Donders Wonders Blog

How to choose the optimal vacation

Spring is here, and the vacation season is coming closer. Perhaps you’re planning your holiday. Here are a few tips for an optimal holiday.

This post is also available in Dutch.

Trees are blossoming, flowers are blooming, and the sun is beginning to really shine. Spring is here, and the vacation season is coming closer. Perhaps you’re planning your holiday. Here are a few tips for an optimal holiday.

How long should your vacation be?

Do you like to take one long getaway per year? Or, do you prefer to take multiple, short breaks? A study in the Journal of Happiness Studies showed that vacation satisfaction peaked at 8 days and gradually diminished after that. Many travel websites have taken this as an indication that the optimal vacation duration is 8 days, but that’s not exactly what the study showed. The researchers surveyed people who had vacations longer than 14 days (the average duration was 23 days) and found that, for them, satisfaction peaked at day eight. But this doesn’t clarify whether satisfaction would peak at day 8 for a 14-day break, for instance. And would the peak move earlier for a 5-day vacation, to take another example? The topic needs more extensive study before we know what the optimal vacation duration is. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to take 8-day (or slightly longer) vacations to make sure you get that peak satisfaction.

How often should you go on vacation?

Many studies suggest that vacation frequency is more important than duration. Apparently, it helps to take several medium-length (8-day?) breaks throughout the year. This may be the case because it boosts happiness to have something to look forward to in the near future. When you plan multiple vacations spread out throughout the year, you often have something pleasant to anticipate. It may also be that, since long breaks require a lot of preparation (planning the vacation as well as preparing for an extended absence from work), they may induce more stress than shorter vacations before the trip has actually started.

Are vacations good for your health?

We would all love to believe that vacations are amazing and indispensable for our health and well-being, but unfortunately the science doesn’t warrant such strong conclusions. According to research, immediately after a break, happiness increased and stress levels decreased, but they usually went back to normal (i.e., what they were before the vacation) within 3-4 weeks. This suggests that vacation may not have long-term effects on our happiness and stress levels.

But there is also good news: taking vacation seems to reduce the risk of burnout. Right after people came back from vacation, naturally, their burnout scores were lower than before they went on vacation. Remarkably, even 3 weeks later, their burnout scores remained low. This means that going on vacation can make you less likely to suffer from burnout. And there’s even evidence from a 9-year-long study to suggest that taking vacation may be good for your cardiovascular health.

Take vacation!

If you’re wondering whether to take vacation or to stay at work, your best bet is to, yes, take vacation. It may improve your health and reduce your risk of burnout, but it’s also fun and gives you happy memories and enriching experiences. The vacation duration turns out not to be so important, so take as long or short a break as you feel like. If you can, maybe consider taking an 8- or 10-day break. It’s more important to take vacation often, at least a few times a year, so go ahead and enjoy your adventure, relaxation, or whichever type of getaway you prefer.


Original language: English
Author: Marisha Manahova
Buddy: Julija Vaitonyte
Editor: Monica Wagner
Translator: Jill Naaijen
Editor Translation: Floortje Bouwkamp

Featured image from Public Domain Pictures

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