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Vacation happiness is highest before you leave

Research says the biggest boost of happiness we get from travelling comes before we start our adventure, soaking up anticipatory sunshine while thinking about what's to come.

Anticipation gets us glowing more than the actual adventure, according to research

Elizabeth Dunn specializes in happiness and is the author of Happy Money. (Elizabeth Dunn)

If you dream it, it will come true — or at least you'll have a good time thinking about it.

Research says the biggest boost of happiness we get from travelling comes before we start our adventure, soaking up anticipatory sunshine while thinking about what's to come. 

Our happiness columnist Elizabeth Dunn on how not to ruin your summer vacation.

"One of the great things about looking forward to something that hasn't happened yet is that we can imagine it exactly the way we want it to be. So it never rains on your vacation in your imagination," said Elizabeth Dunn, the director of the Social Cognition and Emotion Lab at the University of British Columbia and co-author of Happy Money.

"This provides us with a real opportunity for sort of pure, unmitigated pleasure."

It also helps us to enjoy ourselves while we're away, even if little things go wrong. Dunn says we can "paint over the cracks in the perfection that we imagined," when small things go awry like a drink not quite up to snuff, or a room that doesn't fit the bill.

"That said, a truly disastrous vacation, all bets are off," said Dunn.

Fine 1st day

She suggests focusing on making the first day special because the human brain is "amazingly short sighted," preventing us from imagining the whole trip.

So book that nice hotel room, if only for a night, a go out for that nice dinner after you arrive.

Oh, and one more thing.

"When people pay up front for a vacation, they're more like to be able to enjoy their vacation without thinking just how much it's costing them."

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