Why your summer vacation feels so short, and what you can do about it

(File / MilosStankovic / Getty Images)

Americans are gearing up for some fun in the sun away from work. But if you find your time off always seems to be over in a pinch, you're not alone.

"The feeling that things that we enjoy go by really fast is actually pretty common," offered Selin Malkoc, Ph.D., a psychology professor at The Ohio State University.

Researchers at OSU have been studying why people process the passage of time differently on vacations.

"The saying goes, the watched pot never boils," Malkoc continued. "It basically builds in that intuition that if you're paying attention to the passage of time, time will go slowly. And if we are really not paying attention to time because we are enjoying what we are doing – we are just, like, immersed in the moment – time just goes by in a jiffy." 

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And because the countdown to a vacation can make the days leading up to it drag on, Malkoc noted, "combine that with the idea that vacation itself feels really short. It almost feels like it will end before it starts."


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Here's what experts say you can do to help adjust your perception of time:

"Think about the time as the units of time and not the feeling that it gives us," Malkoc said. "We tend to trust our gut when it comes to time and just say, like, ‘It feels long,’ ‘It feels short.’ But using the number of hours or number of days actually adjusts our misperception."

Doing this could help you maximize the amount of activities you can do and the amount of relaxation you can have.

"If you feel like the vacation is gonna go by in a jiffy, we might actually underplan it. We might want to not book as many things, as one consequence, because it just doesn't feel like a lot of time.

"If you're not putting enough things, that's just gonna not give you the most fulfilling vacation. But if you're jam-packing it, now you're going to be rushing from one thing to the other, and you're still not going to be enjoying what you're doing." 

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