Editor’s Note: NEA Member Benefits understands how much you love to travel and how much you’ve missed it. As states begin to relax their regulations with regard to COVID-19 and more Americans become vaccinated, travel is opening up more and more. Before planning a trip, read the health and safety protocols and requirements for visitors to any destination, as well as those of airlines, car rentals and hotels before booking and again before traveling.
With the threat of COVID-19 still very much part of our everyday lives as we begin 2021, it might seem strange to even think about planning a vacation. But, there are very valid reasons for you to make flexible travel plans for a safe getaway at some point during the next 12 months.
Reports indicate that COVID-19 vaccines from major pharmaceutical companies—such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna—will be 90% to nearly 95% effective. That’s very promising news. Combine that with continued face-mask wearing and social distancing, we have a real chance of significantly lowering the threat of infection. While vaccinating everyone in the nation will be a logistical challenge, it will help each of us get back to our normal routines and start planning for the future once again. Vacations are part of that planning process.
So, here are a few reasons why planning a 2021 vacation should be on your to-do list.
1. You’ll need a break
After medical professionals and first responders, educators as a group shouldered the next heaviest burden in 2020. You had to find new ways of teaching—in-person with new social distancing and safety measures as well as planning lessons in the virtual realm. Your efforts helped students cope with the crisis while you were silently concerned for their safety, your own and that of your family. If being an educator wasn’t stressful enough before 2020, last year ramped up the stakes.
So, you must plan for some “me” time. It may be just what you need to hit the “reset” button. According to Vicki Sowards, Director of Nursing Resources at Passport Health, “Surveys show more than 90% of people feel happier after a vacation.” But unfortunately, we’ve seen a significant decline in vacation usage in the last 15 years. According to the U.S. Travel Association, more than half of Americans don’t use their vacation time. In 2018, that amounted to 768 million unused vacation days.
Though education doesn’t operate under the same time-off standards as other jobs, it’s just as important to take advantage of the time you do have. Fight the urge to grade papers over spring break or work tirelessly on your curriculum over the holidays and take a much-needed break.
2. A vacation may improve your outlook
Travel helps you achieve a more positive attitude while lowering the risk of depression, important to educators who need to recover and recharge from a particularly stressful school year. In fact, the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center’s survey found vacationing improves mood with a bonus of lowering blood pressure. And a study conducted by Marshfield Clinic found that women who vacationed less than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year.
3. Take the time to create lasting memories with your family
From an emotional and psychological standpoint, family vacations are the place where some of our strongest memories are made. You probably skipped plenty of family get-togethers in 2020. As this year wears on, health experts say it should get safer to gather in groups and travel. A safe road trip where you can build in social distancing may be exactly what you need to recharge. Make a plan to see your siblings or friends at some point in 2021.
4. Increase your productivity
Even though educators often teach summer school, write curriculum or take continuing education courses over breaks, it’s important to stop and breathe! Vacation time is vitality important to maintaining energy levels, improving mood and increasing productivity—all important for working in the classroom. And research backs this up: A study in partnership with the Society for Human Resource Management found that employees who take most or all of their vacation time are more productive in their jobs than those who do not.
It’s not surprising that using vacation time can lead to better performance and increased job satisfaction, but if that weren’t enough, multiple studies show the connection between travel and the ability to think creatively. “One study conducted by INSEAD found international travelers could solve problems more easily and were more flexible in their thinking,” says Sowards of Passport Health. “If a yoga boot camp is stretching for our bodies, then international travel is stretching for our minds.”
While many countries are still barring Americans from entry, you can visit places like Mexico, Costa Rica and Croatia. Even if you’re not ready to travel internationally in 2021, it might be the perfect time to start planning that dream trip.
5. Boost your physical fitness
“Physical health is key to any trip (before, during and after) and a lot of people start ‘getting fit’ for their trip months in advance, especially if they plan on hiking or doing other forms of physical activity,” says Sowards. “Studies conducted by The Lancet and other health groups found [that] decreasing inactivity can add more than a year to our lifespan, which means traveling isn’t just keeping you stress free, but also helping you extend your life as you walk, bike, canoe or whatever you may be doing.”
6. Help your heart
We all know that vacations are relaxing, but the level of stress relief a trip provides is not to be underestimated. For example, the Framingham Heart Study showed women who vacation less than once every six years were eight times more susceptible to a heart attack. “Researchers at the Mayo Clinic believe this is tied to simply taking a break from daily stress,” explains Sowards.
Likewise, the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease’s trial, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, found that men with a high risk for coronary heart disease who take frequent annual vacations were 32% less likely to die from heart disease (and 21% less likely to die from any cause!).
Start planning now!
During the school year, you take care of both your family and your school family—a vacation, whether it’s a local trek or a cross-country adventure—is a great way to focus on you, your own family and make lasting memories.