Don’t fall for the vacation paradox

The less planned the better!

  • Research
  • Tourism
  • Leisure & events
  • About BUas

Stress-related issues such as depression, burnout, and loneliness are first, second, and third in the European welfare disease rankings. As a result, much-needed relaxation in the form of a vacation has shifted from a luxury product to a basic need. However, the urge for an optimal vacation experience combined with a large range of options creates choice stress and a vacation that is often planned and organised to perfection.

“Paradoxical,” conclude researchers Marcel Bastiaansen and Ondrej Mitas of Breda University of Applied Sciences (BUas). "To have an optimal vacation experience, it is precisely essential to be open to the unexpected and unplanned. That very experience makes for an optimal vacation feeling and reduces stress."

BUas conducted research into experiencing leisure and vacations in the Experience Lab by directly measuring emotions from the body and brain with the aid of psychophysiological and neuroscientific techniques. The researchers also used questionnaires and interviews. Various research projects showed that specifically non-scheduled experiences create the most positive emotions and hence, the most memorable experiences.

“The funny thing is that we in Western societies are inclined to organise our vacation in the same way as our work: carefully planned and organised, selected, and prioritised. As a result, we run the risk of no longer being open to spontaneous experiences, such as making real contact with somebody in a destination or unexpectedly exploring an authentic market or church that you come across. That’s a shame because we deprive ourselves from an optimal experience and the relaxation we need so much.” So, the advice issued by the researchers as summer vacations approach: “Plan less ahead for your holiday. Make only an overall travel plan and leave room for the new and the unexpected. Get to know new people. This will contribute significantly to improving your well-being!”

Persoon met een VR bril op