Friday, September 29, 2017

8 Things to Do for a Perfect Vacation

Vacations are deceptively complex. By their very nature they're meant to be stress-free, so we assume we shouldn't put too much thought into them. But behavioral research actually tells us that certain strategies will almost always make certain types of trips better than others, both in cost and overall satisfaction. When I'm out and about I like to plan ahead, since I think it gives me the most, out of the precious time I gather to travel. Here's how to take the perfect vacation.

8 Things to Do for a Perfect Vacation

1. Plan as far ahead as you can to build anticipation

A trip is actually composed of three things: months of anticipation, the trip itself, and the pain of nostalgia you experience for years afterwards. To maximize your enjoyment, you should cater to all three stages. Airfare is cheapest approximately 2 months before a flight, so it's wise to hold off on finalizing until then. But you can still browse hotels or take the old google maps man on a spin around the map. Anticipation is a powerful thing. It's essentially the same reason you're happier on Friday than on Sunday.

2. Limit yourself to a few options to minimize regret

It's the "paradox of choice." When our brain has too many options it shuts down. Some choice is better than none, though, but it doesn't hold that more is always better than less. Before your trip, narrow down your choices to just two options. You'll feel better knowing you picked the best one.

3. Take a one-week vacation-you won't remember two

Basically we are made up of our experiencing self and our remembering self. The experiencing self lives in the moment. The remembering self lives in the past. Our remembering self has a hard time telling apart a one-week vacation from a two-week one because there are no new memories added. You have not changed the story. From the perspective of the remembering self, short and long vacations are effectively equal.

4. Give yourself time to mentally ease into vacation mode

I think it's nice to take a few days to unwind before the trip actually starts. You can use the time to pack up and get chores out of the way so that you're fully ready to settle into your trip. The less you rush, the easier it'll be to start the vacation on the right foot.

5. Spend money on experiences, not stuff, to maximize happiness

Vacations are already on the right track when it comes to maximizing happiness: Spending money on memorable experiences instead of the cool new car or gadget is probably going to make you happier. You can take that wisdom into the vacation itself. Minimize the budget you set for coffee mugs and hoodies, and spend as much time as possible building the memories that your remembering self will love.

6. Explore in the beginning, savor at the end

Probability can help us decide when to try new things and when to stick with the familiar. It's called the "explore/exploit" problem. One should generally be more exploratory at the start of a vacation...and more 'exploitative' at the end. This is because your chances of finding a place, meal, or experience that you like better than the ones you've already tried go down as time passes. Everything is new on Day 1, so embrace that. By Day 7, you pretty much know what you like, and even if you make a great discovery, you won't have time to come back. So savor your favorite things.

7. Plan your most exciting activities for the middle or end

And then we come to the "peak-end rule": people mostly remember the peak of, and end of, a given event. If I gave you a list of names, for instance, you'd probably remember the last names on the list and the most unique one. Vacations work the same way. If you can, schedule the amazing mountain track or the big winery tour toward the middle and the giant bonfire at the end.

8. Once you're home, talk about your trip to make your memories permanent

If a rafting trip got you super fired up, tell all your friends about it over coffee after you get back. Research on happiness suggests that people can preserve how they feel about an experience by talking about it. A study even found people reported greater happiness levels when they talked about their experiences rather than their material purchases. It's a surefire way to keep the joys of vacation alive, even in the months after you've returned to your cubicle.

What do you do to get the most out of your vacation?


  1. I enjoyed this post. I’m often trying to convince my wife to go somewhere on the weekend. The neighbouring states (USA) have a lot of weekend adventures (kayaking, zip lining, hiking, etc.) but we rarely leave the house. I’m hoping this article will encourage her to get out more.

    I found this bit fascinating

    > From the perspective of the remembering self, short and long vacations are effectively equal.

    1. You truly remember the experience. Thereby it doesn't matter if it's a short trip or a long vacation. There is a lot to do in the USA, weekend getaways would be perfect.

  2. Hello, great info and post. Your photos are awesome! I love planning a trip, it is one of my favorite things to do. Happy Friday, enjoy your weekend!

  3. thanks for putting together this advice! yes, great info and post.

  4. Such great advice, Mersad. Proper research beforehand will mean you won't miss something you would have wanted to see (and what if you NEVER get to go back!) but I also like not overwhelming your schedule. Great photos too.

  5. I agree with you in part when you say you won't remember a two week vacation. Recently I went on a road trip for a week. I thought it was too rushed. However, when I take a vacation longer than one week, I find I get too homesick for my cats when the second week hits.

  6. Good travel tips. Not sure I agree with all of them, but you are certainly correct about most of them. Once knew a fellow who loved to plan vacations, but seldom ever took one. He thought the greatest pleasure was in the planning and the actual travel was anti-climatic.

  7. San Francisco makes EVERYONE smile!

  8. Brilliant suggestions! :)

  9. Some excellent tips Mersad. #3 is interesting. I never thought of a vacation like that.

  10. I consider you to be a very experienced traveler and excellent photographer, Mersad. Great tips here, and your photos are stunning, as always!



Image Credits

All Rights are Reserved. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of the author.