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Bon Voyage: Here’s to Your Health and Happiness

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By AAA Travel Editor Frank Swanson
April 12, 2019
We all know that taking time off and getting away from work is good for us, so why do so many Americans not do it? In a recent survey from the U.S. Travel Association, even those who did take vacation often failed to use all of the time they had earned. In 2017 Americans forfeited 705 million days of their vacation.
Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that there are real health benefits to leaving behind our 9-to-5 workaday lives. According to that same survey, those who travel using all or most of their vacation time end up being 56% happier with their health and well-being than those who use the least amount of their vacation days to travel.
Taking time off to be more active, breathe fresh air, experience new things and to pamper yourself can help you de-stress and recharge. Even just planning a trip can keep you motivated and upbeat by giving you something to look forward to.
Japanese Garden
AAA/Maria White
The Great Outdoors is Great for a Reason
It’s easy to see why getting outside and into the natural world would be good for you. You’re bound to be moving about and getting the exercise you don’t usually get at your job. Sunlight on skin stimulates the production of Vitamin D, and research has shown that spending time in forests improves people’s moods and reduces blood pressure. The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” is simply experiencing a forest with all your senses, and studies have demonstrated doing so may boost your immune system as well as your outlook.
See for yourself. America’s national park system alone offers millions of acres to explore. Consider these three gems to start with.
Glacier National Park
AAA/Frank Swanson
West Glacier, Montana
(406) 888-7800
Although Glacier is renowned for trails that go above the tree line, visitors have plenty of wooded paths to wander, too. Check out the Avalanche Lake Trail or the Trail of the Cedars near Lake McDonald Lodge for a deep-forest experience that will make you forget your workplace cares.
AAA/Diana Beyer
Gatlinburg, Tennessee
(865) 436-1200
The most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has hundreds of miles of hiking trails leading up to mountain tops and down into valleys. One of the most popular is Laurel Falls Trail; the trailhead is just a short drive from the Sugarland Visitors Center. What could be more peaceful than a walk to a lovely waterfall along a forest path beneath a canopy of mountain laurel and rhododendron?
giant sequoia
Three Rivers, California
(559) 565-3341
Talk about forest bathing! The massive, ancient trees preserved here are nearly impossible to describe or even capture in a photograph. One of the park’s highlights is the General Grant Tree Trail, which is arguably the prettiest in the park and leads to one of the largest trees in the world.
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The Benefits of Doing Nothing
Many people find it impossible to break free of their hectic routines at home, which is why a trip to a spa resort can be just what the doctor ordered. Leave your day-to-day cares behind and finally attend those classes you’ve been meaning to make time for like meditation, Pilates or yoga. Try foods you wouldn’t usually cook for yourself, or let tension melt away with a massage or good soak in a hot tub.
Here are three standouts that may inspire you.
Building, grounds, rooms and baths of 5 Diamond Inn
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The Lodge at Sea Island
St. Simons Island, Georgia
AAA Inspector Rating
(912) 634-3992
Set on a sprawling campus of luxury resorts on beautiful St. Simons Island, The Lodge is part grand English country estate, part elegant beachfront refuge and is about the most relaxing destination one can imagine. The full-service spa includes a garden atrium and a hydrotherapy pool where a splashing waterfall enhances the soothing atmosphere.
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Sanctuary Camelback Mountain
Paradise Valley, Arizona
AAA Inspector Rating
(480) 948-2100
If a luxurious desert retreat in the shadow of Camelback Mountain seems like an indulgence, ask yourself, “Why not?” You deserve a Thai massage with a view of a Zen meditation garden. After a day of being spoiled, settle in for the evening by a crackling fire with a glass of wine or snuggle under the stars with your significant other.
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man drinking healthy drink at spa in bath robe
iStockphoto.com/OJO Images
Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa
Stowe, Vermont
AAA Inspector Rating
(802) 253-7355
If the endless hustle and bustle of modern life is making you ill, then Four Diamond-rated Stoweflake has the cure: a peaceful setting near Stowe’s picturesque village center and a dizzying variety of treatments including mineral baths, shiatsu and traditional massages, Ayurvedic therapies and herbal body wraps.
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