Can you buy a ticket to a better mood? Hop a flight to a healthier heart? The travel industry would say yes—and increasingly, so does science. For decades, researchers have been probing the benefits of vacations. They’ve wondered whether taking time off from our everyday lives—from deadlines, expectations and office politics, from grocery runs, sibling squabbles and commutes—has more than a vague I-feel-chilled-out payoff.

Flying on an airplane for the first time — or the first time in a long while — can be an exciting, life-changing adventure. But it can also be incredibly stressful. You want to head for the gate with the swagger of a seasoned traveler, but that's hard to pull off when you don't know how much it costs to check a bag, or what to expect when you go through airport security.