baja
Make the most of it, says
Jaime Kurtz, the author of the book “The Happy
Traveler.”

Jaime
Kurtz


Jaime Kurtz has visited 29 countries and 45 of the 50 United
States.

She’s backpacked through Southeast Asia, ridden a motorbike
in Vietnam, and eaten pintxos y jamon in San
Sebastian, Spain. 

And she’s done it on a budget. 

“Travel contains so many hidden costs, and many people are making
a living off of your travel buck,” she writes in her new
book “The
Happy Traveler
,” which will be published in July 2017.
Spend too much and you may regret it, she says, but spend too
little and you may miss out.

Kurtz knows what she’s talking about.
The self-proclaimed “happiness researcher” is a
professor of psychology at James Madison University and writes
that being happy on your travels without shelling out a
fortune requires “a consideration of human psychology:
decision-making, hedonic adaptation, and the power of
persuasion.”

She’s boiled that study down to five questions you can ask
to make sure you’re getting the most happiness for the least
money on your next vacation:

1. What will I adapt to? What will stop bringing me happiness
after a few days?

People tend to adapt to the circumstances and surroundings, and
traveling is no exception, says Kurtz. To keep things “fresh
and new” she recommends avoiding staying in the same place
for a long period of time, as it might start to feel ordinary. “A
key factor here is novelty,” writes Kurtz. “Build it into your
travels yourself, strategically. Be sure to see something new or
do something different everyday,” she continues.

2. Will choosing cheap cost me time and stress later on? If so,
is the trade-off worth it?

Sometimes, the immediately more expensive option can save you
money — and stress — in the long run. For instance, you may end
up spending more money in an attempt to entertain yourself during
your six-hour layover than you would have to take the direct
flight. Or, you may choose a cheaper hotel on the outskirts
of the city or town you’re visiting, which means you have to find
transportation into the town every day … and pay for it. It’s
important to consider stress as well as money, says Kurtz.

3. What can I pay for upfront, before the trip even begins?

Book things online if possible, or buy tickets ahead of time for
activities you are sure you want to do, such as visiting a
particular museum or a show. That way, you can be
thoughtful about what you want to spend money on and what’s
most valuable to you, rather than making impulsive decisions
in the moment. 

4. What kind of souvenirs do they sell in these locations?

Think about what you want to buy on your trip “before you’re
put into a high-pressure, now-or-never spending situation,” says
Kurtz. At home before your trip, when you aren’t tempted by
overflowing shops and endless options, you can decide which
souvenirs are worth the money and what gifts would be best to buy
for friends and family. When you are in the moment, ask
yourself, “Is this item tied to any special memories or unique
emotions?” says Kurtz. When you return home, you’ll probably
value a tee-shirt from the bar you closed out every night more
than a magnet you grabbed in the airport.

5. How should I arrange my experiences over the course of my
trip?

Take advantage of a few common psychological concepts to figure
out when you should do what. Specifically, Kurtz suggests,
“anchoring” and the “peak-end rule.”

“Anchoring” works particularly well when you’re traveling to more
than one place. By anchoring the most expensive destinations at
the beginning of your trip, you’re setting yourself up for
greater satisfaction when prices go down and you can get more for
your money in cheaper destinations.

The peak-end rule, as Kurtz explains, was coined by a
Nobel-Prize winning researcher named Daniel Kahneman, who
investigated whether a memory is influenced by its emotional peak
(its best or worst moment), and also how the experience ended. As
Kurtz highlights, he found that how the experience ended was
“most critical for satisfaction.” Make sure to plan for a great
last night of your trip.

“One well-established piece of happiness advice is to buy
experiences over material possessions,” writes Kurtz. So if
you’re planning a trip, you’re off to a great start.