Why Travel Planning Can Boost Your Mental Health

by Carolee Chanona
sea turtle underwater with fish belize

Although travel may be on pause, that doesn’t mean trip planning needs to be too. There’s some good news for travelers: According to researchers, looking ahead to your next adventure could benefit your mental health. Even if you’re not sure when that adventure will be. In this recent article from NatGeo, some psychologists tout the mental benefits of vacationing somewhere new. One 2013 survey of 485 adults in the U.S. linked travel to enhanced empathy, attention, energy, and focus. Other research suggests that the act of adapting to foreign cultures may also facilitate creativity. But what about the act of planning a trip? Can we get a mental health boost from travel before we even leave home?

Among the pandemic’s many challenges: quarantine measures greatly reduce our ability to create new experiences and connect with other people. And right now, we’re craving those connections and their social benefits more than ever.

Scientists talk travel

Itz’ana Resort

Something to look forward to: Itz’ana Resort reopens in November 2020.

Planning and anticipating a trip can be almost as enjoyable as going on the trip itself, and there’s research to back it up. A 2014 Cornell University study delved into how the anticipation of an experience (like a trip) can increase a person’s happiness substantially—much more so than the anticipation of buying material goods. An earlier study, published by the University of Surrey in 2002, found that people are at their happiest when they have a vacation planned.

Planning during a pandemic

The post-pandemic future of travel is still unmapped. Co-author Matthew Killingsworth, now a senior fellow at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, says trip-planning encourages an optimistic outlook. But Killingsworth recommends planning a vague itinerary (where to go, what to do)—without getting attached to taking the trip at any specific time. Then, start booking flights and hotels once experts say it’s safe to travel again. “If the experience becomes more stressful or depressing than fun, file it away for another time.” Former clinical psychologist turned author Alice Boyes agrees the general approach is best for now, “like learning about a national park you want to visit.”

Plans for the future can serve as the perfect talking points for enhancing social relationships. So how about Belize? Get started today.

Read original article from National Geographic here.

travel planning mental health

Header photo courtesy of Kevin Quischan Photography.

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