The peak-end rule

The peak-end rule

Psychologists and economists have advice about what really matters when it comes to vacations, and it’s not necessarily what we would expect:

  • How long we take off probably counts for less than we think
  • Taking more short trips leaves us happier than taking a few long ones
  • We’re often happier planning a trip than actually taking it
  • Interrupting a vacation can make us enjoy it more
  • How a trip ends matters more than how it begins
  • Because most importantly:

    See also:
    Airports as either first or last impressions of a city

    [W]hat matters far more is the intensity of sensation, whether it’s excitement or pain or contentment. And it’s not the overall average of the experience that people remember, but how they felt at the most intense moments, combined with how they felt right as the experience ended. Psychologists call this the “peak-end rule.”

    That means that:

    [W]orrying about whether it’s possible to get extra days off to stretch a trip is wasted energy. And if you’re deciding between a longer trip and a more eventful one — if, for example, the money it would cost for a few more nights in a hotel would mean you wouldn’t be able to afford a coveted splurge dinner or surfing lessons or concert tickets or a rain forest guide — then it makes more sense to just shorten the trip in the interest of making it more intense while you’re there.

    Your trip, your time off — even just a day off (or an afternoon off) — will really only be remembered for its high points. This, from me, reporting in from vacation.