Donald Trump's Criticism of Vacations May Be Right: Studies

Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Two tweets from Donald Trump, nearly a year apart from each other, went viral on Wednesday. One from November 19, 2012, saw Trump quote from his book, Think Like a Billionaire with this bit of advice: “Don’t take vacations. What’s the point? If you’re not enjoying your work, you’re in the wrong job.” (At the time President Barack Obama was in Thailand and then Myanmar.)

As of Thursday, that tweet had 21,000 up-votes on Reddit, the seventh-most popular website on the internet. “This tweet has aged particularly well,” sarcastically commented one user.

And and a second, far more critical tweet of Obama, from December 19, 2013, declared: “Pres. Obama is about to embark on a 17 day vacation in his ‘native’ Hawaii, putting Secret Service away from families on Christmas. Aloha!” This one is funny for a two reasons:

1. On Thursday, The Hill reported that Trump will also take a 17-day vacation later this month to a golf club bearing his name in New Jersey. It will be his first official vacation since he was inaugurated.

2. Also, Trump was still then very much stoking his birther theory with some sarcastic quotation marks around the word “native.”

But the thing is, Trump may be right about long vacations, in that they don’t need to be as long and they don’t have lasting effects, according to two studies on the matter.

The news of Trump’s vacation comes off reports that he spends a lot of time in the White House watching TV and that he regularly flies to the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on weekends, attempting to call the country club the “Winter White House.” Does he need a 17-day vacation?

Former United States President Barack Obama plays a round of golf at the Old Course on May 26, 2017 in St Andrews, Scotland.

Getty Images / Robert Perry

Other tweets from Trump critical of vacation include:

  • “Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf. Worse than Carter.” (October 13, 2014.)
  • “We pay for Obama’s travel so he can fundraise millions so Democrats can run on lies. Then we pay for his golf.” (October 14, 2014.)

The criticism of golfing hasn’t aged well, either:

Donald Trump plays a round of golf after the opening of The Trump International Golf Links Course on July 10, 2012 in Balmedie, Scotland.

Getty Images / Ian MacNicol

But the 71-year-old president — and Obama before him — might have been wiser to take shorter vacations. Anything more than a week is too long, according to psychologist Daniel Kahneman. That’s because the second week of a two-week vacation is usually forgotten. Human brains only remember what’s new, and by the second week of a vacation, what’s new is old, Kahneman says.

Additionally, this fascinating study published in 2010 in the journal Applied Research in the Quality of Life found that the most happiness derived from a vacation comes from planning the vacation. A study pool of 1,530 Dutch adults — 974 of whom took a vacation during the 32-week study period — revealed that vacationers who reported a “relaxing” vacation felt no more happy than people who hadn’t gone to a golf course or a beach or wherever.

“Vacations do make people happy,” the lead author, Jeroen Nawijn, tourism research lecturer at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, told the New York Times. “But we found people who are anticipating holiday trips show signs of increased happiness, and afterward there is hardly an effect.”

So while Trump’s old tweets criticizing vacations (and Obama) make him look foolish as he’s about to embark on a vacation himself, his real happiness might have been in planning the thing, and when he gets back, he might find he’s no more happy for the time off.

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