Does a Perfect Vacation Exist?

What would be more pleasurable, more relaxing and more fun: a trip to the Cape for the weekend or a 2-week vacation in Rome?

While this is an entirely subjective question, with thousands of ‘what ifs’ surrounding it, Drake Bennett argues in today’s Boston Globe that the success of a vacation is measured by the ‘peak-ends,’ not its length. His theory says that a person remembers their trip by either the high or low points, rather than the average every day activities. For example, if you fulfill a life-long dream and learn to surf on the Cape in just 3 days, compared to exploring museums and historical landmarks in Rome (that you may not be interested in), you will remember the Cape as a much more enjoyable vacation.  Bennett’s article, “The Perfect Vacation” focuses on how to optimize money and time before and during a vacation as well as how it affects your memory of the vacation.

From the perspective of a Gen Y, whose vacations have been paid for by their parents and has an infinite amount of time to relax (with no real stresses), I disagree with some of Bennett’s points.

The majority of my vacations have been to two different places: Casalvieri, Italy, where my grandparents grew up and live during the summer, and Jackson, NH, where my family owns a vacation home. Because I have been on plenty of weekend trips to NH and extended vacations to Italy, I can understand both the short and long vacations he talks about. Maybe it is just the way we choose to relax, but my family finds the most pleasure in simply being together, enjoying a delicious meal and talking for hours. Before my family’s trips to Italy, the greatest anticipation comes from our excitement to walk around the marketplace, spend time with our family or spend our days eating, napping, lounging around and talking.

My family does take weekend excursions to break up our daily routines (which Bennett does discuss). He argues that if you break up a long vacation, you will feel the ‘peak-ends’ much more intensely. While I do remember weekends in Florence and the Amalfi Coast, most of my memories consist of watching my grandmother make dinner or reading outside with my grandfather. Most of my family would agree that we prefer our vacation to be of that nature – without the stress of driving around Italy and worrying about things such as money, where to stay, what sites to see, where to eat and the list goes on…

Since our lives are filled with so much stress already, my family tries its best to limit the stress on our vacations in order to guarantee the most relaxing experience as possible. Bennett argues that worrying about the best ways to optimize your vacation counteracts the actual idea of a vacation. On a shorter trip, you may feel obligated to optimize your time since it is more valuable – maybe this is why one might feel even more stressed on a shorter vacation than a longer one.

Bennett mentions the need to test yourself on vacation; this will lead to either a high or low point that will eventually evaluate the success of your vacation. On a longer, more expensive vacation, it may not make sense financially to ‘test yourself.’ In such a beautiful and timeless country like Italy, where the vacations are typically longer, it does not make as much sense to go hand gliding off of a mountain (especially when that is not the main draw to visit Italy).

On a shorter vacation, where you are not spending as much money on hotels, food and souvenirs, you may have some money set aside for an adventure. In a place like New Hampshire, where most people would probably only like to spend a short amount of time, one may be more interested in skiing or swimming under waterfalls in order to get the most out of the trip.

The driving point behind Bennett’s article is that a short vacation is considered more fun if the highpoints were higher than those on a longer vacation. While there definitely is truth to his opinion, Bennett neglects to include that some people may prefer the simplicity of relaxing on the beach or strolling around a market without having to worry about work, kids, school, bills and all the other day-to-day stresses.

Most Nickerson associates agree that a longer vacation is more satisfying because it allows you to truly enjoy the destination without as much traveling, and thus allowing you to relax more. However, one of my fellow associates made a good point: shorter vacations allow you to have more flexibility, see more places and travel more frequently. Either way, there may be no such thing as a ‘perfect vacation’ but I am willing to keep searching!

Written by Rachel Licciardi

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