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Planning a holiday is almost as good as going on one

Just planning or anticipating a holiday can make you almost as happy as going on one, studies show.

While how you feel after a holiday depends on the reality of how good it is (i.e if you spent the whole time arguing with your partner then the relaxation value will significantly drop), research shows that we tend to experience a significant boost in happiness during the planning stages of the trip that’s actually good for our mental wellbeing.

The accessible version of daydreaming proves to have a significant and positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of individuals as they go about the planning stages of a holiday, up to months in advance.

Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian

Going on holiday is good for us

You don’t need us to tell you that going on holiday is a good thing. 

Many psychologists tout the mental benefits of going on holiday. One 2013 survey of 485 adults linked travel to enhanced:

But there are also benefits to planning a holiday as well.

Benefits of planning a holiday

National Geographic published an article citing research, including some from the University of Surrey in 2002, that found people are happiest when they have a vacation planned.

A poll conducted by the Institute for Applied Positive Research found that 97% of respondents say having a trip planned makes them happier.

The reason is vacation anticipation - that delicious excitement when we daydream about future happiness.

Psychology Today wrote:

“the anticipation and sense of hopefulness for better times can keep us motivated and excited for the delayed gratification of a getaway. This “light at the end of the tunnel” often has a long-term mood-boosting effect and can help us relax as it puts us in the mind frame of a more soothing future.”

Sustainable Spa - South Lodge

The infinity edge pool at South Lodge

Talking about your holiday is good for your health

It is perhaps not a surprise therefore that in the States it is estimated that around 69% of people plan their holidays during work hours, according to a Travel Secrets survey, bringing a little escapism to the middle of the week. It’s also an extremely good excuse to talk about your upcoming holiday with anyone who will listen.

Of course, while simply daydreaming would be a much more cost effective way to relax than going away, actually going on holiday, or at least taking time off, is also a fundamental part of wellbeing… as well as being a nice thing to do. While many people report being too stressed out to take time off, the lack of doing so obviously creates something of a vicious cycle.

Mercure Bournemouth Queens Hotel & Spa

Mercure Bournemouth Queens Hotel & Spa

Not taking holidays makes us less productive

The strange thing is, that while we may feel we can’t take time off because we’re too busy, not taking time off can actually make us less productive. Real Business commented:

“Working additional hours can actually be counter-intuitive to an aim of doing more work as the lack of time to relax can open the risk of increasing stress in workplace which can potentially mean less productivity and a decrease in work quality. It comes back to the classic ability to be able to strike up a work-life balance to be at your most effective at work and to live a healthy lifestyle.”

Those of us who are taking our holiday each year, are also doing so very differently to our parents, due to the change in options and working culture over the last 20 years. According to the Office for National Statistics, since 1996 there has been a significant decrease in two-week breaks in favour of taking more holidays in short bursts (this is excluding pandemic data).

What does this tell us

  • Plan your trips in advance
  • Take shorter, regular breaks
  • Take joy in the planning process
  • Talk to your friends and family about your upcoming travel plans - as if you needed an excuse.

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