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The 3 Best Types of Weekend Getaways

 

For 11 months of the year, we daydream about where we’ll go on  vacation — beaches, safaris, canyons — until we finally arrive at the  week or two when  we get to fulfill the dream. We return to work  temporarily refreshed, only to  spend another year anticipating.

The thing is, all that waiting to wind down isn’t necessary. Sure,  long  trips are great, but they’re not the only way to experience adventure or luxuriate in relaxation. Many experts believe  that even a long  weekend can deliver an impressive bang for your vacation buck. “If you  have 12 vacation days, you’re better off planning a number of three- or  four-day vacations per year than one long trip,” says Dan Buettner,  author of Thrive:  Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way (National Geographic, 2010).

By studying populations worldwide, Buettner discovered that the  healthiest,  happiest people “downshift” routinely, not just annually.  “Scheduling a string  of downshifting vacations every other month helps  you get into the routine of  de-stressing your life.”

Science confirms that regular time off from work can reduce your  chances of  becoming ill or dying prematurely. But there’s another factor  in the work-play  equation: how long the good feelings last after you  return from climbing in  Yosemite or surfing in Hawaii.

The postholiday glow can fade with shocking speed, says vacation  researcher  Jessica de Bloom, MSc, of Radboud University Nijmegen in the  Netherlands. In  the people she studied, vacations’ aftereffects — less  stress, fewer physical  complaints — usually disappeared within the first  week of their returning home.  But more regular trips offer a greater  number of relaxed, postvacation  days.

Besides shortening the length of time between post-vacation highs  (and  lows), frequent three-day vacations give you more opportunities to  visit a  variety of locations with diversified experiences — a short  winter ski  adventure followed by summer cycling and fall mountaineering,  for instance.

There’s also an enhanced happiness factor. “Much of our satisfaction  from  vacationing comes from planning a trip and remembering its  highlights,” says  Buettner. “If your life is punctuated with short  vacations, then you’re getting  more of those opportunities.”

Here are three examples of quick, no-fuss getaways: one restful and romantic,  one high adventure, and one memorable trip of my own that combined them  both.  A key tip: Go somewhere that’s three hours or less from home.  Shorter travel  time helps make the most of a brief escape.

 

The Long-Weekend  Retreat

When to go: Your nerves are frayed and you can’t  switch out  of work mode. You need R&R, ASAP, because you’re  beginning to speak in  acronyms.

As Troy and Linea Gagliano sipped wine and gazed through their hotel  window,  the Pacific tide crashed against the rocky coast of Yachats,  Ore. “Watching the  waves was a Zen moment that felt better than a  Xanax,” says Linea, 40, a PR  manager who was exhausted from juggling  work and a baby. “I could feel the  stress rolling off.”

For their three-day weekend, the Portland couple unplugged from their  jobs  and left the baby in his grandmother’s care. “We celebrated our  independence by  sleeping late and soaking in the Overleaf Lodge’s hot  tub,” says Troy, 42, a  renewable-energy developer. “We emphasized  hedonism over exercise because our  goal was to rest, reconnect and watch  the mesmerizing waves.”

The couple did stretch their legs, exploring tidal pools filled with   starfish and sea anemones. They kept their mini-vacation simple and  unhurried  by skipping an itinerary, ignoring the hotel-room TV and  turning off cell  phones.  (Grandma had the lodge’s phone number in case of emergency.) They  even  packed picnic foods for the trip and ordered takeout so they could dine   quietly in their room.

The getaway rejuvenated the Gaglianos’ relationship. “We had time to  walk on  the beach and laugh together,” says Linea. “After the trip, I  was excited to  see our boy, and I knew I could tackle work with a  clearer vision. And I felt  grateful for everything I have: a wonderful  husband, a beautiful son and a  great job.”

Planning tips:

  • To save money, take restorative weekends in the off-season when the best  hotel rooms are generally less expensive.
  • If possible, choose a vacation spot that involves a scenic drive to  get  there. Then it feels like the holiday starts the moment you leave town.

 

The Active  Adventure

When to go: You’ve been cooped up in the office and want to  cut loose and challenge yourself with an invigorating physical escapade.

Russ Carroll and his son Nicholas, 12, of Weston, Mass., wanted to  pump up  their summer vacation. Traditionally, the family takes extended  sightseeing  trips in the car, but last year, Russ, 45, organized a  guys-only three-day  hiking trek in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Not  wanting to waste time with  planning and logistics, Russ hired  Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) naturalist  guides and invited some other  family members to join them.

At the site, guides prepped the group on what to expect during three  days of  moderate-to-strenuous backpacking. That first day, as they  summited Mt.  Washington (New England’s highest peak and the site of  numerous hiker  fatalities), the wind blew 50 miles an hour and  visibility was poor. “We felt  safer with guides, knowing how easily we  could have gotten lost or hurt in  those conditions,” says Russ.

Wind-battered but triumphant, the group arrived at Lake of the   Clouds Hut, where an AMC crew cooked a hearty dinner and showed them to   one of several bunk rooms, which they shared with other hikers. There  were no  flush toilets or showers, but the hut was well equipped with  food, water,  pillows and blankets.

After breakfast, the group packed their lunches and headed out for  another  full day — this time in bright sunshine — to reach Mizpah Hut  for their second  night. They climbed more mountains, and the guides  helped Nicholas use the GPS  to locate a geocache treasure.

Physically reinvigorated, Russ felt like he’d been gone a month, not  just  four days. “I watched Nicholas’s confidence build as he made it  over rough  terrain carrying a 40-pound pack,” he says. “I saw him become  responsible when  he took a turn as our trail leader, even though he was  the youngest. The change  from hiking in nature was profound for all of  us, from age 12 to 54.”

Another advantage of their short but rugged adventure: The brief time  window  allowed the Carrolls to go for broke on the trail, then return  home rejuvenated — not exhausted.

Planning tips:

  • No matter how brief your vacation, plan to spend some time in  nature. It  will get your head out of work mode and help stress evaporate  more  quickly.
  • Hiring a guide for rugged trips helps keep you safe and saves you time on  planning and logistics.

 

Yin and Yang  Weekend

When to go: You and your travel companion have  different  fitness levels or enjoy different activities — or you simply  yearn for some  variety.

My first three-day vacation was inspired by the fact that I was  recovering  from knee surgery and wanted to join my husband on his annual  ski trip. I don’t  typically ski even when my knees are in top shape,  but I was in desperate need  of some restorative time away. So we opted  for a trip to suit both our agendas:  He skis, she spas.

We searched for a hotel that could accommodate our dual needs and  found one  just two hours from our Boulder home — at Devil’s Thumb Ranch  Resort & Spa,  in Tabernash, Colo. On 6,000 acres in the Rocky  Mountains, the resort has a  relaxing spa and yoga classes (for me), 65  adrenaline-packed miles of groomed  Nordic ski and snowshoe trails (for  him), and a fireplace in the room (for  us).

On our first full day, Ken drove with his telemark skis to nearby  Berthoud  Pass, which straddles the Continental Divide, where the  backcountry powder is  deep. I threw a parka over my yoga attire and  walked to the spa, where the yoga  room has a view of snowy peaks. After  class, it was time for my Altitude  Adjustment, a treatment involving massage and hot towels soaked in relaxing  lavender oil. Thoughts of writing deadlines evaporated.

Just before dusk, Ken returned, grinning like a skier who had been  gliding  through clouds. We celebrated our individual vacation  experiences together in  the hot tub under the stars before sharing a  candlelight dinner.

Having multiple options ultimately benefited us both. On our last  day, Ken  indulged in some tension-loosening yoga with me before renting  Nordic skis and  blazing off on the Lazy Sunday Loop. We met for lunch,  and then he decided to  attempt a few laps of skate skiing. In the spirit  of adventure, I strapped on  snowshoes and tested my knee on an easy  trail. I watched Ken skate the loop; he  spotted me tramping through  snow. We waved to each other and laughed. The  future, I think, holds  many more three-day vacations tailored for two.

Planning tips:

  • When your trip involves a seasonal sport like skiing or golf, travel midweek  to avoid weekend crowds.
  • Find a hotel or resort that offers a smorgasbord of activities in one  location.

By , Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness  publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic  lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in  favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com   to learn more and to sign  up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe  to the print or digital version.

 

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