Go for it! Empty the rack of travel brochures. Pore over them. Savor them like an after-dinner cordial; cuddle with them in bed like a good novel. Because you just might be happier planning for your trip than actually taking it.
That's according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life.
The study of 1,530 Dutch adults was almost equally divided between men and women, most of whom had taken a vacation within the last 10 or so months.
The authors set out to determine how vacations affected happiness. They found that the pleasure of planning a trip lasts about eight weeks, while the afterglow of the vacation itself fades faster.
When it comes to the happiness quotient following a getaway, the study found, "Generally, there is no difference between vacationers and nonvacationers. ..."
In the study, though, there was a silver lining for those who wanted to do more than simply daydream about a holiday.
For example, if you want to be happier taking your vacation than planning it, aim for one that lets you really, really veg out.
If you're shooting for Cloud 9, the authors note, "Only a very relaxed holiday trip boosts vacationers' happiness" more than planning it.
Follow that prescription, and your smile could stay on your face even longer than your tan — that is, for about two weeks.
Of all the vacation options available, cruising may be the most relaxing and least stressful if you steer clear of the high-energy megaliners carrying thousands of passengers. Head instead to smaller ships with finer service such as a European riverboat or the motorized sail ships of Windstar Cruises, suggests Anne Campbell, editor of CruisingfromNewYork.com.
This makes sense to psychology professor Howard Tinsley at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, a fan of cruising.
Tinsley offers his own explanation of the value of travel, taking to the high seas in particular. "People want to do something new but not so new as to get them out of their comfort zone."
With cruising, he said, "it's like taking your five-star hotel along with you, yet it gets you into new places."
Cruising has an element of certainty; it's structured, predictable and reliable.
In essence, Tinsley added, relaxing travel provides vacationers with a "desirable level of stimulation" without stretching the envelope too far.
This is why "on vacation, people go halfway around the world [to shop] when they can do it nearer home," he said.
Want to boost your happiness further? Tinsley advised that you "don't pile on too many expectations or build into your mind that [the vacation] will be magical."
With the plethora of cruise choices, involving themes ranging from health, hobbies, history and more, and with a dizzying number of excursions, Tinsley warned against overscheduling yourself and "losing spontaneity" and, thus, robbing a holiday of its curative powers.
Let's also not forget the curative powers of the sea and salt air. And, as a bonus, cruising can even help your sex life.
There's an inherent romance to the sea, said Frank Farley, a board-certified sex therapist and psychologist at Philadelphia's Temple University.
The vastness of the ocean and the limited space aboard ship "bring couples together with fewer distractions and allow them to focus on one another," Farley asserted. They can bond more easily, he said, concluding that "on average, cruising is very positive."
Debbie Then, author of "Women Who Stay with Men Who Stray," said "the No. 1 complaint of couples is that they don't spend enough time together."
Her prescription: "Couples should go somewhere new. Novelty is a big thing in keeping marriages alive and sparkling."
"Cruises," she added, "are great because you go to several new places in a row together."
But then add some spice to your vacation or cruise, Then advised.
"Push yourself out of your comfort zone, because then couples rely on one another again, and that reminds them of what drew them together in the first place."
Perhaps Freud, if asked about the therapeutic merits of cruising, would have said, "Yes, just lie down on the couch, but make sure it's aboard a ship."