When it comes to mak­ing last­ing memories, the way you plan your trip is more im­por­tant than how much you spend on it

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Advice - BY CHRIS WELLER

Like an all-you- can- eat break­fast buf­fet, hol­i­day op­tions can be too much of a good thing. Do you take an ocean cruise? A trek through the moun­tains? A food tour in Sin­ga­pore? Re­search has shown that when the hu­man mind encounters too many op­tions, it shuts down. Psy­chol­o­gist Barry Schwartz calls it the para­dox of choice. Some choice is bet­ter than none, he says, but it doesn’t hold that more is al­ways bet­ter than less. So be­fore mak­ing the fi­nal de­ci­sion on where to go, nar­row down your choices to just two. You’ll for­get all the others and feel con­fi­dent that you picked the best one.


A week-long trip is ac­tu­ally com­posed of three things, ac­cord­ing to be­hav ioura l economi s t Dan Ariely: months of an­tic­i­pat ion, the trip it­self and the nostal­gia you ex­pe­ri­ence for years af­ter­wards. To max­imise your en­joy­ment, you should cater to all three stages. Air­fare is cheap­est ap­prox­i­mately five months be­fore a do­mes­tic flight, ac­cord­ing to Skyscan­ner’s web­site, so it’s wise to hold off on fi­nal­is­ing plans un­til then. But you can still browse ho­tels or take vir­tual roller-coaster rides on YouTube months be­fore that. One 2010 Dutch study found that peo­ple were hap­pier be­fore a trip than they were af­ter they re­turned. That’s be­cause an­tic­i­pat ion is a pow­er­ful thing – it’s essen­tially the same rea­son you’re hap­pier on Fri­day than on Sunday.


Be­havioural econ­o­mist Daniel Kah­ne­man ar­gues that we’re made up of two selves: our ex­pe­ri­enc­ing self and our re­mem­ber­ing self. The ex­pe­ri­enc­ing self lives in the moment. The re­mem­ber­ing self lives in the past. Our re­mem­ber­ing self has a hard time telling a one-week hol­i­day from a two-week one be­cause, as

Kah­ne­man says, “There are no new memories added. You have not changed the story.” From the per­spec­tive of the re­mem­ber­ing self, short and long hol­i­days are ef­fec­tively equal. If you are look­ing to save some money, shorter is the way to go.


Brian Chris­tian, a com­puter sci­en­tist and the co-au­thor of Al­go­rithms to Live By, says prob­a­bil­ity can help us de­cide when to try new things and when to stick with the fa­mil­iar. It’s called the ex­plore/ex­ploit trade-off (ex­ploit here is a com­put­ing term that ba­si­cal ly means ‘savour’). “One should gen­er­ally be more ex­ploratory at the start of a hol­i­day … and more ‘ex­ploita­tive’ at the end,” he ex­plains. This is be­cause your chances of find­ing a place or an ex­pe­ri­ence that you like bet­ter than the ones you’ve al­ready tried re­duce as time passes. Ev­ery­thing is new on day one, so em­brace that. By day seven, you’ll have the high­est odds of en­joy­ing your­self if you re­visit a favourite spot from ear­lier in the trip. There’s one ex­cep­tion ...


An­other find­ing from Kah­ne­man is the so-called peak-end rule: peo­ple re­mem­ber the peak and end of an event best. If you were given a list of names, for in­stance, you’d prob­a­bly re­mem­ber the most unique names and the names that ap­peared at the end of the list. Hol­i­days work the same way. If you can, sched­ule the river cruise or big win­ery tour to­wards the mid­dle of the trip, since you’ll re­mem­ber it as a ‘peak’. Then make sure you’ve saved some­thing equally as amaz­ing for the end.


If a cycling trip got you fired up, tell ev­ery­one about it af­ter you get back. Re­search on hap­pi­ness sug­gests that peo­ple can pre­serve how they feel about an ex­pe­ri­ence by talk­ing about it. A 2015 study even found that peo­ple re­ported greater hap­pi­ness lev­els when they talked about their ex­per iences rather than their mater ial pur­chases. It’s a suref ire way to keep the joys of a hol­i­day alive in the months af­ter you re­turn home.

When it comes to cre­at­ing great memories, a short trip is just as good as a long one

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