantage of the ocean’s flavorful bounty.
This Maryland beach town is highlighted by a boardwalk filled with charming spots suitable for every member of the family, no matter their age.
Once the perfect site for country music lovers, Branson now offers so much more, including a 19th-century themed amusement park, a life-size replica of the Titanic, and plenty of outdoor activities.
The San Diego Zoo, the U.S.S Midway Museum, and Pacific Ocean beaches make San Diego an excellent option for those looking to take advantage of the West Coast.
Gatlinburg is not far from Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and it is located north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it an excellent place to soak in the outdoors, visit moonshine distilleries, or see a show.
This South Carolina island has plenty of beaches, a wildlife refuge for hiking and exploring, and places to hike, bike and swim.
This trip back in time celebrates the birth of the United States but also has modern places to play including water parks and Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
Dallas – Fort Worth
Texas in the winter is the most affordable, especially since temperatures are moderate even in the winter.
This city is ideal for those who love the great outdoors since there are plenty of parks. There is also Powell’s City of Books, which has 2 million volumes from which to choose if settling down on the waterfront with a good book is more your relaxation style.
South Padre Island
This winter destination in Texas offers beaches, nature parks, and family activities.
This New York mountain range is ideal for winter skiing, but in the summer, there are waterways that offer boating and other family-oriented activities, including camping.7
Whether you’re opting for a quick local getaway or planning an exciting international trip, try to be more mindful about incorporating schedule into your busy life in order to reap the mood-boosting benefits that it has been shown to provide. While you’re waiting for your next trip, however, try boosting your mood with the nostalgia therapy that some aromatherapy blends can provide. If the beach is your happy place, try Ocean, or if you prefer the great outdoors, opt for Forest or Mountain.
Either way, these familiar scents can keep your mood up and your stress levels under the control until it’s time for your next vacation.
Photo credits: haveseen/shutterstock.com, PopTika/shutterstock.com, kojihirano/shutterstock.com, anthonyheflin/shutterstock.com, jdross75/shutterstock.com, DavyLanePhotography/shutterstock.com, icemanphotos/shutterstock.com