Finding yourself gleefully counting down the days before your next vacation? Learn how to maximize this happy feeling, stay relaxed during your trip, and gain inspiration for your next adventure.
Whether hiking a craggy mountain range or lounging on a hot beach, there’s no better feeling than being on vacation, right? Actually, this may be wrong: a 2010 study found that trip planning or anticipating can make you happier than being on the trip itself.
The study of 1,530 Dutch people concluded that the anticipation of trip planning likely triggers pre-trip happiness. This pleasant feeling can be sparked weeks or months before you take off and can have a positive impact on your mindset and health.
Vancouver-based psychologist, speaker, and author Dr. Theresa Nicassio says that trip planning involves dwelling on possibilities, giving you a sense of optimism and triggering the pleasure centre of your brain. Thinking about being released from your daily grind can also release feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, she says.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the health perks of positive thinking—a side effect of optimism—may extend to your physical health, including greater immunity to the common cold, a lowered risk of death from heart disease, and a longer life.
Boosting the benefits
To get the most out of that pleasant pre-trip feeling, start by brainstorming possible trips, says Nicassio. Don’t edit your thoughts with limitations such as your budget or distance; you’ll release some endorphins simply by focusing on the possibilities instead of the negatives.
“[When you’re] dreaming of possibilities, in that moment, from an emotional and physiological perspective, you are actually there,” says Nicassio.
Dreaming without limits may also help clarify what you really want. For instance, it can help you know what you really desire—whether it’s play, rest, a change of scenery, or new experience.
Next, review the options that will meet your desires alongside your limitations such as budget or the amount of time you have. It may take some creative thinking—for instance, if you want to visit the Virgin Islands, but you’re limited on funds, you could apply for a nanny position there—but when you connect what you want for your trip with what’s possible in reality, you feel a burst of happiness, says Nicassio.
Trouble in paradise
Interestingly, the same Dutch study, published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life also found the only time vacationers saw an increase in post-trip happiness was when they experienced a “very relaxed” vacation. Interpersonal conflict—among health problems and culture shock—may be one of the reasons for a less-than-relaxing vacation experience.
Avoid quarrels with your travel partner(s) with the following tips.
Watch your language
When approaching potential conflicts with travel partner(s), Dr. Mariyam Ahmed, a Toronto-based psychologist, recommends using “I” statements to express yourself. For instance, if your trip is chock full of activities and you feel exhausted, say “I feel tired” instead of “You are exhausting me.”
Concentrate on communication
Stop assuming you know what your travel partners are thinking and start asking questions for clarification.
“A common mistake we often make, which contributes to conflict, is mind reading,” says Ahmed.
Keep the holiday in mind
Don’t get mired in long-standing issues, cautions Ahmed. Keep the focus on the moment and what your goal was for the holiday.
Find common ground and compromise
Conflicts—whether they’re about a vacation budget or locations to visit—emerge when people differ in values, says Nicassio. Start by knowing what you want, then share this with your travel partner(s); be willing to listen to each other, identify common ground, and then negotiate the areas where you have different values.
“If you limit the negotiation to the areas of difference in values, then it’s going to reduce the overall conflict about the trip,” says Nicassio.
Fun for the whole family
Vancouverite and author of The Travelling Mom blog, Claudia Laroye offers these ideas for meaningful family travels.
Follow your family history
Choose a location based on your family’s roots. For instance, visit a parent’s or grandparent’s country, village, or hometown. Try activities such as hunting for family records in churches or temples.
Make it multigenerational
According to Laroye, multigenerational vacations are currently one of the biggest travel trends, as they allow for generations to reconnect.
Plan active adventures
Determine which activities pique your family’s interests. For instance, if your kids are new to horses, take them on a dude ranch vacation.
Use the following tips from our globe-trotting travel blogger to save money and pack light.
- “Choose your destination wisely,” says Deb Corbeil. Brainstorm comparable destinations, then choose the cheaper option.
- Set a travel budget. Use an app or spreadsheet to help you stick to it.
- Swap homes with a family in another location. (Try homelink.ca or homeexchange.com.)
- Book hotels and cars before leaving, especially when travelling to Europe, for a cheaper deal. You may also be able to snatch last-minute deals by using sites such as Hotel Tonight.
- Go to coupon sites for deals on restaurants and admissions to attractions like theme parks.
- Research museums and attractions with free admission dates (and arrive early to beat the crowds).
To save money, hire guides after you arrive at your destination. “We’ve saved literally thousands of dollars by hiring local guides,” says Corbeil.
- Try limiting yourself to one carry-on bag so you don’t have to check bags and won’t overpack.
- Pack clothing made with lightweight material that’s easy to wash. Lay clothes and accessories on the bed and mix and match to create many outfits of minimal pieces of clothing. In case you run out of outfits, pack powdered soap for handwashing in the sink. Or, use the laundry service at your destination.
- Use small tubes and a travel organizer to hold toiletry items.
- Use compression bags and packing tubes to store your items.
Get inspired by these lesser-known locations
Deb and Dave Corbeil, writers of The Planet D travel blog, share their picks for obscure locations that wow.
Site of monasteries built on monoliths that date back to the 14th century. “Back then, the monks used to climb on ladders and ropes [to reach the top],” says Deb Corbeil.
Known not only for its awe-inspiring landscape (including the alpine, the steppe, and the Gobi Desert) but also for its cultural way of life. “Mongolians are still nomadic and practise the way they’ve lived for centuries,” says Dave Corbeil.
You can spot hundreds of fairy chimneys (nature-made pillars formed into homes and churches during the Roman period) on this desert landscape from high above in a hot air balloon.
In August and September, walk with polar bears, or kayak and snorkel with beluga whales on their migratory route.