A vacation can do a lot to increase your happiness. Planning a vacation, it turns out, can be a lot more fun.
From relaxing on the beach to a hike in the woods or however you enjoy your time off, a vacation can be a great break from work and a time to relax. Part of the fun — as I’ve found in planning my own vacations, and from reading published studies on the topic — is in planning a vacation.
In a study on overall happiness from a vacation and how long the happiness lasts, researchers in the Netherlands found that the biggest boost comes from planning a vacation. Anticipating a vacation increased happiness for eight weeks.
After the vacation, most travelers reported that their happiness levels dropped back down to baseline levels, according to the study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life in 2010.
Cost of planning a vacation
The study didn’t say if planning a vacation makes it worth the cost of the trip, but in my view, it’s a worthwhile expense.
I don’t think a vacation is worth going into debt over, but with careful planning and saving for it, a great vacation can be done on even a frugal budget. It’s something that the whole family can get involved in — from picking a place to visit to lodging, activities, travel arrangements and people and places to visit during a trip.
Even if planning a vacation does take you a little off your budget, it can be a worthwhile time together as a family that children will remember forever.
A few years ago, my family took a trip to Australia to visit my brother and his family. The trip cost a lot of money, but we pulled money out of our savings because we thought it would be a great experience for all of us.
Our daughter and my brother’s daughter — both girls are about the same age — giggled like crazy one afternoon when he took us on his boat to a nearly deserted island and they saw crabs run along the beach that they went on to catch. It was a sound I’ll never forget, and made the trip worth the cost.
Planning a vacation this summer
I try to plan ahead so that we can save as much money as possible during a vacation. This summer, we’re visiting relatives in an area with a lot of water parks. It’s a trip my daughter has been anticipating for months.
We’re visiting a few cities, so we nee a few lodging options. We’re trying various ways to save, including renting a house through VRBO, using Airbnb for a few nights, and using credit card rewards to stay for free at a hotel during the last part of our trip.
Through all of this planning, which included paying for the flights and most of the lodging ahead of time, I think the happiness hit all of us well before the eight weeks of happiness cited by researchers in the Netherlands for people planning a vacation. So far it has been worth the cost just in the planning alone.
The study didn’t find any relationship between the length of a vacation and increased happiness. Most of the happiness comes from planning and anticipation, which could translate into more happiness if more, smaller trips were planned instead of one big vacation.
All of the happiness during a vacation can make the costs worthwhile, but planning a vacation can be more rewarding. Think about that the next time your boss piles extra work on your desk and you’re looking for a reason to goof off online for a few minutes as you plan your next vacation. It might even convince you to move to a vacation spot.