So, 2019 has been a wash for me when it comes to capital-V Vacation. Do I wish I were on the Amalfi Coast, like everyone else seemed to be this summer? Of course. I’m in the midst of vacation temptation: it’s hot and I’m absorbing travel pics on Instagram by the dozens. I’m utterly primed to have a last-minute, poorly planned, and very stressful vacation on my credit card. Can’t have that.
So this week, we’re talking about why now is the perfect time to start planning next summer’s big vacation.
Try This Tactic
Ready for a legit vacation without going broke? Using US consumer survey data, ValuePenguin pegged the average cost of a 12-night, international vacation at $3,200 or so, or a weeklong international vacation at around $1,700. Assuming like most Americans you receive roughly 26 paychecks per year, you’ll have $1,700 by next July have if you save roughly $66 per paycheck.
To make sure you hit that number each paycheck, set up an automatic withdrawal either using your bank or an external account. Digit and Qapital are popular in particular for vacation saving because they let you indicate buckets of money for certain goals. Digit also has an interesting algorithm that tries to direct money into savings buckets without you noticing.
Foolproof Your Dream Vacation
Vacation is important, possibly even for our health. A 40-year study from the European Society of Cardiology, all businessmen in Helsinki, Finland born between 1919 and 1934 — found that those who took three weeks of vacation or fewer had a 37 percent higher chance of dying between 1974 to 2004 than those who took more.
There’s a caveat. These men were all receiving written interventions reminding them to be healthier. If they didn’t receive the interventions, the extra risk for mortality disappeared. But the experiment still serves as evidence of how important stress reduction can be for our long-term health.
On the other hand, a lot of us do vacation wrong. As the great Annie Lowry recently pointed out in The Atlantic, a combination of cheaper flights, a growing global middle class, social media, and Google Maps have all helped drive an explosion in the number of global tourists, from just 70 million in 1960 to 1.4 billion or so last year.
As she also points out that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it does mean that over-tourism is starting to erode the appeal for some of the most popular destinations. Venice has a population of just 50,000 people, but it hosted 20 million tourists last year. I’ve seen the pictures, and I’m aware how beautiful Venice is. But the point of a vacation is to relax.
People are also overextending themselves financially to take these shitty vacations. Roughly three quarters of Americans take on some debt to pay for a vacation, according to data from LearnVest, to the tune of around $1,100. I’m sure a lot of that travel spending is coming from weddings, family trips, and other delightfully expensive obligations we sometimes find ourselves using to justify a credit card swipe.
Nothing neuters your post-vacation high like a spending hangover. Here are a few other ideas for how to save for and enjoy a vacation of your dreams.
3. You Revisited Your Vacation Plans Before You Booked
A common piece of vacation advice is that planning is half the fun, so you should plan vacations far in advance so you can enjoy the anticipation more. But this strategy can also have a downside. If you spend the next 11 months fantasizing about your vacation in Cabo, you’ll start romanticizing the hell out of Cabo. A 2012 study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that these rose-tinted glasses lead to bad consumer decisions, like, say, passing on the cheaper flight to a place that’s just like Cabo, or glossing over the shady TripAdvisor reviews and fixating on the glowing ones.
In other words, while it’s a good idea to start saving now for next year’s vacation, hold off on choosing the destination until January or February, when the flights will be cheapest (usually 5-6 months ahead for an international flight).
2. You Made Your Work-Handover a Work of Art
One reason why vacation seems to be showing diminishing returns in some respects is that people are more and more likely to work during them. Some 59 percent of respondents in a recent Linkedin survey reported checking in with their boss or colleagues at least once a day during vacation.
To prevent this from happening, and send a not-so-subtle signal that the away message on your email is for-realsies, make your handover documents a work of art. Start it at least a few weeks before you go, pay attention to formatting (a mix of tables for deadlines and dates; and prose-paragraphs for explanations; and bullets or lists for instructions), and don’t forget to pick up a souvenir for whoever covers for you. Here’s a good check-list.
1. You Deadlined the Details
In 2013, a psychologist and a happiness researcher teamed up to study why some vacations make people happy and why some don’t. By far, the biggest factor for vacation-haters was poor planning. “Oh, you’re going to just ‘walk around and get a feel’ for Venice? In July? With 2 million other people squeezed onto a tiny, sinking island?”
Not to keep ragging on Venice, but you get the idea. Some 74 percent of angry vacationers say the most stressful part is planning the details. Set deadlines to have your flights and hotels booked (6 months out); your itineraries sketched out (3 months out); even your restaurant reservations (1-3 weeks out). If this feels like overkill, just remember you can always blow stuff off. It is your vacation, after all.