Study shows travel is the secret to happiness

Global research funded by Booking.com shows that travel makes people happy. Nearly half of those surveyed ranked vacations above their wedding day as a source of happiness, and 29% said travel provides more of an emotional boost than having a baby.

Almost half (49%) of people say a holiday brings them more happiness than their wedding day, while over half (51%) prefer travelling over going on a date with their partner.

  • Three quarters of people (77%) book a holiday to cheer themselves up when they’re in need of a happiness boost.
  • Seven out of ten (70%) then have the best time on holiday when they can make themselves at home in their accommodation.
  • Over two thirds of us find happiness staying in a hotel, hostel or villa (67%), another third feel happiest staying in an apartment or home with local residents (33%).

Whatever type of holiday you prefer – whether it’s a 5-star luxury beach villa or a cosy bed & breakfast tucked away in the countryside – it’s a truth universally acknowledged that travel makes us happy.

But now, global research commissioned by Booking.com, the leader in connecting people with the most incredible places to stay, has revealed that travel gives us such an emotional boost, we consider planning and going away on holiday more vital for our happiness than other big life occasions – such as our own wedding day (49%), going on a date with your partner (51%), landing a new job (50%), getting engaged (45%), and even having a baby (29%). Furthermore, 77% say they book a holiday just when they’re in need of a happiness boost.

The research, which questioned 17,000 people from 17 countries, revealed that for the majority, travel experiences, anything from backpacking, to boutique B&B breaks, family villa holidays, or even exotic and remote retreats, brings more lasting happiness than material things (70%). Which explains why most people (56%) prioritise holidays over possessions such as clothes, jewellery and gadgets while almost half (48%) rank travel over home improvements.

The emotional lift that travel brings hits at each stage of the travel process from planning, through booking to actually going on holiday. And it’s the planning stages that give the most immediate boosts in happiness, with nearly three quarters of people (72%) saying they get a kick of excitement just from researching where to go on holiday. Over half (56%) agree they then feel happiest when booking their holiday, underlining the importance of instant booking when it comes to securing an ideal stay.

Shawn Achor, BA, MA, Harvard, one of the world’s leading experts on happiness, NY Times bestselling author and speaker known for his advocacy of positive psychology explains:

“In a world where every dollar and hour count, travellers are looking for a higher return than ever on their investment of time and money. Why take time off and pay money to be more stressed and less happy?

The data from this new Booking.com study highlights how there is a very significant correlation between enjoying the booking experience, and happiness during the actual trip – meaning that one of the best predictors of a happy vacation is to have an enjoyable booking process. Travel planned well and instantly booked with ease can dramatically improve your happiness, no matter what type of stay and trip you seek. This links to my previous researched published in Harvard Business Review indicating that, unlike the average vacation, well-planned, low stress vacations have a 94% chance of returning you to work with greater levels of energy, engagement and happiness.”

In fact, we are so addicted to planning and booking our trips, that over a third admit to researching holidays months in advance (35%) – with an eager 5% planning over a year in advance.

This is then followed by the anticipation of what’s to come. Between booking and actually travelling, over a third admit to chasing a happiness boost by thinking about their holiday one or more times a day (39%). In preparation, eight out of ten (80%) find happiness in looking at a map and researching places to visit, and over half like planning and shopping for their holiday wardrobe (52%). Almost eight out of 10 people (79%) say scrolling through pictures of destinations and beautiful accommodations – from apartments to villas, hotels and B&Bs – help them to feel happy in the run up to their holiday – and another six out of ten (61%) enjoy continuing to read reviews of the accommodation they’ve just booked.

Yet, all the anticipation in the world can’t replace the happiness of actually being on holiday with six out of ten (62%) feeling a surge of happiness when they set their out of office and leave work. Almost nine out of ten (87%) say it’s the first day of a holiday and seeing their accommodation for the first time (83%) that are the happiest holiday moments. From then on, 70% say they have the best time on holiday when they can make themselves at home wherever they stay. Over two thirds find happiness when staying in a hotel, hostel or villa (67%), and another third feel happiest staying in an apartment or home with local residents (33%).

Achor continues:

“Study after study has indicated that there is a huge boost to happiness in the “anticipatory phase” which occurs while planning and visualising a trip. This new Booking.com research shows how significant this boost really is–on par or better than getting engaged.

“Based on a decade of research, the greatest competitive advantage in the modern world is a positive and engaged brain. In fact, I recently found that people who take all of their vacation days are not only happier, they are 34% more likely to receive a bonus over the next three years. Happy travel pays.”

David Mau, director of product, Booking.com comments:

“With people booking over 1.1 million room nights every day on Booking.com, we know just how important travel and enjoying that perfect stay is to people’s overall happiness. We also understand that exactly what makes each us of really happy when we travel is different, which is why we focus so much energy on helping people find the perfect place to stay and travel experience to suit them, whatever their budget, interests and needs. A rustic treehouse in the Swedish countryside may be your idea of Nirvana, while for someone else it might be a posh apartment in downtown Tokyo. Whichever it is, we have it.

“The research reveals the excitement people feel when they can easily research potential places to go and types of places to stay. With over 1 million properties worldwide that have more than 23 million bookable rooms in over 30 types of accommodation in over 94,000 destinations around the world, people can boost their happiness in a few simple clicks on Booking.com.”

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