Brits lose holiday feeling faster than their tans

New research from TUI UK in collaboration with University College London’s Affective Brain Lab has uncovered what triggers the difficult-to-define, but universally recognised, “holiday feeling” and unlocks how holidaymakers can retain the positive effects for longer.

With millions of British holidaymakers set to jet off on a beach holiday this summer, leading holiday experts TUI reveal that they will hit their peak ‘holiday feeling’ just 43 hours into their trip. The findings also revealed a ‘Factor 30’ list of the key triggers that cause the biggest holiday feelings, with feeling the warmth of sun on your skin, the sound of the ocean, soaking up a picture-perfect view and having that first swim in the pool at the top.

However, the positive feeling we experience whilst away is a short-lived one, with the average traveller losing the holiday feeling less than 4 days (3.7 days) after unpacking their bags when they return home.

Dr Tali Sharot Director of UCL’s Affective Brain Lab, who conducted a qualitative study of guests at a TUI Sensatori resort in the Dominican Republic commented: “It’s interesting to see that a significant number of the key triggers that ignite positive holiday feelings happen before we even set foot on the plane. A brain imaging study we conducted in 2010 showed that just imagining a holiday can spark the feeling of anticipation and joy which activate the brain’s “reward centre” - the striatum. This part of our brain receives input from dopamine neurons, providing us with anticipation of pleasure. In other words, just thinking about going on holiday – or planning your next holiday when you return home - will activate the reward system in your brain.”

One in four of the holiday feeling triggers revealed in the research relate to planning and anticipation (23%) - with booking the holiday, putting your out of office on, and checking in for your flight, all making the ‘Factor 30’ list.

Dr Sharot added: “Holiday “firsts” are also hugely important... Neuroscience studies have shown that novelty - the quality of something being new - is incredibly rewarding in itself. When things (places, experiences, items) are new an additional response is triggered in the brain’s reward system, to give us a “spark” of positive feeling.”

Evidentiary to this, seeing your hotel room for the first time, having your first swim in the pool and having the first sip of your holiday cocktail all appear in the list.

However, the research also found that less than 4 days (3.7 days) after returning home the positive effects of our holiday disappear. Nearly half of us (44%) say this is due to having to return to a normal routine, coming back to colder and rainier weather (43%), as well as returning to work (39%).

In line with the ‘reward centre’ theory, one in three of us (33%) start researching our next getaway less than 3 weeks after returning from the last trip, and nearly a quarter of us (22%) book our next holiday less than a month after returning home.

With a huge 95% of us wishing we could make the holiday feeling last longer, TUI is exploring the findings and results of Dr Sharot’s qualitative study to assess how they can help guests heighten the holiday feeling on resort, as well as before and after they go on holiday. With half (50%) saying that looking at photographs from the holiday helped prolong the feeling, one potential idea is installing ‘holiday feeling’ photo booths on resorts so guests can physically capture an image of them at ‘peak time’, and then re-live the moment at home. TUI is also developing a brand-new product launching later this year which will help to extend the holiday feeling back in the UK.

Katie McAlister, Chief Marketing Officer for TUI UK & Ireland said: “When our guests book a holiday with us we want to make the whole experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, from the moment they book, to the moment they see the beach. We all know, and have felt, the holiday feeling – that feeling of utter joy, excitement, anticipation and relaxation – and this research provides fascinating insights that will help us ensure that our guests enjoy their holiday feeling to the max. For example, understanding its life cycle will inform our pre and after travel communications and we will be creating something new soon that will quite literally ‘bottle the holiday feeling’ in a bid to make it last even longer.”

To coincide with the research, TUI enlisted the help of one of the UK’s most exuberant personalities – John Barrowman – to bring the holiday feeling to life. The entertainer has taken on a brand-new role in a short film, showing holidaymakers exactly what the holiday feeling is during a stay at the TUI SENSATORI Resort Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic.

To watch the “fab-u-lous” film, find out more about the research and to discover what type of holiday will give you the biggest holiday feeling, visit:

TUI’s “Factor 30” list of top holiday feeling triggers:

Feeling the warmth of the sun on your skinStepping off the plane and feeling that wave of heatExploring the local areaSpending quality time with family and friendsHearing the oceanSoaking up a picture-perfect viewNot having to worry about day to day chores, like cooking and cleaningBooking your holidaySwimming in the clear blue seaHaving dinner with a sea viewSeeing your hotel room for the first timeWatching the sunsetHaving your first swim in the poolLooking at the weather report and seeing 100% sunTrying new foodsPacking your suitcaseFeeling of sand between your toesChecking in at the hotelDiscovering a new cultureSmelling the salty sea airHaving a drink at the airportTaking your first sip of a holiday cocktail, like a Pina colada or mojitoResearching where to go on holidaySmelling your sun creamGetting ready for dinner or evening activitiesBooking a holiday excursion or tripChecking in to your flight onlinePutting your out of office onChecking your holiday countdown clock – on an app or emailHaving an ice-cream