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Monday, November 29, 2021

Why planning a holiday is more satisfying than the real thing

The summer holiday was the key event of the year back then. Unless a generous family friend owned a gite in Dordogne or had a des res in Cornwall, that precious fortnight was the only getaway. Hence deciding where to go required elaborate discussion, extensive deliberation and a postal order or cheque sent first class – to exactly the same hotel as every other year.

I know this makes me sound like a nonagenarian but such was our analogue existence, even as recently as the Eighties; remember the World Wide Web didn’t come into being until 1993, kids. Throw in the advent of budget airlines around the same time and that’s when short hop travel really took off.

Pre-pandemic, city breaks were easy. A weekend in Barcelona or Stockholm could be sorted on a mobile with a few swipes. But the coronavirus, with its myriad restrictions and shifting regulations, changed everything. Throw in post-COP26 guilt over emissions and frankly any bright young things boasting about their Copenhagen minibreak risk being Amsterdammed for poisoning the planet.

It’s tricky territory to negotiate. Last month, researchers at the University of Manchester found the main culprit for aviation emissions across Europe is countless short-haul flights. Just another reason why long haul is starting to make a lot of sense in the long run. And if you book early there are unexpected benefits that extend far beyond bagging a better deal.

Anticipating a holiday has been proven to boost mental health. Zoning out at your desk to visualise that Japanese cherry blossom, trekking to Machu Picchu or whale-watching off Cape Town generates a feelgood factor well worth a few delayed emails.

“What we know is that having something in the future to look forward to enables people to feel optimistic and gives them something positive to focus on when things feel challenging and stressful,” is the verdict of psychologist Honey Langcaster, director of services at global consultancy On Set Welfare.

“Over and above going on the break itself, if you’re travelling with someone, whether they’re friends or extended family, you can reinforce that excitement by talking about activities you want to do and bonding over it.”

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