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Try These Simple Tips to Maximize Your Vacation Happiness

Jo Piazza
Managing Editor
August 13, 2014

We all know that vacations make us happier, but how much happier they make us depends on a few factors. With the goal of maximizing everyone’s happiness, the new website Happify compiled the infographic below. We have to say, it is inspiring some pretty cheerful vibes. 

According to research, 90% of people say the happiest vacations are planned more than a month in advance.

Planning ahead reduces stress and increases the opportunity to anticipate the getaway, according to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage.

Related: Dreamy Hotels Worth a Detour

The most important things you can do in advance to make your trip stress-free include the following:

  • Try to familiarize yourself with the location.
  • Have at least a rough itinerary.
  • Figure out how you’ll get around.
couple relaxing on beach
couple relaxing on beach

Know exactly what you want to do before you go. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Vacationers get a bigger happiness boost in the weeks before their trip than in the weeks after. (Unfortunately, getting back to the daily grind causes a quick fade-out of post-vacation joy).

To savor the anticipation:

  • Research the fun sites you’ll visit.
  • Create a playlist for your holiday.
  • Chat about the trip with a friend.
  • Watch movies about where you’re going.
  • Read a novel that takes place in your destination.

We tend to get a boost from looking forward to a holiday, and the length of our vacation doesn’t affect our happiness levels, so aim for several short vacations throughout the year over one long vacation.

Don’t try to see and do every single thing. We’re only happier after a vacation if we felt “very relaxed” during it. (Even that post-vacay glow only lasts up to two weeks).

Related: British Airways Testing ‘Happiness Blanket’ to Help You Sleep Better on Flights

couple riding a bicycle in city
couple riding a bicycle in city

Make sure your vacation doesn’t add any extra stress. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Researchers measured vacationers’ happiness on an 8-to-13-day trip. What did they discover? People feel worst at the beginning and end of their trip, and best during the middle. Not surprisingly, we experience the lowest happiness levels at the end of a vacation, perhaps because we’re stressing about the return trip, or we have regrets that the vacation is ending.

The majority of Americans, 75%, don’t use up all their vacation days. On average, Americans use only half of their vacation days. The most common reason we don’t use our days? Too much work! A 2013 Dutch study found that our health and well-being goes down in the weeks just before a trip. Blame the pressure of getting stuff done at work and around the house. (The stress particularly impacts women.).

Related: We Need to Chill! 89 Percent of American Families Stressed Over Vacation Planning

While on vacation, 76% of Americans vs. 46% of people in the U.K. check their email and voicemail.

To get away from it all:

  • Tell your boss and co-workers you can’t be reached.
  • Leave your laptop and work cellphone at home.
  • Set an out-of-office message.
  • Consider if you really need to work. Why? Only 54% of workers say their bosses expect them to stay connected on vacation.

Studies show that spending money on experiences makes us happier than buying stuff. In fact, the only category of spending that correlates with happiness is leisure. To reduce the pain of paying, try paying for as much of your trip in advance as possible so you can focus on the experience instead of the cost once you get there. You may even feel like your prepaid experience is free!

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