Why it might be a good idea to split your longer holidays up into several short ones and stay closer to home…
It’s an annual highlight for many Brits; a 2-week summer holiday. Between June and August, we all flock to warmer places on a much-needed break from our daily routines. But in recent years, a growing number of people are moving away from this holiday tradition and instead of dividing their time and budget over a number of shorter trips, which often includes weekend breaks in the UK. It’s a trend with some potential benefits to our health and happiness. Here’s why taking more mini- holidays and weekend breaks is an excellent idea.
1. Several short trips leave people happier than one long holiday
Travel offers us a unique escape from the restrictions and pressure of daily life. It’s a chance to break routines, reach a high level of relaxation, and discover new places. It also has a way of expanding our minds and open ourselves up to new perspectives. As Alain de Button put it in his book ‘The Art of Travel’, “Journeys are the midwives of thought. (…)There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places.” And this has proven health benefits; travel can lower stress levels, boost creativity, and lower risk of heart disease.
But a holiday doesn’t necessarily have to be a very long one to offer us these benefits. Though opinions range, academic research* has shown that the duration of a vacation doesn’t have much impact on the lasting benefits on our health and wellbeing. In fact, some psychologists even claim that there is a negative correlation between the length of a trip and the enjoyment we experience. Behavioural psychologist Dan Ariely, for instance, argues that ”[o]n a long vacation, day seven is less good than day one because it’s not as exciting. That’s why in general, going away four times [a year] provides more benefit than you would expect, and going away for one week provides less benefit than you would expect.” It might be better, then, to use your holiday allowance in bursts rather than all in one go.
2. The anticipation of travel makes you happy, too
At times, the anticipation of something enjoyable is as valuable as the thing itself. This can certainly apply to travel; much pleasure can be derived from designing an itinerary and conjuring an image in our minds of about-to-be-discovered places. And while travel might have its challenges at times (think delayed flights or unexpected bad weather), in anticipation, we carefully select for the positive. In fact, a Dutch study** found that the boost in our happiness is higher before than during a trip, regardless of the length of the trip. So the way to maximise on this anticipation effect would be to stagger our travel and experience this pre-trip joy as often as we can.
3. The UK has a lot to offer
Our fascination with things that are foreign and exotic can make us forget that we’re surrounded by plenty of things that are worth exploring. As Brits have been slowly moving towards splitting their holidays up into more shorter ones, ABTA stats*** show that there has also been a careful increase in holidays taken in the UK. And for good reason! Sure, the weather might be a tad unpredictable, but the UK has plenty of ingredients for a great trip; beautiful beaches, quaint villages, and a vast variety of stunning landscapes. Moreover, there’s a particularly good offering of active weekend breaks in the UK; think about climbing sea stacks in Ireland, exploring rivers on a canoe in the Scottish Highlands, or hiking in Yorkshire.
4. Be a Weekend Warrior
Speaking of active weekend breaks, these are a great way to stay fit for those who simply can’t squeeze the necessary exercise regimes into their busy work weeks. A medical study by the Jama Network **** concluded that so called ‘weekend warriors’ — people who are relatively inactive during the week but exercise vigorously for at least 75 minutes during weekends — experience considerable health benefits from their weekend habits. Compared to people who are inactive throughout the week, the weekend warriors that were studied had a significantly decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and a range of other health issues. And while regular exercisers appeared healthier still, the difference between them and weekend warriors was fairly small. So even if your weeks are too full, or if you simply don’t have the energy for exercise after a long workday, weekends are a great opportunity to get active and reach a good fitness level.
5. Easier logistics
Shorter trips are often easier to plan than long holidays, particularly if you’re staying in the UK. You can save yourself a lot of hassle when you don’t need to pack as much, when you don’t have to check in bags at the airport, or — even easier — if you can use your own car to get to your destination. There’s also no language-barrier, currency confusion, or jet lag.
6. Travel Outside the Holiday Season
Taking short weekend trips allows you to avoid the busy holiday season, which means avoiding the headaches that come with the mass movements of tourists; long traffic jams, busy airports, jammed beaches, and long queues at major tourist destinations. Plus, during peak holiday times you can expect to pay a premium for flights, train journeys, accommodation, and activities, so travelling outside the busy season has a financial benefit too.
7. Local holidays will cut your carbon footprint
Travelling comes at an environmental cost. This goes for all modes of transport, but flying has a disproportionately large impact, and it’s one of the fastest growing sources of global greenhouse gas emissions. If you’re keen to minimise your carbon footprint, you might want to consider avoiding a long-haul flight and instead opting for a destination closer to home.
For some outdoor inspiration check out the independent activities available at Wilderness Now: