Survey Says: Vacation Planning Leads to Greater Happiness

Jan 25, 2017
In 2015, I traveled to Thailand for 10 days, which by American standards is a significant amount of time away from the workplace. During that trip, I met people from Australia, Canada and the U.K., all of whom were less than impressed by my 10-day jaunt when compared to their three-month travel itineraries. I defended my choice by reinforcing the American working culture and explaining that vacations are taken much more moderately in the U.S.

During that same year, 55 percent of Americans forfeited time off, totaling 658 million unused vacation days. But the choice to forego vacation has greater implications than one might realize. According to Project: Time Off research, the U.S. economy would have been bolstered by $223 billion in spending had Americans elected to use all of their time off.  Apart from economic ramifications, there are emotional ones, as well.

It’s statistically proven that time spent planning vacation directly correlates with greater happiness in your personal and professional lives, as depicted in the chart below.

Now, I’m not here to tell you that taking a week off in the Caribbean will make you feel happier, because you might not like the beach. Nor that a trip to Italy will solve all of your woes. There is no “right” way to use vacation time, but there is a way to unplug that will lend itself to a more effective use of time off.

The first step to vacation is planning, but before that, I recommend reciting the mantra: “I deserve this. I worked hard for this. I will better my work and home life because of this.” At least, that’s what I tell myself before I book a trip.

Next, overcome the fear of requesting time off. Nearly six in 10 employees report a lack of support from their boss about taking a vacation and 65% of people claim they hear discouraging messages about taking time off. If you plan ahead, you will have sufficient notice to prep your colleagues for your absence and organize a smooth transition.

Once in the right head-space, identify something that makes you happy and plan around it. Love a good glass of cabernet? Look into visiting Napa. Have a penchant for high-octane activities? New Zealand is one of the most sought-after places for adventure tourism -- and it happens to be one of our 2017 Wow Deal Destinations.

Planning ahead allows for ample research time. Investigate seasonality, best areas to stay, flight schedules and hotel options. You’ll feel more at ease knowing you’ve done your due diligence to plan a trip that fits your travel style. Not to mention, peace of mind equates to less stress, and 90% of planners reported happier well-beings compared to 85% of non-planners. You’ll also have the bandwidth to scout the best deals: 81% of planners reported being happier with their personal financial situations, as opposed to 71% of non-planners. If you think that planning a family vacation on a budget is impossible, that’s where Travelzoo can help. For instance, our ever-popular Azores vacation package afforded a family of four to vacation for a week, hotels and air included, for less than $2000.

Planning a trip in advance will also give you something to look forward to, so it’s no surprise that planners outranked non-planners in the category of overall mood and outlook. Having visited 11 countries in the past five years, I can personally attest to the feeling of anticipation each time I plan a trip, and I can especially stand behind the 90% of planners that feel added professional success. There's a sense of accomplishment I gain when I plan and finance a trip. And when I return to my job, I do so with renewed vigor, which supports the finding that vacation planners feel more content in their careers.

Lastly, and most importantly, vacations strengthen relationships. And it's in this category where we see the largest discrepancy between planners and non-planners. From the planning stage to the anticipation period to the actual trip, you and your travel companion(s) share in a bonding experience. And it begins with your choice to unplug and reconnect with friends, family members, significant others or even just yourself.

RSVP now to join our Vacation-Planning Power Hour Jan. 31, at 4 p.m. ET with Samantha Brown on Facebook Live.

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