7 Vacations That Can Boost Your Mental Health

Sunset on Cancun beach

Vacations are an incredible way to visit new places, experience different cultures, and have epic adventures. They also provide a much-needed break from the stressors and responsibilities of everyday life. Breaks are necessary for our well-being and can do wonders for physical and mental health. Choosing a vacation to prioritize mental health can have a significant impact. From stunning landscapes tucked away in nature, to tranquil spa and wellness resorts, and even tropical beach paradises. These getaways offer more than a break from the daily grind, they are 7 vacations that can boost your mental health. 

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Is Taking a Vacation Good for Mental Health? 

According to science, the short answer is a resounding yes. I'm always on the side of science, and I couldn't agree more. I've seen and felt the impact vacations have had on my mental health. Not only are vacations good for mental health but it's also proven to benefit physical health. Vacations give us space from our daily struggles, creating an opportunity to recover from burnout or avoid it altogether. Generally, these trips bring us joy and happiness. Which has a positive effect on our well-being. No matter how big or small the vacation is, having time away from work and demanding obligations will do wonders for most individual’s overall health.

Mental and Physical Benefits of Traveling 

Science states that vacations help physical and mental health, but what exactly are those benefits? Travel has been proven to alleviate stress and boost happiness in individuals, fostering a beneficial impact on our overall health. Physically, this means everything from lowering the risk of heart disease to creating stronger immune systems. Research has shown vacations can lower your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. In terms of mental health, travel decreases anxiety levels, improves sleep quality, and alleviates depression symptoms. It’s safe to say that vacations help not only our mind but also our body.  

7 Vacations That Can Boost Your Mental Health

1. The Great Outdoors

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon, an outdoor vacation that can boost your mental health.

Nature is one of life’s best healers. Spending time out in nature is linked to helping with several mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. As someone who struggles with both of these, I’ve found being outdoors drastically boosts my mental health. Being surrounded by nature is a serene escape from day-to-day life, especially when living in a big city. The fresh air, beautiful landscapes, wildlife, and being disconnected from technology reduce stress levels and improve our mood. Nature's calming sights and sounds have a soothing effect on us. 

Whether it’s hiking in the mountains, relaxing by a lake, or wandering through a forest, there’s no wrong way to enjoy outdoor activities in nature. Outdoor vacations range from a weekend camping trip to a 2-week long backpacking adventure in a national park. Find the outdoor activities you’d most enjoy and center your vacation around that. I know after a few days of hiking, I feel a thousand times more relaxed than I had before. Immersing oneself in outdoor getaways nurtures a profound connection to nature, enhancing mental clarity and yielding enduring benefits for overall mental health. 

Great Outdoors Options:

  1. Hiking in state and national parks
  2. Camping 
  3. Fishing trips
  4. Kayaking or canoeing
  5. Rock climbing 

If you're looking for great outdoor inspiration, check out this list of underrated national parks from Off the Beaten Travel.

2. Road Trips

Road trip on the road in Iceland, vacations that can boost your mental health.

Road trips are a flexible and affordable way to travel that can boost your mental health. A road trip is an easy getaway in the comfort of your car. These trips can be for any length of time and distance to various types of destinations. Hit the road to visit a new city, discover a spot in nature, or even travel across the country. The options are endless. Explore at your own pace or not at all, doing as much or as little as you choose. Bring the fur babies on the road too, which can provide additional mental health support as animals help reduce stress. 

Road trips offer a sense of adventure no matter what the destination is. There's the freedom of the open road, which provides a feeling of anything being possible. All of this combined with a break from a standard routine and new scenery is a boost to our mental well-being. I try to take at least one road trip each year as a convenient way to travel and save money, all while still getting an escape from everyday life and visiting new places. 

3. Beach Vacation  

Dry Tortugas beach.

Countless studies have shown that spending time by the ocean can increase your well-being. The sea has a natural calming effect that puts our minds at ease and relieves stress. Everything from the distinct smell, and sounds of the waves, to the color of the ocean has a positive effect on our brains. Vacations centered around being near the beach are associated with relaxation because beach vacations are simple and pleasurable. Their focus is on leisure. A typical day is relaxing with a tropical drink, lying beneath the sun on golden sand with only the gentle sounds of the ocean. 

Beach vacations are the perfect escape from the daily grind, to not have a worry in the world for a brief time. Getting away from it all in a tranquil setting can be the best thing for our mental health, giving us a way to recharge our batteries. Additionally, an all-inclusive beach vacation is convenient as food, drinks, and most on-site activities are included. They can completely put your mind at ease as everything is attended to for you from the moment you arrive at the beach resort. While a tropical island beach escape is incredible, local beaches and nearby coastal towns will provide the same benefits. As long as you’re getting time near the water, it's an ideal vacation for mental health.

4. Spa and Wellness Resort  

Woman swimming in the blue lagoon in Iceland.

What better way to boost your mental health than with a vacation entirely focused on wellness and relaxation? A spa and wellness resort does exactly that, with programs, classes, and services that aim to help the mind and body. These holistic experiences provide relaxation, rejuvenation, and improved well-being. Resort spas offer a range of services, including deep tissue massages, facials, body wraps and scrubs, hydrotherapy, and even manicures. Spa treatments can improve circulation, release stress, and reduce inflammation. The wellness activities include meditation, yoga, and mindfulness workshops. 

Of course, there’s more to enjoy than just the spa and yoga. Most of these resorts have fun physical fitness activities like hiking, water sports, and even horseback riding. There are swimming pools, hot tubs, and excursions outside the resort. Plus, the food is generally healthy and nutritious. This all equates to a healthier body and mind. Indulging in the spa services isn’t required, but recommended. There's a direct correlation between pampering ourselves and improved self-esteem. After the spa, people feel relaxed and good about themselves. We all deserve to treat ourselves every so often in life, and doing so is a boost to our mental health. 

Spa and Wellness Resort Options:

  1. CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa in Arizona
  2. Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda in Italy
  3. BodyHoliday in Saint Lucia 
  4. The Springs Resort & Spa in Colorado 
  5. Halcyon Hot Springs Resort in BC, Canada

5. Yoga Retreat

Yoga class on the beach.

For ages yoga and meditation have been considered a form of holistic therapy. It can improve your mood, reduce stress, and ease depression. Physically, it strengthens the muscles and increases flexibility. Yoga also supports mindfulness and mental clarity. The list of benefits goes on, but it’s clear that yoga positively affects our mental health. This is why a vacation centered around yoga can push that effect even further. Yoga retreats offer extensive yoga programs in stunning locations with a community of like-minded individuals. 

Yoga retreats exist across the world, in beautiful places like India, Thailand, and Bali. There are still many right here in the United States too. Several highly rated retreats are in California and New York. Some yoga retreats are also spa and wellness resorts, providing travelers with all three experiences in one vacation. However, it’s important to note that not all spa and wellness resorts offer complete yoga packages. At a retreat, you'll find healthy food, space to relax, mindful classes, and even typical fun vacation activities. Everything from hiking trails, excursions into local towns, and water sports are all possibilities. At the end of this vacation, one can expect to find themselves well rested and connected to their body.

Yoga Retreat Options:

  1. Como Shambhala Estate in Bali
  2. Absolute Sanctuary in Thailand
  3. Ananda in the Himalayas in India 
  4. Lumeria Maui Educational Retreat Center in Hawaii 
  5. Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas 

6. Unplugged Trips

British virgin islands beach, vacations that can boost your mental health.

Advancements in technology have undoubtedly benefited the world and our lives in so many ways. Nevertheless, the reliance on such technology, coupled with the pervasive influence of social media, has also made a detrimental impact on society. For the first time in history, we are accessible 24/7, which can drain us mentally. Suffice it to say, it’s important to disconnect from our devices and give our well-being a reprieve. 

However, it’s easier said than done to disconnect. This is why unplugged vacations are so helpful, there’s no struggle to not check your phone when you don’t have any service. These vacations are in locations and places that offer limited service and technology. Plenty of resorts now offer unplugged options for those seeking a digital break. Remote places like smaller islands or deep in the mountains naturally make for a digital detox on vacation due to the location. 

A digital detox grants you the opportunity to focus on everything else around you. You can give your family, partner, or friends your full attention. Concentrate on healing, unwinding, and finding peace for better mental health. Without the distraction of devices, there’s time to appreciate the world's beauty. Whether you’re in the mountains, near a beach, or any other type of natural environment, you can embrace and explore it all. Similar to anything else in life, like work, we need breaks from our devices to boost mental health. 

Unplugged Destination Options:

  1. Jade Mountain Resort in St. Lucia 
  2. Nayara Springs in Costa Rica 
  3. The Ranch Malibu in California
  4. Willka T'ika Essential Wellness in Peru
  5. Emerald Lake Lodge in Canada 

7. Cruises 

Cruise Ship in Tortola.

A cruise probably isn't the first thought that comes to mind when thinking of vacations to boost your mental health. However, similar to road trips, cruises offer flexibility. They also are a convenient way to travel, limiting the amount of planning and preparation involved, and ensuring that the vacation will be stress-free. The various cruise options are vast, and there is a cruise for everyone. Frequently cruises are associated with partying and mingling with guests, but not all cruises and itineraries are like this. It’s all about finding the cruise that works for you. 

Of course, like any vacation, there are pros and cons to cruising, but as someone who has a mental illness, the pros outweigh the cons. As an adventure traveler, it often surprises people that I'm also a cruiser, but sometimes I need my travel simple and uncomplicated for my mental health. Travelers can enjoy as many or as few activities as they desire. Activities range from lying by the pool, enjoying a book in a secluded alcove with sea views, or listening to music in a lounge. Cruises are often trips of leisure filled with relaxation that can reduce stress. 

Relaxing Cruise Options:

  1. Cruise to Alaska 
  2. Rhine River Cruise
  3. Caribbean Cruise to the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) 
Couple looking out to sea on an Alaskan cruise, one of 7 vacations that can boost your mental health.

Final Thoughts 

As studies have concluded, vacations positively impact our mental health. Depending on what interests you or sounds the most relaxing, there’s an option best suited for each individual. Hopefully, these ideas for 7 vacations that can boost your mental health inspire you to plan your next trip. No matter which vacation you decide to take, you’ll get the mental health benefits provided by travel. Focus on relaxation, enjoying time away, and taking a well-deserved break from it all. 

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  • Bri says:

    This is so true! I find yoga great for mental health!

    • Jillian says:

      Yoga can be such a great benefit to mental health, I love it in combination with pilates!

  • Sinjana Ghosh says:

    I think hiking really helps with mental health. Road trips are great but with the right company.

    • Jillian says:

      Hiking has been a huge help for me with mental health, I try to incorporate it at least once a month! That's also very true for road trips, definitely need the right company for extended periods of time in the car.

  • Holly Giordani says:

    Not enough people emphasize how therapeutic travel can truly be! Thanks so much for the reminder, sharing with some friends of mine who need that extra push to get something booked with me! Lol!

    • Jillian says:

      It's so overlooked for that! And especially for how many options there are. And I hope your friends book something with you asap! Nothing like a friends trip to start the year off!

  • Kevin Foodie says:

    Most people go on vacation to take a break from the concrete jungle and get immersed in nature (beach ⛱️, sea 🌊 , 🌳), all of which are great for one's mental health. Awesome list.

    • Jillian says:

      Absolutely! I've found nature - particularly being near the water or mountains to improve my mental health! Thank you!

  • Angie says:

    So many great suggestions! We love kayaking, cruising, the beach...you name it. Travel is so good for your mental health.

    • Jillian says:

      Thank you! I love it all too, and it truly does have such a positive impact on mental health!