Sentences to ponder

The study, published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, showed that the largest boost in happiness comes from the simple act of planning a vacation. In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

There is more information here.


In sum:
- planning last-minute getaways is not as good as planning at least 8 weeks in advance
- take more shorter vacations
- talk about it a lot before and after, on and offline
- show EVERYONE lots of vacation photos

Just kidding about the last one.

I'm not sure if their finding naturally extends, but I've noticed the same effect with other long-planned purchases.

Researching the item thoroughly, comparing between alternatives, discussing it with friends or family, finding the best price, etc. become part of the experience, and draw the enjoyment of any single purchase out over a longer period of time.

I don't know how my experience extrapolates, but I love planning trips. Right now I am planning an 8 day canoe trip in Minnesota's Boundary Waters. The trip's not until July, I know exactly which lakes I'm going on, and I could pack for it in about an hour. Yet I think about it most days, and look at the trail maps at least twice a week. Happy? Sure as hell am!


July, huh? Will Minnesota's rivers be unfrozen by then? ;-)

-jimi in miami

Read Alan de Botton "The Art of Travel" to understand why the anticipation is always better than the holiday itself. The book will also help you to be much happier on holiday.

This is related to the example that might rationalize buying lottery tickets. By buying the ticket, one can dream about what they would do with the winnings even if you do not win. You can "dream" without buying the ticket, but it is not the same.

Says something equally strong about our satisfaction with work/home life.

This is an excellent example of why happiness research is mostly useless.

My prior on whether taking a vacation makes a person happy is pretty strongly in favor of yes. There is good market evidence (people pay lots for vacations) and good theoretical support (vacations are awesome). Now this study comes out and concludes that it is the act of planning vacations that makes people happy, not actually taking them.

How to reconcile these views? It seems that the most likely explanation is a flaw in what self reported happiness is measuring. People probably internalize the good time they expect to have on a vacation and so their reported happiness is not that influenced by the trip.

I imagine this study might be used in “proof† that money cannot buy happiness. People relish in the idea of gaining wealth, but once they acquire it they either realize that wealth is not the end all, be all or that they need more.

The only vacations I've been on where the planning boosted my happiness more than the vacation itself were vacations that, for one reason or another, totally sucked. For instance, the vacation to a rural corner of Europe where it rained for ten straight days, often torrentially.

Hell, even the trip to Maui where my wife and I were both sick half the time was much more fun than the planning.

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