Oct 24, 2011
Before planning your next trip to Africa, make sure you read travel expert Wendy Perrin’s Top Rules for a Successful Vacation. Wendy’s experience as a columnist for Condé Nast Traveler has given her priceless insight into how to create the trip of a lifetime. The staff at EXPLORE pay close attention to her advice!
STEP 1: Get out a calendar for the next 365 days and roughly block out your next 3 vacations. Try to include long weekends or times when you will be least busy at work.
STEP 2: Define what “very relaxed vacation” means for you. Take 10 minutes to make a list of the activities or situations that most relax you.
Vacation Rule: When you go away, you bring yourself with you. So make sure you know how to relax.
Each of us has a way to relax, so ensure that you’re tapped into the type of vacation that will most help you psychologically and physiologically unwind from work. Avoid as many vacation hassles and stressors (e.g. conflicts with travel companions) as possible.
STEP 3: Choose a “goal” for your next vacation.
Vacation Rule: If your vacation is about avoiding a negative, turn it into achieving a positive.
We typically use our vacations to fill a need we’ve been deprived of. But, according to a quality-of-life psychologist, a vacation that is simply an escape will not leave you as happy as a vacation that approaches or achieves a goal. Instead of avoiding a negative, you want to achieve a positive.
STEP 4: Include a “mastery experience.” Read the Quick Tips below, then figure out 3 trip options for your next vacation.
Vacation Rule: Vacation wisely to perform better at work.
A study by university scientists in Germany found that 3 things need to happen on a vacation for you to recover from work-induced stress and rebuild your inner resources to the point where you can achieve more than before:
1. You need to have a “mastery experience.” Learning a new skill or successfully facing a challenge—whether it’s planning the perfect itinerary, climbing a mountain, or rekindling a romantic relationship—is a powerful antidote to stress, especially for workaholics.
2. Your vacation needs to relax you. The fewer the hassles you face during your trip, the better you’ll perform back at work.
3. You need to avoid reflecting negatively on your job. When you find yourself thinking about work during vacation, ponder the successes you’ve had, or strategize about your future career, as opposed to mulling over the things you dislike about your current work situation.
STEP 5: Ensure you will master the “mastery experience.” Once you read these tips, make a list of potential obstacles to the attainment of your vacation goal and eliminate them.
Vacation Rule: Choose a vacation goal that doesn’t conflict with another important goal in your life.
There are 3 common obstacles you may face in trying to attain your vacation goal:
1. The goal conflicts with another important goal in your life. If your vacation goal (say, bonding with your kids) conflicts with another big goal (say, closing an imminent business deal), it will be very hard to attain both, and you will end up frustrated.
2. The goal is inconsistent with your financial resources. Don’t end up in a champagne destination on a beer budget. Be wary of resorts on small islands, where you can feel like you’re being ripped off every time you open your wallet, as well as foreign countries with lousy exchange rates.
3.The experience you’re aiming to master is either too hard or too easy. If you’re not up to the challenge, you’ll be anxious. If you’re not sufficiently challenged, you’ll be bored:
STEP 6: Choose 3 ideal travel companions with whom you could realistically take your trip. Reach out to your top choice.
Vacation Rule: Who you travel with matters more than where you go.
Our travel partners can make or break a trip. The wrong one can ruin a place you’d otherwise love, whereas the right one can make a dull place fascinating. Select travel companions who share your interests yet will give you plenty of freedom, who don’t complain or talk too much, who move at the same pace as you, and who don’t hold rigid ideas about what is or is not interesting.
STEP 7: Pick a soothing activity for shortly after your arrival at your destination. Look into options at your hotel or nearby that will comfort and reenergize you.
A vacationer’s mood is typically at its most negative at about 10 percent of the way through a trip—a consequence of the tiring and unpleasant process of getting to the destination, as well as apprehension about the upcoming trip. So plan a soothing activity that will zap your bad mood upon arrival at your destination. Will you have been in a cramped car for five hours? Go for a swim. Are you taking an overnight flight and you’ll arrive stiff and cranky? Book a massage a few hours after landing. Arriving sleep-deprived and jet-lagged? Plan on an invigorating walk; keep your feet moving till early evening; then take a warm bath and collapse into bed.
STEP 8: Plan to do something during your trip that you’ve never done before. Make a list of 5 extraordinary activities or experiences you could have for the first time.
Brand-new experiences are the ones that get seared in your memory. They can also give you a sense of accomplishment that lasts long after your trip is over. The bolder, the better. So get out of that pool chair and take your first surfing lesson. Ride a horse on the beach. Zipline in the rainforest. It needn’t be a daredevil activity but it helps if it’s something you’ve always dreamed of doing.
STEP 9: Select your favorite vacation option and brainstorm 3 ideas for a peak moment and a grand finale.
When people remember a trip, they remember how they felt at the most intense moments of pleasure and pain and how they felt at the end. Psychologists call this “the peak-end rule.” Rather than give equal effort to planning every minute of your trip it’s better to focus on optimizing the peak and the end. Since the end of your trip matters more than the start, save your best hotel room and other luxuries for last.
STEP 10: Take everything you’ve done here for your vacation, summarize it with a written plan, and share it with your travel companion(s). When you get the go-ahead, book your trip, and savor the anticipation.
Vacation Rule: Savor the anticipation. People who have a vacation on their horizon are happier with their lives than people who don’t.
Moreover, research has shown that the expectations you form as you anticipate an upcoming vacation will likely inform your memory of that trip for years to come. Scientific studies have established that the anticipation can bring you every bit as much joy as the trip itself. That’s because, when a trip is over, our brains tend to “reconstruct” our memory of the trip so that it aligns with what our expectations were. What we ultimately remember about a trip is not what actually happened but what we anticipated would happen. This is one reason why we repeat our vacation mistakes: We forget the details of what really happened and instead remember what was supposed to happen.