When you’re on a vacation trip, do you ever have anxiety about returning to your non-vacation life? Or, after you’ve returned from vacation, do you ever feel that your vacation expectations didn’t live up to the hype in your head, leaving you feeling sad and unsatisfied?
If you do, you’re not alone. Researchers over the last decade have found a correlation between being happy and being on vacation, and the results might surprise you. A 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research and Quality of Life found that the anticipation of going on vacation can actually make you happier than actually being on vacation.
For me, when I’m on vacation with my family and in the middle of the airport or road trip chaos returning home, I find myself thinking I just want to be on vacation again. Why can’t I feel as happy or relaxed returning home than I did leading up to vacation?
According to researchers, the joy and excitement you feel looking forward to your vacation is stronger than what you feel looking back on your holiday. Many factors contribute to this, including vacation stress from travel challenges, language or cultural barriers or simply not giving yourself enough time to truly relax and unwind on your vacation.
So how do you sustain your pre-vacation happiness and overcome those feelings of dread, anxiety and general unhappiness upon returning?
7 Strategies to Boost Post-Vacation Happiness
Clean your house before you leave for vacation. I never understood why my mother was so adamant about having the house cleaned before we left for our annual family vacation. It wasn’t until I was married and had children of my own when I began to realize how coming home to a clean house can make you less anxious and more relaxed than returning to a messy one. Cleaning your house or apartment/condo might be one more thing you add to your already packed pre-vacation list, but trust me, suck it up and do it.
Make a to-do list before you leave for vacation. Whether it’s personal responsibilities or work projects, I like knowing exactly where to prioritize my time and devote my attention when I return home from vacation. Having a to-do or prioritization list may also make it easier for you to enjoy your vacation and less overwhelming for you to return as you are not constantly worrying about where to focus your efforts when you return.
Schedule something fun within a few days of returning from vacation. Having something to look forward to is key but it doesn’t necessarily have to be your next big trip. It could be drinks/dinner with the girls so that you can show them your vacation photos; scheduling a massage; or getting tickets to a local art exhibit. Anything that gives you something to look forward to can help offset those post-vacation blues.
Plan your next vacation during your current one. My husband and I do this ALL the time. At some point during our current vacation, we begin talking about where we want to travel to next and in some cases, we have actually booked our next trip while we are on our current one. This puts our post-vacation minds a little more at ease knowing that we have something scheduled for the future. But beware, it’s important to not spend too much time planning for a different vacation and not enjoying the one that’s right in front of you.
Build in an extra day (or two) off when you return from vacation. I find it completely stressful when I’ve spent a week or so on vacation and then return the night before I have to return to work. Instead, I try to take an extra day off (or return on a Friday or Saturday) so that I have at least one day to unpack, unwind and get back into the non-vacation mindset.
Upgrade your seat on the way back from vacation. If you’ve traveled by air, you know how stressful it can be waiting at the airport, waiting on the plane, and waiting for your luggage. If your budget allows, go ahead and upgrade your seat to first-class on your return flight. This can help alleviate some of the stress and allow you a little extra luxury on your way home.
Have a home cooked meal waiting for you when you return. After eating away from home for multiple days, sometimes all you want is the comfort and convenience of a home cooked meal that’s relatively easy to make. We make quite a few comfort foods that are easy to freeze and store away for those times where we need a quick but yummy dinner. And often when we come home from our trip, we pull out one of the semi-ready meals and feast away with little preparation or clean up. However, if pre-cooked meals aren’t your style, it can also be a fun treat to grab your favorite take out on your way home from the airport – super easy and a meal that you look forward to.
Be happy and vacation well my friends!