Vacation Foreplay: Is It All In The Anticipation?

When it comes to vacation, research suggests it’s not the journey that counts, but planning the journey. Scientists questioned over 900 test participants about their happiness before and after a trip and what they found surprised them. While people who went on vacation didn’t show a significant change in happiness from those who didn’t go on vacation, there was a spike in happiness for people anticipating or about to go a holiday.

Having something to look forward to isn’t just a subjective experience of positive expectations, it creates positive changes in the brain, too. As highlighted in The Happiness Advantage, people who just thought about watching their favorite movie raised their endorphin level by 27%. Indeed, anticipation is a powerful mood booster:

Anticipating future rewards can actually light up the pleasure centers in your brain as much as the actual reward will. Given what we know about the benefits of anticipation, maximize the happiness you will get from your next vacation in advance with the following “travel” tips:

Research

Study guidebooks, learn about the area and immerse yourself in the details of the destination. Peek.com, founded by this week’s Session Ruzwana Bashir, helps people plan the perfect trip and find great activities.

Communicate

Chances are someone in your social network has been to your travel destination or may know someone who lives there. Ask for insider tips, it’s also a great way to connect with friends and colleagues.

Prep

If planning a physical adventure – hiking, climbing, white water rafting — prepare your body and train beforehand. If planning a beach vacation, check in advance for snorkel reservations. Read a work of fiction set in the place you plan to visit and learn a few key phrases in the native tongue.

Travel more

If you have two weeks of vacation a year, take two separate weeks rather than taking it all at one time. Better yet, take several long weekends. Studies show you will remember and appreciate different shorter experiences rather than one long one. If getting out of town isn’t an option, try a staycation: research and compile a list of things you’ve always wanted to do in and around your hometown.

The next time you find yourself repeating the famous words, “I need a vacation,” rephrase it: “I need to plan a vacation.”

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman