Vacations are a significant investment of our cherished time and cash. In spite of well intended efforts to buy a little piece of vacation happiness, too often our efforts can result in disappointment, anxiety and stress.

To the extent that our vacation happiness is a choice, I would like to suggest that we leave less to chance and choose to manage those points that actually lie within our sphere of influence and can enable a successful and happy vacation.

happy vacationer

Vacation good times should be validated in real time and in the moment

From my perspective as a player in the hospitality industry for over four decades, I offer 9 suggestions for successfully building a happier vacation.

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Vacations can be stressful. There are travel logistics to navigate including airport transfers, security checks, navigating through foreign terrain, budget limitations and family dynamics. Finding happiness in the moment can be greatly enabled by refusing to stress over the small things. The logical next step would be to acknowledge that they are ALL small things. So “chill-out” on vacation and enjoy the journey.
  1. I feel good, like I knew that I wood!  Focus on emotional fulfillment during your vacation rather than on money. A great strategy for this is to take advantage of the “all-inclusive” nature of most dude ranch vacations. Plan and save for the vacation in advance. If you have the financial aspects conquered and fully known in advance, then you can focus on the rewarding emotional points of your vacation during the moment rather than on the costs. All-inclusive ranch vacations are also a great tool for removing those unexpected additional expenses of the vacation that can add surprising and unwanted stress.
  1. Be a friend.  Building new relationships on your vacation will raise your emotional well-being in the moment. A dude ranch vacation typically has a minimum length stay and often lasts at least a week in duration.   This along with a more intimate ranch setting is a perfect recipe for developing new friendships. Plan on exchanging e-mail addresses at the end of your vacation with the end-goal of maintaining a long term relationship with your new friends.

    Happy Family Vacation

    Share the happiness!

  1. Get Schooled.  Plan to learn something new while on vacation. Goal directed behaviors motivate us. Making progress toward our goals validates us and raises our happiness levels. This is a natural process at dude ranches as we learn better riding skills, learn to rope, shoot trap, fly fish, etc. Choosing a ranch location with an advanced plan to learn a new skill will provide an anticipatory excitement and an opportunity for confirmation of your success at the end of your vacation.
  1. Whoa! Cool!  Recognize the good stuff. Acknowledge and validate those vacation happy times as they happen and in real time.  If we are on the hunt for the good stuff, we can briefly stop what ever we are doing to identify, share and cognate on the good moment with a loved one or friend. The happy time is then validated and preserved in your consciousness. This also will help you recall the good times when you share these positive experiences in the future.

    happy dude ranchers

    Good Times are Better Times when recognized in real time

  1. Look at ME! Galvanize your vacation happy times with follow-up recognition after the vacation. Post a video stream of your vacation highlights in social media. Sharing the moments should be less about braggadocio and more about confirmation of your happiness with significant others or those that shared the vacation.=
  1. Ain’t no surprise.  Anticipate stressful vacation moments. If arguing over what to do next has been a pattern with your group, try choosing a ranch vacation with a formatted all-inclusive itinerary. Placing the onerous of activity choices on an outside third party can separate you from the stress. If you know you have an hour layover at the airport with young grandkids, try carrying an activity bag loaded with cheap games from the dollar store. Sometimes we can see in advance that potential difficulty, and be proactive in our vacation plans.
  1. It’s about the journey.  Build a vacation “journey” rather than an end-destination. A long boring drive can be transformed into a marvelous journey with planned side excursions, impromptu explorations, and engineered surprise stops. A drive to, and return trip home can be just as rewarding as the vacation destination.
  1. Thank You! Expressions of gratitude naturally flow toward acknowledging the “good” and raise our happiness levels. Thank the driver, thank the cook, the wrangler, the maid, and especially “Thank the Lord” and any sponsors of your vacation.   This will place us in a mind-set that is more prone to identifiable happiness and finding joy in all the little things.

    rafting vacation

    Whoa! Cool!

Advance planning and forethought can be an invitation to happier vacations. Choose to be happy on your vacation.   You are, and you are on vacation, that you might have JOY!  Lets find and validate vacation successes in the moment, and then lets carry it forward as cherished memories.

Doug Cole