It’s nearly the end of January and my memories are fading. Not in general (that happens year round). I mean specifically, about what I did last month. My pleasant memories of my December holiday are getting dimmer. My cheery post-vacation mood is wearing off.
So it’s time for… Not another holiday, it’s obviously too early in the year to take time off. No, it’s time to start planning my next holiday. That’s the best part, anyway.
The positive effect of planning holidays has been proven by scientific study. Dutch researchers probing the effect of holidays on happiness showed that people are happiest not after a holiday, but before. According to their findings published in the journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life, even greater than the effect of going on holiday is the effect of planning one.
Of course, we’re talking about good holidays. It’s like when people speak of a desire for quality, they do not mean poor quality. Although the Dutch research seems to indicate that even if your time off pans out like an episode from the TV reality series “When Good Holidays Go Bad” you still get the bliss benefit of the planning phase.
“The practical lesson for an individual is that you derive most of your happiness from anticipating the holiday trip”
– Tourism research lecturer Jeroen Nawijn, Breda University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands
You’ve heard that “A change is as good as a holiday.” Now it looks like “Anticipation is better than the actual vacation.”
My New Old Self has always been a big fan of anticipation. Looking forward to things is one of my major pastimes. As I get older I find there’s more time for anticipation. Since I’m not as busy doing things now, I can spend more time thinking about doing things in future.
I prefer to know all the details of an upcoming event in advance, so I can milk every drop of anticipation from it. Again, I mean the good stuff, not things like dentist appointments. I not only enjoy musing over an impending occasion, I savour the marking of the date – and the time – on my calendar. And then thinking about it as the time nears.
“If, for example, you come at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, then at 3 o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At 4 o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you.”
– The Prince to The Fox in the French classic, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
(I quote from that 1943 classic, having read it in French class – not because it has recently pervaded public consciousness as a 3-D computer-animated movie. Which annoyingly tells the original story of said prince through what Hollywood calls a “frame narrative”. About a helicopter parent who is forcing her daughter to swot her way into a fancy prep school. It would be difficult to stray further from the values that underpin Le Petit Prince, but let’s not go there.)
So what could be better than a holiday? Make it plural – holidays! Plan lots of them! Don’t take it from me, this is what the holiday expert recommends. If you’re aiming to up the joy factor in holiday anticipation, then double your planning and double your fun!
“What you can do is try to increase that by taking more trips per year. If you have a two-week holiday you can split it up and have two one-week holidays. You could try to increase the anticipation effect by talking about it more, and maybe discussing it online.”
– Dutch holiday happiness researcher Jeroen Nawijn
I had been wondering why I have suddenly been overcome with delight. Now I see that I’ve been upping the A-Factor (A for Anticipation) just by writing this.
Perhaps I should apply my holiday planning skills to little day trips, to further max out the A-Factor. I’m getting giggly as I contemplate all the micro-holidays that 2016 may hold. Just think of all the planning that will entail! Oh, the anticipation, I can hardly contain myself!
Since this research was conducted in 2010 there has been ample vindication of the Anticipation Theory of Happiness. Going on holiday qualifies as an experiential purchase (unless it’s a dutiful free trip, like a family visit) and researchers from the universities of California and Cornell found that this is the kind of buying that makes you happiest.
“Four studies demonstrate that people derive more happiness from the anticipation of experiential purchases… Waiting for an experience tends to be more pleasurable and exciting than waiting to receive a material good.”
– Psychological Science journal, 2014
If you need further vindication of the value of vacation anticipation, see these comments from passionate planners:
“I love the traveling but in between, WANT, NEED, MUST be planning another trip to fill the non-travel time with dreams!”
“My wife will often joke that we could save a lot of money if I planned a trip and then we just stayed home. I already had done the fun part.”
(By the way, there is no such TV reality show called “When Good Holidays Go Bad”. But I’m sure there could be. Just as there could be a new reality show called “The A-Factor for Heavenly Holidays” pitting contestants against each other to see who gets the most joyous anticipation from vacation planning.)