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Want to buy happiness? Spend money on these experiences

Kat Hobza resides in sunny Western Montana. She is the Senior Authoress Specializing in Sarcasm at www.funnyfreelance.com. Okay, she’s the only authoress at funny freelance. When she’s not formulating tongue-in-cheek ideas and content as...

Money, meet travel

Research now proves what some of us figured out a long time ago: money really can make you happy... if it makes a great memory.

"We have shown… in research that stuff isn't good for you. It doesn't make you unhappy, but it doesn't make you happy. But one thing that does make us happy is an experience," says Michael Norton, co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. That's good enough for us. With summer right around the corner, here are a few experiences that are bound to make you happy.

Round-the-world tickets and other unique travel ideas >>

Road trips

Whoever authored the saying "Getting there is half the fun" wasn't talking about flying. He or she must have been referring to road trips. Nothing compares to uninterrupted quality time with one or more of your favorite people while taking in scenery that can't be had by any other mode of transportation. Forbes ranked the Pacific Coast Highway in California, Going to the Sun Highway in Montana and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington as three of America's top 10 road-trip destinations.

10 Vacation ideas for thrill-seekers >>

Spending time on the water

Growing research suggests that the closer you live to a body of water, the less stressed you feel. If you're not lucky enough to live near water, take a trip. For a brand-new experience, try fishing. Research suggests that fly-fishing reduces anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Camping

Spending time in nature can help you live longer. Take advantage of this knowledge and go camping. There are tons of things to keep it interesting — the wildlife, setting up shelter, the strange noises and the togetherness that can be had from watching caveman TV (a campfire). Recreation.gov, Reserve America, KOA and Cruise America are excellent resources for helping you plan a fantastic camping experience.

Glamping in California >>

Death-defying experiences

There is something about an adrenaline rush that locks an adventure in our memory banks forever, and science agrees. For an experience you'll be retelling forever, look for an adventure that causes a surge of adrenaline. Try zip lining, bungee jumping, skydiving or maybe even riding the world's steepest roller coaster.

International travel

Is there a certain time or place in history that intrigues you? What is your goal? Do you want to relax, learn a new language, investigate historical sites? Figure out how far your budget will take you, and then book the ticket. Once you've invested in the trip, you won't let what-ifs and maybes get in the way of an awesome experience.

Girlfriend trips

Trips with the girls probably rank in the top three of life's most-memorable experiences. There are few things more liberating than leaving the kids, spouses, bosses, responsibilities and obligations behind to do nothing more than frolic with friends. Venues like Las Vegas provide the perfect atmosphere for trips with your girlfriends. Your destination needs to have amazing pools, equally amazing drinks, places to shop, excellent food to eat and clubs to check out at night.

Spending time with the animals

If you want to combine your love of animals with an experience you'll carry with you for the rest of your days, try combining your passion with travel. You can take the tourist route and book a safari (and combine it with your international travel plans). Or if you want to combine a vacation with volunteer work, consider rehabilitating lions in Zimbabwe, studying tigers in India or washing elephants in Thailand.

Yoga retreats

Money can also buy relaxation. Obvious choices are a beach resort or a spa getaway, but if you really want an opportunity to align your mind, body and spirit, consider a yoga retreat. Nicole Webb of The Yoga Retreat shared her top 7 bucket-list destinations.

More on travel

Girlfriend getaway: New Orleans
Why it's OK to be a tourist
All-inclusive vs. DIY vacations

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