With spring having sprung and the warm summer months fast approaching, lifestyle brand and media company 30A recently sought to understand the relationships between the beach, travel and overall happiness. So, the company commissioned a research study to be conducted by the University of Alabama’s Public Opinion Lab.
The result was the inaugural edition of the ‘Beach Happy’ research study, which surveyed 1,040 random U.S. adults between the ages of 25 and 55 (people over the age of 55 were excluded from the study to limit the potential impact of retirement on overall happiness).
The findings revealed that, among other things, the act of planning or merely anticipating their next vacation significantly contributes to people’s happiness levels.
Six key takeaways emerged:
1. The act of planning an upcoming vacation makes you a happier person. “People who are planning a vacation are significantly happier than those who aren’t,” said Dr. Jameson Hayes, Associate Professor and Director of the Public Opinion Lab. “Reflecting back on your last vacation doesn’t necessarily make you happier, but looking forward to your next trip certainly does.”
2. The setting really doesn’t matter, as all types of vacations make people happier. Among respondents, beaches emerged as the preferred type of vacation destination (over 34 percent), with mountain destinations coming in second at just below 20 percent. But, the data indicates that a person’s happiness increases regardless of their destination type. “Anticipating any upcoming vacation appears to significantly boost happiness, regardless of whether it’s to the beach, the mountains, or a big city,” said researcher Jay Waters of the University’s College of Communications and Information Sciences (C&IS).
3. There is a certain amount of travel taken annually that tends to create an optimal degree of happiness. Survey participants who traveled for pleasure between 15 and 21 days per year reported the highest levels of happiness. Those who traveled any less than two weeks or more than three weeks out of the year actually reported lower happiness levels. So, as Waters said, “It appears that happiness does have its limits as it relates to travel.” Although, there are always those who might be happiest living out of a suitcase.
4. As it turns out, vacation souvenirs or reminders of beloved destinations also increase happiness quotients. Individuals who surround themselves with two or three tangible keepsakes from their favorite vacation destination reported higher levels of happiness, as compared to those who don’t. “Surrounding yourself with mementos from past vacations such as apparel, photos, art, bumper stickers and even phone ringtones can increase happiness levels,” said Dr. Hayes.
5. Technology provides travelers with tools for staying connected and engaged with their favorite vacation destinations. Fifty percent of survey participants viewed social media posts every week that reminded that them of their most-loved trips. Respondents’ most-used methods of staying connected were following a destination on social media, adding a destination to their weather app or applying a related wallpaper on their phone or computer.
6. The study also suggested that post-pandemic travel is set to increase. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they typically spend less than five days per year on vacation before COVID-19 hit. Medium Travelers (those who took six to 14 vacation nights annually) comprised 29 percent of the field, while Heavy Travelers (who took 15 days or more each year) constituted 13 percent of respondents. Light Travelers (five days or less) reported that they intend to travel significantly more once the pandemic subsides, leading the Medium Travelers’ category to grow by an anticipated 15 percent.
Essentially, researchers discovered that taking steps to make travel happen is key to unlocking personal happiness. “We found that anticipation trumps nostalgia,” said Waters. “So, if you want to be instantly happier, book a trip.”