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The smartest way to vacation, according to science

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If you haven't already booked your next vacation, there's some good news: Science can help you plan a getaway for maximum happiness and well-being.

In recent years, consumer psychology and happiness researchers have been looking at what makes vacations work best for people. A few recent articles parsed the evidence, and had these key ideas to keep in mind while planning:

1) Longer isn't necessarily better. In this Wall Street Journal piece, Sumathi Reddy writes that researchers have found well-being improves in as little as two days, so staying away for weeks isn't necessarily correlated with deriving the most happiness from your trip.

2) Plan farther ahead for more joyful anticipation. We get a lot of pleasure from dreaming up and organizing a trip, so researchers suggest drawing that experience out. In this TEDx talk about the science of vacations, Ian Cole suggests that anticipation is key. Plus, looking forward to a trip during a frazzled time can offer happiness and pressure relief.

3) See or do something new. As one of the researchers told Reddy, "Once we’ve already seen somewhere we’re not necessarily absorbing what’s new about it. People who always go to the same place will often sort of start to have memories blur." Even if you're on a staycation, planning a new experience will have more impact.

4) Maximize the start and finish of your vacation. Over at the Science of Us, Jesse Singal points out that research suggests the beginning and end of a vacation matter a lot in terms of the impression they leave with you. So try to ensure those days are extra blissful.


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