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How to enjoy your vacation, before you even take it

11 Nov, 2018 | Behavioral Science, Travel

Fact: Vacations are awesome. But the planning? Not so much. Sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation planning. While it can definitely take a toll on your energy, it turns out the planning process can be just as enjoyable and exciting — if not more — than the actual event itself.

To boot, science says that when you save for something in advance, you’ll actually enjoy it even more. In this post, we’ll delve into the science of anticipatory enjoyment and help you navigate through your vacation planning sans the stress.

Anticipate it

We all know that cheap thrill you get when you order a pair of all-natural sheepskin chamois boots on Amazon Prime and have it shipped to you the next day. Impulse buys and instant gratification, amirite?

But there’s a different sort of excitement and feel-good rush that comes with looking forward to something on the horizon, like waiting all week to enjoy a mouth-watering Porterhouse at your favorite steakhouse in town. Somehow, all that waiting just makes it taste that much better.

I first recall feeling this when I was a kid, when I would save spare change wedged in between sofa seat cushions and from my allowance. I was saving it up for our annual church fiesta. After saving my coins for a few months, it was so much more fun spending my hard-earned cash on carnival games than if I was handed a wad of cash the day of.

A recent study reveals that a part of your prefrontal cortex becomes activated when you anticipate a positive upcoming event. In turn, this activation is linked to a general sense of well-being. So the next time you experience a case of the Monday Blues, think about that awesome trip you’ll soon take to turn it around.

Visualize it

Anticipation is like a cheap, free and healthy pill you take to boost your mood. A Dutch study surveyed soon-to-be vacationers and individuals without a trip planned and found that vacationers reported a higher degree of happiness (possibly because they anticipated their trip) than non-vacationers.

Visualization helps build anticipation. That’s why putting up photos of exotic, awesome-sauce locales at your workspace, the fridge, or your Qapital Goal gets you pumped up for your upcoming trip.

And you know how some people use a debt thermometer or a Pac-Man-esque game board to visualize paying off their debt? You can do the same thing, but for saving up for your goals.

For instance, create a grid made up of a bunch of squares. Let’s say you want to save $5,000 for a vacation in Vietnam. For every $250 you squirrel away toward your trip, color in a square. Do that 20 times and boom! You’ve hit your savings goal. Qapital helps you create anticipation as well. As you trigger your Rules through spending, you can see how much closer you’re getting to reaching your Goal!

Pre-pay for it

I used to tell people that I oftentimes enjoy looking forward to something more than looking back on it. It turns out I have the science to back me up — researchers have shown that people tend to experience more intense emotions about future events than those in the past. .

To help amp up the excitement, pre-pay for that trip. And each time you’re pre-paying for say, that hotel, car rental or flight, you can sit back and imagine what it would be like to actually be there. Trust me, it’s far better to anticipate by paying beforehand than to be saddled with D-E-B-T afterward and be challenged with debt hangover.

For an upcoming trip to Hawaii I’m taking with my partner, we paid for the airfare about three months ahead of time and the hotel and car rental about a month prior. Each time we covered one of the big-ticket items, I felt so much more at ease knowing we were ahead, not behind.

And when the trip actually happens, we don’t have to be too cautious about how much we spend. That’s because we already have a reserve for no-guilt spending.

Treat Yourself at Different Checkpoints

Want another way to add to the fun and excitement? Consider rewarding yourself for every milestone you hit — whether it’s reaching a mark on your savings goal, booking your hotel, handling pet boarding for your pooch or feline, or drumming up a loose itinerary.

One thing you can do is reward yourself with small purchases that have to do with your trip. For instance, if you’re escaping to white sands and tropical climes, reward your milestone by purchasing some snorkel gear or a swimsuit.

While it is time-consuming, just know that there’s joy in the anticipation that comes with planning for a trip. You don’t have to wait until the actual trip to enjoy it — the fun can begin the day you decide to go.

Setting a goal on Qapital is the best way to create anticipation for an upcoming trip. Don’t have the app? Download it today!

Jackie Lam