Want to be Happier? Plan a Vacation

Want to be Happier? Plan a Vacation

A father and daughter walking on a beach.
A new study from UA’s Public Opinion Lab shows traveling makes people happy.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Planning a beach vacation is the perfect way to welcome the warmer weather of spring and summer, and according to research by faculty members in The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences, it also improves your overall happiness. 

Dr. Jameson Hayes, associate professor and director of UA’s Public Opinion Lab, along with Jay Waters, an instructor in advertising and public relations, recently completed a research study in collaboration with the 30A Company, a beach media and lifestyle brand in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. The data gathered by Hayes and Waters suggests looking forward to a future vacation makes people happier and is essential to mental well-being. 

“Travel makes us better people and happier people. And it is easy to do,” Waters said. “I hope that people will look at this information, decide to make travel a priority, and see travel not as an expense but as an investment in their quality of life.”  

The study surveyed 1,040 United States travelers between the ages of 25 and 55. In addition to finding people planning their next vacation are happier, the study also found people who travel between 15-21 days a year are the happiest.  

While 34.2% of respondents said their preferred vacation destination was the beach, Waters said it doesn’t matter where you go. 

“Anticipating any upcoming vacation appears to significantly boost happiness, regardless of whether it’s to the beach, the mountains or a big city,” Waters said.

The study also found people who keep souvenirs from past vacations are happier than those who don’t.  

“Surrounding yourself with mementos from past vacations such as apparel, photos, art, bumper stickers and even phone ringtones can increase happiness levels,” Hayes said. 

The Public Opinion Lab conducts research with corporate and governmental partners. Hayes said after seeing the real-world impact this study could have on people’s happiness and quality of life, he was eager to collaborate with 30A. 

UA students in Waters’ advertising and public relations courses were also able to gain experience in account management, research design, data analytics and communication design through the study. 

Hayes said he hopes people will be encouraged by the data to plan future trips to scenic destinations. 

“The results have a clear and refreshing message. Looking forward to your next trip to your happy place actually makes you happier overall,” Hayes said. “So, always have a trip on the horizon; you will be happier for it.” 


Morgan Gay, UA College of Communication and Information Sciences, mbgay@ua.edu, 205-348-6416


Dr. Jameson Hayes, hayes@apr.ua.edu, 205-348-8393; Jay Waters, ghwaters1@ua.edu, 205-582-8237