Lonely Planet Writer

Discover the five things you need to do to help make your vacation a success

We all dream of getting away from the stresses of everyday life and basking in the sun on a beach tops many people’s wish-lists, but one tourism expert has warned that lying around is not the best way to recharge yourself and doing nothing can make you feel anxious. Xinran Lehto, from Purdue University in Indiana, came to the conclusion when examining the top factors that contribute to a restorative vacation.

An expert says that beach holidays are bad for your mental health. Image: Henglein and Steets

“After a while you get bored and anxious, then you start thinking about work and things at home that you need to do,” she says. “That’s not healthy for you. Instead, the place should have enough variation of interest and activities that have depth for you to be engaged with.” Lehto, a member of the Purdue Tourism and Hospitality Research Center, says that planning a peaceful and engaging vacation is crucial in today’s demanding work environment, and her study suggests five factors that will contribute to a successful trip.

Young women hanging out at the beach, at sunset
Planning a peaceful and engaging vacation is crucial in today’s demanding work environment. Image by Klaus Vedfelt

Xinran Lehto’s recipe for a successful vacation

Fascination: “A very fatigued person, a very tired person, really should go to a place that provides fascination instead of a place that’s already set in stone in their minds. It is important for a travel destination to provide environments and activities that can pique your imagination and curiosity without requiring you to exert the mental energy associated with your everyday life.”

Compatibility: “It would be optimal if you go to a place where you are at ease and you feel compatible, so you don’t exert energy feeling anxious or having intensity of cognition. You are in harmony with the setting; and the activities, the services they provide are in harmony with the setting; and the chance for you to feel recharged is better.”

It’s good to feel physically and mentally far away from your everyday life on holidays. Image: valentinrussanov

“Away-ness”: “You have to feel that you are physically and mentally far away from your ‘everyday-ness.’ If you are seeking rejuvenation benefits, travelling to places that physically contrast your everyday living environment in geographic or locale characteristics, such as contrasting climate, physical terrains or tangible cultural and built landscapes, may be conducive to gaining such vacation benefits.”

Mental ‘away-ness’: “This is much harder because of our connection with technology, but it is important to effectively recover from mental fatigue. That psychological distance between your usual routine or ongoing pursuit of activities and purposes is needed for you to feel renewed. When you have a break, have a real break.”

Orientation: “Orientation – service, signage and everything that helps you orient yourself – is very important so you’re at ease, you feel like you have a sense of place. You feel like you’re empowered and it helps regain directed attention that you are deprived of on a daily basis.”