As much as Americans love their time off, they’re also highly likely to let their vacation days go unused, with millions being wasted each year. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Woman with snorkel gear relaxing on a chair near the water on Bocas del Toro Island, Panama.
Recent research shows that a six- to 10-day vacation makes workers feel most rested © Tyler Stableford/Getty Images

According to recent research from mattress review site The Sleep Judge, there are huge benefits to taking annual leave – and while a quick weekend away can make for a less stressful return to the office, it turns out a long 11- to 15-day vacation has almost the same effect. 

Employees reported feeling the most rested after taking a six- to ten-day vacation; a one or two day trip wasn’t far behind, but neither three to five days nor 11 to 15 left employees prepared to reenter the work force. Though they’re still highly popular, staycations may not have the same effect as earning another stamp in your passport. 

Young woman jumping on a white sandy beach with a pier in the background..jpg
Many people don't use all their vacation days ©Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images

Of course, whether you’re ready to return after just a day or two remains to be seen. Though they didn’t necessarily feel as rested, the thousand-plus employees surveyed said that that vacations lasting 11 to 15 days got them mentally prepared to return to the daily grind in a way that shorter stints didn’t. 76% of respondents said an 11- to 15-day vacation made them more energized, 65% felt more productive after vacation, and 56% felt more creative.

Mother and children looking through window in airport.
If you can manage it, international travel leaves you most ready to return to work © simonkr/Getty Images

Unplugging entirely isn’t easy, though, especially with the growing popularity of the “workcation.” Just as the name indicates, a working vacation allows you to pick up your laptop and go without having to use that precious PTO, and it’s a setup that works particularly well for remote employees. “While nearly one in five employees had taken a workcation, this modified vacation was more popular among millennials (20%) and people in senior and executive positions (37%),” the study reads. 

“International travel typically left employees the most prepared to face work again,” the study reads, “followed by domestic vacations and staycations. A staycation might sound like the perfect way to unwind without having to plan a major trip, but they caused employees to feel the least prepared to return to their jobs.” 

For more information, and to check out the full study, visit thesleepjudge.com.

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