what makes a great vacation?

what makes a great vacation?

Having come back from holiday a little less than 24 hours ago, straight into back to school preparations, the hope of a long lasting restorative effect is long gone. How quickly lounging by the pool returns to panics over missing lab coats and who’s doing pick up which days? But that’s not to say we didn’t have a lovely break. We had a fantastic time and as we started to think about heading home I pondered what exactly it is that makes a good holiday.

In a nutshell, it’s about variety – a change from your everyday existence. So it totally depends on what your everyday existence is, and also what sort of person you are. If you’re an introvert who works in a demanding job and has to spend lots of time interacting with people, you just want some nice alone time to read a book (me). However, if you’re an outrageous extrovert who for whatever reason (global pandemic, perhaps) has spent months alone watching Netflix you might book yourself on some kind of hideous sounding “social holiday” where you meet a bunch of strangers and go bungee jumping in the Amazon (I bet that exists).

According to an article on Travel Republic there are five things that make you happy on holiday – switching off, weather, rest, eating and spending time together. That probably covers most of it, but ultimately what most people go on holiday for is to re-charge, which might be any combination of those things.

Switching off

After years of work on this particular skill I would say I’m not too bad at it these days. Don’t get me wrong, it still takes me the requisite two or three days at the beginning of a holiday to stop panicking about all the things I might have forgotten to do before I logged off, but I generally work on the assumption that in my line of work no-one is going to die if I didn’t reply to some email or approve some expense so they’ll get hold of me if they really need to. I also do a pretty good job of getting things in order before I go out so few things should come up unless it’s an emergency. But what I do love is not having to be somewhere at a particular time. I’m probably a bit of a control freak and I hate nothing more than someone else dictating my time. Obviously this happens frequently at work so for me a big part of being on holiday is not having a plan. Imagine my disgust at discovering the sailing course we’d booked for the first week ran Monday to Thursday from 9am to 12pm. Four mornings! Having to be there at 9am! For the entire morning! It’s not that I wouldn’t be up at that time otherwise, it’s the HAVING to be up. Ugh. For me, the switching off is from the demands other people put on my time.


This is an interesting one. I personally love Autumn. I love the changing colour of the leaves, the longer nights drawing in, and the drop in temperature which means that I can get the cardigans out. And in terms of breaks I would quite happily go somewhere in the middle of nowhere in winter and sit by a roaring fire and knit a hat. Or go on a cultural mini break to an historic European city in November. But for the most part people associate holidays with sunshine and I confess it is also nice to get some vitamin D and come back with legs that look slightly less like Spam. So for me a late Summer holiday is perfect – I get to enjoy a final hoorah in the sunshine with promise of hot chocolate and knitwear to come home to.


Goes without saying. The first week of our holiday I slept so much. Nine hours every night and then an hour’s nap in the afternoon. A siesta – what a fantastic idea. You don’t realise how overdrawn you are on the sleep account until you just let your body have as much as it wants.


Some people make this their absolute focus of their holidays, traveling the world to find new and exotic things to eat. It depends on the trip, I think. If you’re going somewhere to enjoy the culture and find explore somewhere different then it can be amazing, trying all these different delicacies that you would never have back home. Or having pasta in Rome. Or croissants in Paris. This year’s holiday buffet was quite an experience as everyone had to don masks and plastic gloves. Definitely one of those things that you imagine aliens seeing and thinking what the absolute f**k are you lot doing.

Spending Time Together

I’m an introvert, and anyone who is familiar with Susan Cain’s book Quiet will know we need alone time to re-energise ourselves. You know those people who want to chat to everyone on holiday and decide everyone is their new best friend? Don’t come anywhere the f**k near me! Back off! Jesus, I have plenty of friends back home, thanks, why on earth would I want to spend my holiday time away from work (where I have to spend hours on end talking to people when all I want to do is get on with my actual job) chatting to you lot who I (hopefully) will never have to see again?

Now, I do realise that other people do not see these kinds of social interactions this way, and really quite enjoy meeting new people simply for the fun of it (?). But not me. I can happily lie by the pool or wander along the seafront enjoying my own company for hours on end. But it was also great to spend some real time with my family, without all the interruptions and distractions of every day life.

So in conclusion, the beauty of a holiday is really in the eye of the beholder. Ooh, this has just reminded me of my thoughts on skiing – the enforced Easter holiday option of the middle classes. I’ll save that for another time.

By Clair Grayston

person who writes stuff, makes stuff, plays stuff

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