The Psychology of Vacation Anticipation

The Psychology of Vacation Anticipation

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”

It’s called anticipation, and Pooh was right!

Just like Pooh thought, the anticipation of going on a vacation is just as thrilling as the vacation itself. As a matter of fact, there are many positive impacts on your body and mind when you travel. There are similar, and longer lasting, benefits that you receive just from taking the time to plan the trip.

When you plan for, and anticipate, going on a vacation you psychologically become excited. It’s a well-known fact that the brain physically releases chemicals that cause these feelings, and just by knowing that you are taking the time to get away these chemicals will be released. This is great news for employers too because while employees are planning for and thinking about their trip, they are more focused on getting work completed before they leave, more interested in collaborating with coworkers with a smile, and just generally cheerier to work with.

This is because our brains emit chemicals such as Serotonin, Endorphins, Oxytoxin and Dopamine, all of which contribute to making us feel happy. According to, a Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness website, “Dopamine is a neurotransmitter often referred to as the “chemical of reward.” When you score a goal, hit a target, or accomplish a task, you receive a pleasurable hit of dopamine in your brain that tells you you’ve done a good job.” This also applies to planning and saving for a vacation – it’s your reward for working hard.

These chemicals, specifically Dopamine, can have long lasting effects on our bodies and minds depending on how actively engaged you are in the vacation planning process. So where having a quick, spontaneous “weekend getaway” is great, it’s physically and mentally better for you to plan out your time away and reap the benefits of that planning process for a much longer period.

So, what can you do to make the most of your vacation planning process?

  • Book more frequent vacations. Even if your vacations are shorter in length, having more frequent periods of time away allows you to have multiple planning cycles which increases your vacation anticipation index.
  • Spread out your research. You don’t have to plan your whole vacation during one marathon session. You should intentionally take the time over a few weeks or even months to finish the planning process. Of course, you should book your hotel, air, and car rental as quickly as possible to receive the best rate. But your activities and even planning which restaurants you want to go to should be spread out over time.
  • Share your plans with friends and family. Talk about going on vacation with your loved ones and what you are planning to do while you are away. Talking about vacation can cause the same chemical release as actually doing the activity.
  • Share on social media. For your security don’t share the exact dates you are traveling, but you can share that you are going away and ask for recommendations for activities at your destinations – or even ask for recommendations for fun and exciting destinations. Your friends and family will enjoy being included in your planning experience.
  • Save throughout the year. By putting a little money aside each pay period towards your vacation you can enjoy watching your balance grow. Knowing you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation debt-free will reduce your stress level regarding paying for your trip.

It’s well documented in a random controlled trial by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health that even short vacations (four days or more) can have up to a 45-day residual benefit for you and that is fantastic news.  However, the benefits that are received by planning the vacation can last much longer than that. On average it takes 10-20 hours to research and plan a vacation. You can maximize the benefits of planning by spreading the planning time over weeks or even months. if that’s not enough good positive juju for you, you can add weeks of enjoyment talking about it, posting about it, and dreaming about it.

We at 401(play) believe that all employers should harness this power!  When employees plan, save and go on vacation employers reap several benefits. From a performance management standpoint, it’s easier to manage employees who exude happiness and are easy to work with. Happy employees generally have less physical and mental health issues too which reduce medical spend. In addition, there is also the added benefit that those with planned vacation time are less inclined to take unscheduled PTO. Lastly, our program provides employers with a showcase employee benefit to demonstrate they their company is a unique, fun, and exciting place to work.

Through our program, employees can research and book different vacation destinations at a discount, leverage our proprietary social media platform to connect with loved ones to share travel plans, itinerary’s and even book exciting excursions to make their vacation even more thrilling. Most importantly, our tool can help employees save for that vacation through convenient payroll deductions.

To learn more about how 401(play) can help you turn your employees vacation dreams into vacation reality contact us today at

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