Use Happiness Research to Maximize Vacations


Regular readers already know that going on vacation is good for one’s happiness and there are ways to travel while keeping a small carbon footprint. It can be hard to find time to travel and expensive too, so how should one go about thinking about vacations?

Vacations aren’t things that should be “efficient” or viewed as a quantifiable experience. Instead, we can use existing research to prepare for a vacation and enjoy it while out and about. Basically, relax by changing your mindset around vacations from an epic journey to a chance to be with people in new places.


A once-in-a-lifetime trip, like a month in New Zealand, would be amazing. But the “once-in-a-lifetime” aspect of such vacations limits their overall contribution to happiness. Research increasingly finds that we return to previous happiness levels fairly quickly (we spend life on the “hedonic treadmill”), and so smaller pleasures experienced frequently contribute more to overall well-being than major but less infrequent ones. Another studyfound that the health and wellness benefits of a vacation peaked at about eight days in. So look for already-shortened workweeks for getaways so you can plan several eight-day vacations (weekend plus workweek plus weekend) in a year for the price of three to four vacation days a pop.

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Increase Your Happiness by Going on Vacation

Everybody loves going on vacation and here’s why: it makes for good conversations. Really. The short term gain of increased happiness from a vacation is very short indeed, just a few days. However, the benefit of a vacation can keep giving through your social life as you relive (and share) your experience.

To make your vacation really happy be sure to make the first few days the most fun and go someplace that is interesting instead of the beach.

In terms of happiness-per-dollar-spent, vacations are the right idea in general. A lot of past research has suggested that experiences in general provide more happiness than material goods. That’s partly because — excited new owners of the latest iPhone who won’t shut up notwithstanding — humans generally have more of a tendency to talk about experiences than mere stuff. “When one buys an experience, they seem to be buying themselves a story as well,” said Dr. Amit Kumar, a social psychologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business who studies the relationship between money and happiness. “So one way vacations continue to provide hedonic benefits even after they’ve long since passed is because they live on in the stories we tell.”

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Take a Greener Vacation

Vacations vary greatly on the impact that they can have on the environment. Backpacking in the woods would cause significantly less carbon to be produced than flying halfway around the world. Here’s five tips to make your vacation more environmentally conscious.

The list is clearly focused on Americans, but this is one that can apply to the planet:

4. Find A Green Hotel

This may seem like a monstrous task, but it’s not– check this registry of environmentally friendly hotels. They’re standing ready to assist in your eco-escape, conserving waste, and committed to reducing their toll on the planet.

31 Tips to Help You Travel Green

Traveling for your daily commute can be damaging to the environement if you drive a car, so why not bike, take transit, or just carpool? Ideas like this can make a world of difference when done en masse. Fortunately someone has gone and made a list of 31 green travel tips to ensure that we do less damage from our travels.

From the section on airplane travel:

24. Combine work and play: If you just have to attend a meeting somewhere overseas, why not book a few days off after the meeting and stay there for a week or so? That way you get the best of both worlds and you don’t have to fly as much, which will massively reduce your carbon footprint.

25. Carbon offset flights: Many airlines are waking up to carbon offsetting and passing some of the expense on to their passengers. If you are so inclined (and can afford it) you can pay a little extra for your flight and the airline will take your extra money and invest it directly into planting trees. Companies such as Treeflights exist in the UK to do just that, planting trees in Wales and Peru.

26. Travelling to the airport: Most hub and regional airports have good public transport links, which means you can catch the bus or train instead of driving to the airport and adding to your carbon footprint even more.

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