When we imagine the most blissful part of our vacation, we picture ourselves sipping coconut cocktails at a barefoot bar or stumbling across an enchanting waterfall.
But the happiest part of your vacation actually happens way before you ever step foot in your destination.
According to a 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, just planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it.
While all vacationers enjoyed pre-trip happiness, the study’s authors found that people only experienced a boost in happiness post-vacation if their trip was relaxing. If their vacation was deemed “stressful” or “neutral,” their post-trip happiness levels were comparable to those who hadn’t taken a vacation at all.
Pre-trip happiness, however, is a different story entirely. The study found that all vacationers experienced a significant boost in happiness during the planning stages of the trip because, as the researchers suggest, the vacationers were looking forward to the good times ahead.
“The practical lesson for an individual is that you derive most of your happiness from anticipating the holiday trip,” Jeroen Nawijn, the study’s lead author, told The New York Times.
It’s perhaps not surprising then that 69 percent of Americans have a habit of planning vacations during work hours, according to a recent Travel Secrets survey, adding some much needed escapism to their daily routines.
Of course, you should actually take the vacation too. A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll revealed that 32 percent of Americans used ZERO of their vacation days in the last year, and a study published last summer suggested that Americans are too stressed to take time off.
But it’s time to face the facts: Vacation is healthy, and more Americans need to be both planning and taking one.
To get yourself going, try swapping out one big, often stressful vacation for shorter getaways throughout the year. That way, you don’t feel like you’re gone from work for too long, and you get to enjoy the repeated happiness boost of planning multiple vacations. It’s a win-win.
Nawijn also suggests maximizing the pre-trip happiness boost by fully indulging in the excitement of planning. Talk to people about your plans, brag about them on social media, and revel in both the anticipation and FOMO you’re causing.
We don’t know what you do for a living, but we do know you likely need a break. And, nearly halfway through the year, we’re challenging you (yes — busy, overworked, financially stretched you) to #TakeABreak.
During the month of June, we’ll help you nail down how many vacation days you have at your disposal, figure out where to go, and plan a trip you can actually afford. For 30 days of travel tips, cheap flight hacks, vacation ideas and wanderlust galore, sign up for our Take A Break action plan here!