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6 Scientifically Proven Steps To Maximize Vacation Happiness

Summer is fast approaching and given that it's the busiest travel season of the year, you probably have your vacation booked or are planning to book one soon. That's great! Vacations allow you to relax, recharge and come back to your daily routine refreshed and ready to seize the day. Well, at least that's how it is supposed to be. Instead, we've heard many people complain that they're dreading the holiday season - the crowds, bratty kids, airport security and the list goes on. So we decided to look into the science of how you can enjoy and maximize your vacation happiness and we have some good news to report. When done right, vacations have some amazing benefits for your relationship and also for families as a whole.

With these in mind, here are 6 steps you need to take in order to maximize the full potential of your vacation.

1. Start Planning Your Vacation Early

One reason why people don't enjoy their holidays is because they're so worried about being in an unfamiliar environment, not sure on what to do or see, or even how to get from place to place. According to the research, 90% of respondents felt that their happiest vacations were planned more than a month in advance. Here are some tips to make your trip as stress-free as possible:

  1. Use Google Maps to get the directions to your hotel. Save it to your phone or print a copy. Remember to have the name of the hotel in the local language and script as well. Just in case you need to ask a local for directions.
  2. Plan a rough itinerary so that at least you know what are the places you'd want to check out while in the area. This can always change once you reach the location but its a good starting point to get familiar with what's around.
  3. Figure out whether you'll be using a taxi, train or bus to get around. 
  4. If you plan on getting around by public transport, make a note of all the train line names, interchanges and stations you will be getting off at. Again, Google Maps is immensely helpful. 

2. Maximize the Anticipation

The weeks leading up to our vacations bring us more happiness than the weeks after our trip. Guess that's why they call it the "post-vacation blues". With this in mind how do we maximize the anticipation? One of the best ways is to research the places of interest and fun things to do at your destination. To help you, check out TripAdvisor which has reviews from fellow tourists about everything from hotels to parks and everything in between. The places of interest are also ranked for a particular destination, so you could easily filter and narrow down your search based on what's popular with other tourists.

Another resource we like is WikiTravel, which as the name suggests, is the Wikipedia of travel. A free, crowd-sourced travel guide with over 300,000 writers and travelers visiting every day, you can find information on getting in, things to do, places to see and even staying safe for just about every city you would want to visit.

3. Take More Frequent Short Vacations

Many of us, and we're guilty of this too, take one long vacation a year and that's it. The thing is, like we mentioned earlier, a big part of the happiness that comes from a trip is because of anticipating the trip. So, if you only take 1 long trip, you get that happiness boost one time versus multiple happiness boosts spread out the entire year with shorter trips.

Also, with longer trips, there's a higher chance of something going wrong which could lead to frustration. Piles of laundry, missing a connecting flight, if something can go wrong it probably would. Minimize the chances by taking a shorter trip.

4. Take It Easy

A big reason why we go on vacation is to relax but sadly, 1 in 10 of us aren't able to rest and enjoy the vacation. Much of the stress comes from wanting to see every single tourist attraction. With only a short time in the country, that's never going to happen. Instead of taking a photo at attraction number 1 to 100 listed on TripAdvisor, narrow down on a few attractions that truly appeal to you. Plan your itinerary around those and go with the flow. There's a high chance you might discover something wonderful you might have otherwise missed.

5. Increase your post-vacation Happiness

No matter how enjoyable the vacation was, going back to school or work just brings down the vacation "glow"  after a while. Happiness starts to taper off towards the end of the trip as we anticipate getting back to the routine and the glow fades off pretty much after the 2nd week back home. So what can you do to make the post-holiday happiness last longer?

Well, for starters, sharing the photographs from your trip is a great way to bring back the happy memories. You could share the photographs privately on Picasa (Google) or Flickr (Yahoo). Alternatively, sharing on Facebook with friends is a good way to start a conversation about the places you've just visited. 

If you traveled with friends, arrange for a meeting over coffee or some drinks just so you can reminisce about how fun it was. Even if things didn't go to plan, sometimes its the unexpected accidents that make the trip more memorable.        

6. Leave The Work In The Office

With smartphones, it seems like we're connected to the office 24/7 these days. One of the worst mistakes you can do is to bring your work along with you on your holiday. Leave your office work physically and mentally behind when going on your vacation. Here are some of our favorite ways to ensure that happens.
  1. Set your out of office message. Here's the template we use: "I'm currently out of the office from XX to XX with no connection to the Internet. Please expect a delayed response. If it's urgent, please contact XX at"
  2. Let your boss and colleagues know that you'll be unreachable.
  3. Leave your company phone and laptop at home.
  4. If you really need to bring your office phone and laptop along, consider whether your response to the incoming message or email is necessary. Oftentimes, it isn't and once you start replying, it's a slippery slope.    

So there you have it - 6 scientifically backed ways to maximize the happiness from your vacations. We hope you enjoyed the article and learnt something new. Be sure to check out our earlier article on 9 facts you didn't know about happiness. For the full Infograph, visit Happify where they have articles, quizzes and games on happiness as well.  

Title Image Credit: Smartertravel
Infograph Credit: Happify


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