Long weekends or week-long trips: What’s the best way to vacation?

WASHINGTON — What’s the optimum way to vacation? Take a couple of long weekends through the year, or one or two big trips?

The burning question of how best to relax is the subject of a study. The Wall Street Journal reports that psychologists who have been studying how to create the ideal vacation have found longer getaways aren’t always better than weekend jaunts.

It turns out that some people lucky enough to be able to take time off work enjoy planning their trips as much as being on them, the study says. And after two days away, most reach peak relaxation.

Dr. Jessica de Bloom tells The Journal that holidays work like sleep — most people need regular recovery from work in order to stay healthy long-term.

But the post-doctoral fellow at the University of Tampere, in Finland, says that after studying 54 vacationers over an average of 23 days, an eight-day trip could be the ideal vacation. That finding was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies in 2013.

For those who question whether to go somewhere new or somewhere they love, The Wall Street Journal reports that psychologists recommend planning a new experience over heading back to a favorite haunt. Otherwise, vacations tend to blend together over time.

And while finally putting your toes in the sand is wonderful, many vacationers say they enjoyed looking forward to the trip as much as the experience itself.

Participants in a University of Colorado study looking at anticipation versus reflection reported “pre-living” their vacation gave them a better feeling than reflecting back on the trip. Having autonomy on the vacation was also a reported relaxation benefit.

Psychologists tell the WSJ another way to unwind is to take control of the vacation schedule — whether that means a rigorous itinerary or none at all — and mentally detach from what you’re taking a vacation from.

While many can’t take the optimum eight-day vacation that psychologists recommend, most can focus on easing back into work to prolong the benefits gained during the time off.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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