Plenty to enjoy in San Francisco, but get out of town when vacation comes 

School’s out.

No matter how old you are, those words still have the power to evoke some powerful feelings and memories, don’t they? Summer stretched ahead — an endless blank canvas and you were going to create a masterpiece of fun for the next three months. It was like recess, but it lasted a lot longer.

And with summer came vacation plans. Maps cascaded across the dining room table and we would plot our escape route. Trips to the edge of an active volcano in Hawaii or pilgrimages to see Graceland and Elvis’ famous pink Cadillac. We went bungee jumping in New Zealand and dove into the waters of Cancun. Some of us went to Europe, armed with a Eurail Pass. Distant cousins became not so distant on visits to the village where our grandmother was born.

Every June, I can’t help but succumb once again to that urge to wander and wonder at what’s out there beyond these magical 47 square miles. And while 365 days a year I’m here to promote San Francisco as the ultimate destination for leisure travel, I’m going to put that aside for just a minute and tell you to hit the road and get out of town.

Why? Well, for a lot of reasons. The word vacation comes from a Latin word meaning “freedom from something.” And we all know what that something is: work, studies, routine.

So a change of scenery will do you some good. In fact, a lot of good. I even have some facts and figures, courtesy of the U.S. Travel Association. Here’s a few:

  • Travelers rate their overall health one full point higher (on a scale of one to five) while on vacation.
  • Even the anticipation of vacation travel generates an increase in positive feelings about one’s life as a whole, family, economic situation and health.
  • Women who take more vacations are more satisfied with their marriages.
  • More than half of employed Americans say they come back feeling reconnected with their family after vacation.
  • Travelers experience a 25 percent increase in performance on vigilance tests after returning from vacation.
  • Two out of three executives believe that vacations improve their creativity.
  • An annual vacation can cut a person’s risk of heart attack by 50 percent.

Pack that suitcase. The life you save might be your own.

Joe D’Alessandro is president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association. He also serves on the California Travel and Tourism Commission and U.S. Travel Association board.

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Joe D'Alessandro

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