This is a guest post by Brian Kidwell who is the founder of Travel This Planet was created to share travel tips and advice to make traveling as easy and fun as possible. Brian also created a Facebook group to build a community of travel enthusiasts. You can follow Travel This Planet via Twitter and Instagram.


Did you know that Americans fail to use over 429 million vacation days each year?

We have been programmed to work through our vacation time because we think that no one else can do our job. We idolize the idea of the person that works 80-hour weeks to become successful and never takes time off. But what if I told you taking time off is actually proven to increase productivity?

77% of HR managers agree that the employees who take time off are actually more productive. Yet, over a quarter of the workforce do not use all their time off because they think it will show greater dedication to the company.

On top of this, 96% of Americans say they recognize the importance of vacation. As a society, if we truly recognized how travel can make us more productive, we wouldn’t leave almost half a billion vacation days on the table at the end of the year.

Getting away from your daily activities and taking a break can actually provide a significant boost to productivity and creativity. In this post, you’ll see how you can increase productivity and creativity by traveling.

Evening at the seaside

1. It Gives You Something to Work Towards

Even if you absolutely love what you do for a living, there is one thing about work that won’t change: work takes work. Most of us can’t just sip margaritas in Cabo all day and magically pay our bills.

Work isn’t always easy or fun, but it is an essential part of our lives. When work gets tough, it is nice to have a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing. When you plan a vacation, you’ll have something to work towards. This will keep you focused and push you to focus on getting things done so that you can enjoy your vacation.

Setting your desktop background to a picture of the place you’re visiting soon is a great way to stay motivated. Whenever you look at the picture you’ll instantly remind yourself what you’re working towards.

2. It Leaves You Feeling Like You Have Some Catching Up to Do

40% of people leave some of their vacation days unused because they don’t want to come back to a mountain of work. This makes sense. No one likes to have way more work to do than usual.

Yet, what if we look at this from a different angle? Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

In layman’s terms, this means however long you have to get something done is how long it will take you to complete it.

Do you have a project that you need to turn in one month from today? It will take you one month to complete it. If you only have a week to do it, it will take you a week.

You can use this to your advantage when you take a vacation. Not only will you be more productive before you leave, but you will also be more productive when you get back. You will have less time to complete the tasks so you will spend less time procrastinating and more time actually working.

To reduce the stress of feeling like it’s all on you, set up systems and processes that allow others to help you complete your job. Creating systems takes time up front, but they are extremely beneficial when you take time off. Don’t wait until you’re about to go on a vacation to start creating systems. Do it now so that the processes work by the time you leave.

Did you know that people in France on average take 15 more days off per year than people in the US? On top of that their GDP per hour worked as a percentage of U.S. is 98.2%.

They are almost just as productive while taking 2 weeks more off per year. Imagine what you could do with an additional 15 days off per year!


3. It Opens Your Mind to New Ideas

Do you ever feel like you were more creative when you were a kid?

One of the best ways to restore that childlike sense of wonder is to travel to places that are foreign to you. This could mean visiting a city down the road from you or traveling half way around the world. The point is to get away from the day-to-day things you’ve gotten accustomed to.

The further away you go, the more likely you’ll be in awe of what you see. This doesn’t mean you’ll immediately be filled with creative ideas. It just means that you’ll have more reference points next time you’re tasked with a creative challenge.

By stepping away from what’s normal to us, we start to see things in a different light. We see new ways of doing things, experience different cultures, and face other types of challenges. All these experiences add to your memory and your brain can draw from these unique memories to help solve future problems.

4. It Gives You a Chance to Refocus on What’s Important

There is no question that routines are excellent for getting things done and being efficient. Yet, sometimes you need to get away to understand why you’re doing something. Are you doing it because it needs to be done or are you doing it because it’s just part of your routine?

Getting away from your day-to-day activities and giving yourself another perspective helps to identify what’s important and what’s a waste of time. By using your vacation as an opportunity to reflect, you’ll be able to make improvements. When you come back to your normal daily life you can make the necessary adjustments.

5. Your Creativity Will Improve Because You’re Happier

During the planning phase leading up to your trip, your happiness increases. You’re also likely to be extremely happy while you’re on your trip as well.

A study found that people’s creativity is higher when they were happy the day before. Conversely, it’s lower when you are sad, angry, or depressed. You’ll probably agree that this makes sense. It’s hard to come up with creative solutions when you’re ticked off.

Creativity is extremely desirable in the workplace. According to this study, creativity was one of the top skills that CEOs value in their employees.

I’m sure most of us would agree that we are happier when we travel. All our stress and worries are left behind as we explore new places. If this is true for you then you can expect your levels of creativity to be higher as well due to your positive emotions.

Laptop and beer at SYD

6. Airplanes and Airports are Great Places to Get Stuff Done

If you’re one of the many people who hate long flights or extended layovers, it’s time to think about it a bit differently. Both airplanes and airports are great places to get work done. Being stuck in one place for hours on end is an excellent opportunity to force yourself to be productive.

Airline companies are continuing to add WiFi as a service on their flights and many airports have WiFi as well. Instead of watching Netflix or checking social media, use this opportunity to knock out some work.

Your productivity levels can increase even more when your plane or airport don’t offer WiFi. If you prepare materials ahead of time, you can get work done that doesn’t require the internet. Since you don’t have access to the internet you won’t risk constant distraction from everything else you can be doing online.

Admittedly, it is a bit difficult to get work done on airplanes when you’re sitting in economy class. This is especially true when you have crying babies or a chatty passenger sitting next to you. Noise canceling headphones, earplugs, or some more aggressive tactics should help solve this problem.

Wanna hang out?

7. More Ideas Come to Us When We Are Relaxed

Have you ever experienced coming up with a great idea or solution while you’re taking a shower?

This, like traveling, has to do with being distracted. Instead of focusing 100% of your brain power on coming up with a solution to something, you simply relax. You are no longer thinking about the problem since you’re doing something else. Walking is another activity that increases creativity!

Harvard researcher and psychologist Shelley H. Carson says, “a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution.”

Sometimes this distraction is a five-minute coffee break, other times it’s a week long vacation. Getting in a relaxed state is a great way to give your mind the ability to come up with solutions and ideas.

8. It Reminds You to Get the Most Out of Every Day

I don’t know about you, but when I’m traveling I want to squeeze the most life out of every single day. I like to get up early and see as much as I can, only stopping for the occasional breaks to replenish my energy.

I’m guessing, you probably want to see as much as possible as well. You might only visit a certain place once in your lifetime so making the most of your experience is important.

When we are traveling and filling each day with as much as possible you realize how much time you waste during your normal daily activities. How much time do you spend on social media? How much time do you spend watching TV?

Time is one thing you can never get back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Treating each day with importance and getting the most out of every day is a great lesson that travel can teach us.

9. You Will Have Renewed Energy and Positivity

Although you might feel like you have some catching up to do, taking a vacation will boost your morale. When you come back you’ll be ready to take on challenges because of your renewed energy.

According to one study, small business owners who took a vacation experienced 82% increase in post-trip job performance. Yet, a two to three-day vacation didn’t have the same effect as one to two-week vacations.

Sometimes you just need to get away for a bit. Do something different. Experience new things. By not focusing on work all the time you’ll actually be more productive when you get back.

As this article says, “the renewed energy and positivity is contagious and can help the entire team be more productive.” That is powerful, especially when you are leading a team. Not only are you boosting your energy, but you’re transmitting that positivity to others on your team. It’s like productivity osmosis!

Happy jumping

Final thoughts