Whether your travel goal is to relax, recuperate, explore, reconnect, etc., the ultimate priority of most trips is to have a good time. But beyond picking a fabulous location and booking transportation, what can we do to make sure we get the most from our travels? Psychology sheds some light on what we can do to boost our travel happiness and make sure your trip is one to remember.
Choose Experiences over Things
Co-Authors Elizabeth Dunn, a University of British Columbia Professor, and Michael Norton, a Harvard Business School professor, made headlines with their 2013 book Happy Money, the Science of Smarter Spending. They found that people are happier with experiences than things. Experiences were found to be both more socially rewarding because they help connect the spender with others, and had a longer-lasting happiness level afterward. Check out this interview the Financial Post did with Norton and Dunn for more.
Boost Your Anticipation
Dutch researchers have found that the happiest part of a trip is before you leave, during the planning stages. These effects were found to be in effect for up to eight weeks. Discussing the trip with friends and family or online, planning the trip details, immersing yourself in movies or books about the locations, etc. are all ways to get the most out of this pre-trip bliss. In the New York Times, Elizabeth Dunn elaborates on this as a way to increase happiness during the trip as well:
“We’re less likely to be bothered by these little holes if we build up our expectations ahead of time. So go ahead and assume it’s going to be wonderful.”
Seek Unique Experiences
Dr. Amit Kumar, a social psychologist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, explains in New York Magazine that one of the major reasons experiences bring more pleasure than things is that they have more conversational value. But when the experiences can be compared easily to others, they lose their luster. However, your vacation won’t be fulfilling if the competition is your primary focus. Instead, take the vacation you want but focus on creating unique aspects and share those details.
Prioritize the Beginning & the End
In that same New York Magazine article, Elizabeth Dunn discusses the importance of timing. The first days of the vacation are the most important for setting the tone and determining what will be remembered later. Evidence suggests the next most important time for impression setting is the end. So plan the most memorable activities during these timeframes while simultaneously eliminating stress and discomfort.
Reduce Post Trip Hangover
Gretchen Rubin, the New York Times Bestselling author, goes over tips to avoid a post-vacation hangover on an episode of her podcast. Her advice? Get back a day early so you have a window before you have to be back in your normal routine. Plan something to look forward to when you get back, like a dinner or special evening. You can also create a ritual like immediately organizing and publishing your trip photos and getting unpacked as quickly as possible.