Have you used up all of your vacation days for the year? Don’t fret — experts claim that mini weekend getaways can be just as effective at making you happy as long, drawn-out holidays. In fact, if you’re heading out for a multi-week vacation, it’s even suggested that you break it up with days of work to help you appreciate your downtime more. Now that‘s just crazy talk — or is it?
“On a long vacation, day seven is less good than day one because it’s not as exciting,” behavioural economist and Duke University professor Dan Ariely explained to the Daily Telegraph. “That’s why in general, going away four times [a year] provides more benefit than you would expect, and going away for one week provides less benefit than you would expect.”
So weekends at the cottage can be just as good for our mental health as two weeks in the Caribbean? That’s certainly good news for the old wallet.
But planning a vacation can be stressful, and critics are quick to point out that short trips are sometimes not worth the extra prep work. “If you pack three times as many holidays into the same amount of leave, you can expect three times as much trouble. It’s not obvious to me that it’s worth it,” said Tim Harford, the author of Dear Undercover Economist. He has a point — loading up the car, corralling your family and spending 16 hours in the car every other weekend can be a hassle compared to an all-inclusive in Mexico. Plus, mini-vacations can be exhausting — when you’re trying to cram everything you want to see and do into a few short days, there’s very little time to actually relax.
Still, maybe it’s this prep time that makes the vacation so great. “How do we optimize our vacation? There are three elements to it — anticipating, experiencing, and remembering,” said Ariely. Many experts agree that the anticipation of a vacation can be one of the strongest elements in determining how happy we are with it — after all, planning a getaway is pretty exciting, isn’t it? Imagine experiencing that thrill several times a year.
We’re not saying you should give up your yearly week-long beach excursion — but after you’ve unpacked from that, why not start planning a short weekend break in a city you’ve never been to before? You just might end up having the time of your life, but even if you don’t, the planning will be half the fun.