A hardy work ethic has always been at the center of the American self-identity. If you’re curious how this manifests in our daily lives, consider this fact: In 2017, according to the U.S. Travel Association, a total of 705 million vacation days were left on the table by American workers.

There’s no denying that we seem to take pride in how tightly we can pack our schedules, how much overtime we can clock. In her article “Why You Shouldn’t Be Proud to Be a Workaholic,” Jessica Stillman writes that “being busy in our culture has become a badge of honor and a sign of your importance and work ethic.”

But in the big picture, what’s more important to you: a badge of honor, or happiness and a sense of well-being? By trying to stay ahead, you may actually be setting yourself back. Studies demonstrate the importance of self-care and renewal and even show that taking time for yourself can make you more productive at work in the long run.

We want to help, so here’s a new tool you can employ to make sure each and every one of your days off is used to the fullest: the five-day weekend. The “why” has been covered — here’s the “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how” of it. (You supply the “who.”)

Your next five-day weekend: what, when, and how

Five-day weekends don’t exist naturally; they must be created. Here’s one way: take Labor Day — a (typically) paid holiday that always falls on a Monday — then add two vacation days. Bam! Five-day weekend. This formula actually works with any holiday, even those that rotate through the days of the week. If Independence Day, for example, falls on a pesky Wednesday, you can take Thursday and Friday and keep the fireworks shooting all the way through Sunday.

If you prefer to vacation at less popular times, your formula for a five-day weekend doesn’t need to include a holiday. Take any ordinary weekend plus three vacation days, and your short-but-meaningful getaway can land anywhere on your calendar.

So, there’s the what, the when, and the how. Now, the fun part: where?

Your next five-day weekend: where

1

San Diego

Here’s a sampling of what you can do with five nights and four days in San Diego: take a cruise on a whale-watching vessel, lie on the beach in the 70-degree sun, view an exhibit or take a day class at the Museum of Photographic Arts, snorkel, surf Oceanside, meet the lovely koi fish of the Japanese Friendship Garden, tour the largest model railroad museum in the world, enjoy California cuisine at award-winning The Cottage La Jolla, rent a paddleboat and cruise in style. Even if you've been here before, how much do you really know about this city?

2

Denver

Perhaps you prefer the mountains. Denver is never too far away (only two hours from San Diego and under five from New York). With a five-day weekend, you’ll have time to check out the highlights in the Mile High City and pizza and French fry your way from novice to pro on the slopes with lessons, lodging, and hot chocolate at one of the nearby ski mountains. After a rough day of tumbling, melt away in a hot tub in the middle of a snowy deck.

3

Nashville

Or, wait! How do you feel about that honey-sweet voice of Randy Travis? You might catch a glimpse of or a song from him—or a number of other country stars—if you hop a flight to Nashville with your well-earned break from work. While there, you’ll need to spend a little time at the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame, of course. But there’s more to do here than celebrate guitars and fiddles: Adventurers can scale rope courses, tackle bike trails, and hurtle across zip lines. For the beer enthusiast, there are bicycle pubs—human-powered trolley cars that keep you viewing the sights while tasting the local brews. History enthusiasts also find inspiration in Nashville at the Historic Travellers Rest Plantation & Museum and the Belle Meade Plantation.

4

Belize

You certainly don’t have to keep your five-day weekend domestic. Flying somewhere like Belize tacks on a little travel time, sure, but you’ll make up for it with cultural inspiration. We’re talking, food, music, and conversations like you’d never find at home. The beautiful blue Caribbean Sea is prime for snorkeling, diving, underwater cave exploration, and other water activities, or you can stay dry by visiting the gorgeous green wilderness of Belize’s numerous conservation areas and national parks.

So remember: A world of opportunity waits outside your office window. Take heart, make a stand, and buck the trend of our all-work-no-play culture. Your first five-day weekend could be this weekend.

This post is proudly produced in partnership with Southwest Airlines.