Your list of things to do before vacation might look something like this: Check-in for flights, pack suitcases, turn off the air conditioner, give keys to the pet sitter…
But if you want to boost your happiness levels, there’s one key activity to put on your travel to-do list—savor the anticipation of your vacation. Because according to scientific research, when it comes to travel, the waiting is the happiest part.
If you’ve ever been excited for a trip (is there any other way?), then it should come as no surprise that travel and happiness go hand in hand. What’s not as obvious, though, is that it’s not the trip itself that makes us happiest, according to a psychological study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, it’s the looking forward to it.
What about reminiscing about our travels after they’re over? Another study from 2007 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that anticipation is more evocative than retrospection. So, to sum it up, if you want to boost the happy-giving powers of travel, spend more time savoring the waiting.
9 Ways to Boost Pre-Travel Excitement
Isn’t trip excitement something that comes naturally? Of course. However, according to this New York Times article, happiness researcher and associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia Elizabeth Dunn, notes that we get more benefits from proactively engaging in our anticipation rather than passively enjoying it.
In other words, according to these studies, to get the most out of your trip, start immersing yourself in all things destination-centric and intentionally savor every last drop of the days, weeks or months before takeoff.
To help you soak up those happy vibes, here are nine things to do before vacation.
Watch Movies and Read Books Set in Your Destination
Start filling up your Netflix queue with TV shows or movies set in your destination. There’s more and more foreign programing available on Netflix these days, so you might be surprised by what you find. Otherwise, try searching on YouTube or your local library.
Books are another immersive way to dive into the culture you’ll be visiting and to educate yourself about your destination as well. You can find all the destination-centric book lists you could ever need right here.
Make Destination-Centric Playlists
Playlists are another great way to use media to boost pre-travel excitement. You can choose music from your destination or tunes that inspire the feeling you get when you think about your trip.
Talk About Your Trip
Grab coffee with a friend who’s traveled to your destination. They’ll love telling you about their experiences and you’ll get plenty of great tips too. Don’t know anyone who fits the bill? Just chat about your plans with other travel-interested folks to rev up the excitement.
Cook a Local Recipe
Creating a traditional dish from your destination is an easy way to spark a little everyday adventure and boost pre-travel happiness. It’s also a fun way to remember your vacation once you’ve returned. Tip: local spices make a wonderful minimalist souvenir.
Practice the Language
It’s wise (and thoughtful) to learn a few local words before you arrive in your destination. A simple “hello,” “goodbye,” “please,” and “thank you” will go a long way. There are plenty of ways to go about this, Google translate being the most straightforward option. If you want to immerse yourself more, try a language learning podcast like Coffee Break Languages, Duolingo or TripLingo.
Save Trip Ideas on Pinterest
If you’re not using Pinterest for travel planning yet, it’s time to change that asap. Instagram is great for spotting locations, but Pinterest is where you’ll find the best tips, itineraries and inspiration for your trip. Let yourself get lost down the Pinterest rabbit hole and create a board for your dream trip with everything from city guides to local style inspiration and packing essentials. Check out The Reset Ritual’s account to kickstart your search.
Keep Up With Your Destination’s Local News
Have you ever watched the local news while traveling? It’s an immediate way to see your destination through a local’s eyes. While streaming restrictions might make watching tv news difficult, you can almost always find a local newspaper online. With the help of google translate, you can read about the daily goings on of your destination and boost anticipation for your vacation.
Visit Museum Exhibitions or Cultural Centers in Your Hometown
See if there’s a local club or cultural society for your destination in your hometown. Often these communities will put on themed events or celebrate the festivals. If not, research your local museums to see if there are any destination-centric exhibitions.
Set Your Trip Intentions
Grab your favorite drink and cozy up on the couch to think about what you want to experience while you’re away. Not just what you want to see and do, but how you want to feel and what you want to explore within yourself by setting intentions for your trip.