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Holidays and Stress: 'Wind Up Syndrome' Affects Half of all Travellers

by Post Office Travel Services(more info)

listed in stress, originally published in issue 65 - June 2001

The Holiday – the last vestige of stress-free escapism, is under threat from a new syndrome that is turning British travellers into holiday stress junkies according to new research by the Post Office Travel Services. Under increasing time and work pressure, people are anxious not to waste a minute of their precious holiday time and leave less than 24 hours to prepare for their holiday. With no time to relax and enjoy the build up to their trip, almost half of all holidaymakers claim to suffer from 'Wind-up, Wind-down Syndrome' which leaves them so stressed that they can't have a good time when they arrive.

20 to 45 year olds – especially women – are most affected by Wind-up, Wind-down. They are most likely to wait until they are desperate for a holiday before taking a break, book at short notice and wait until the day of departure to prepare. As a result, essential travel products like travel insurance and holiday money are often overlooked, while concerns over fitting into their holiday wardrobe also add to women's pre-holiday wind-up.

Half of all people who rush into their holiday, holiday bolters, changed their insurance every year, but only a handful shopped around for a policy that was value for money or tailored to suit their individual requirements, preferring to accept the insurance on offer from their travel agent, sometimes at twice the price. Of equal concern, a further one in four people admitted to worrying about whether their passports were still up to date once the holiday was booked in the lead up to their holiday.

Reviewing the Post Office Travel Services research, Donna Dawson, TV consumer psychologist says: "Holidays are an important part of the workers' calendar and it is essential to people's general health and wellbeing that they use this time to relax and unwind. However the Post Office Travel Services research reveals that in today's hectic society people aren't taking the time to plan their holidays properly and as a result, instead of being stress busters, holidays are creating a stress inventory all of their own. Holiday makers need to ensure that they take adequate time out to plan their holidays so that they don't become holiday stress junkies!"

Post Office travel expert Jayne Westwood says: "To stop the holiday stress people need to ensure that they leave adequate time to prepare and tie up loose ends before going away. Holiday makers should take advantage of the travel services available which can help them plan their holiday with minimum stress.

The Post Office commissioned an Audience Selection survey of 1000 British holidaymakers. Research was carried out by telephone in December 2000.

The Holiday Stress Inventory

The Run to the Sun: Less than 5 per cent of those surveyed took three days to plan their break and well over 50 per cent of people left less than 24 hours to plan the finer details of their holiday. The most dissorganized people seemed to be those in the North West, with 70 per cent admitting that they leave just hours to co-ordinate their holiday details.

As a result of leaving holiday preparations to the last minute, many people admitted they found it hard to switch off once they are actually on holiday (well over half of 16-45 year olds).

Road to hell: Actually getting to the airport or point of departure is the second most stressful factor in organizing a holiday, with 30 per cent citing this as a cause of holiday stress. People in the south east seem to find the travel worst, rising to one in two people in this area.

Size does matter: Making sure that holiday clothes fit is a major worry for 30 per cent of women. The South is by far the most figure conscious region of the UK with well over a third of both men and women admitting that this was a key holiday stress factor!

Last minute round up: Last minute activities for Holiday Bolters include letting family and friends know you are going away, locking up the home properly, paying red bills and making sure post is hidden or collected whilst people are away. An important last minute preparation for 16-24 year olds was organizing contraception (nearly three quarters), compared to just 12 per cent of 55 plus year olds!

Wind Up, Wind Down Research Summary

Audience Selection omnibus survey consisted of telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1000 adults from around the UK.

Table 1
Q: Which of the following cause you to get stressed during your holiday preparations?%
Total Sample
%
Men
%
Women
%
Preparation and packing
41
30
51
The journey to the point of departure
31
31
31
Organizing other people
28
23
34
Organizing travel details
27
25
29
Getting a new passport
23
20
26
Making sure you can get into your holiday clothes
22
15
29
Money arrangements, e.g. currency
21
21
21
Arranging the security of my house
19
19
18
Making arrangements for the care of children or pets
18
14
21
Getting the appropriate vaccinations
17
19
15
Obtaining appropriate visas
17
17
16
Getting travel insurance
13
12
14
Which of the Following Cause You to Get Stressed During Your Holiday Preparations?
• Packing and preparation was the biggest concern for women, stressing out 51% of women questioned, compared to just 30% of men;
• After packing, women's biggest worry was whether they would fit into their holiday wardrobe – (29%). However only 15% of men listed this as a similar concern. The most figure conscious regions were the North East and Yorkshire;
• For men, organizing and surviving the journey to the point of departure was the biggest overall concern, affecting 31% of those questioned. Not surprisingly 31% of women also cited this as a worry. Last minute travel details also affected both sexes equally (27%) and were particularly rife in the East Midlands (52%) and North East (39%);
• Key holiday items such as passport (23%), insurance (14%) and visas (17%) continued to play on a high number of people's minds during last minute preparations.

 

Table 2.
Q: How long do you leave before finishing work for your holiday and actually going away?
Total Sample
%
Men
%
Women
%
Hours – I usually go straight from work
15
17
11
1 day
46
47
45
2 days
19
20
18
3 days
5
6
4
More than three days
3
2
5
More than a week
7
6
8
How Long Do You Leave Between Finishing Work Before Your Holiday And Actually Going Away?
• 61% of those surveyed left one day or less between finishing work and actually going away. 15% of this group admitted to going straight to the airport, boat or train from work;
• The greatest workaholics appear to be in the North West where one in three people admitted that work was their holiday departure point, while those in the South-East are most likely to place at least 2 days between leaving the office and leaving the country;
• Married couples are most likely to head straight from work to the airport, and men more than women, 17% compared to just 11%.

 

Table 3
Q: Which of the following last minute preparations concern you most?
Total Sample
%
Men
%
Women
%
Making sure any bills are paid before leaving
64
62
66
Clean the house, wash up or making the bed
68
59
76
Check for birthdays that will be missed whilst away
32
21
43
Telling my friends and family that I am leaving
76
70
81
Ensuring that I have appropriate contraception
31
32
29
Buying a lottery ticket
29
30
28
Watering the plants
52
47
58
Informing the neighbours that I am leaving
67
66
67
Locking up the house
87
85
89
Making sure post is collected or hidden whilst away
59
53
65
Which Of The Following Last Minute Preparations Concern You Most?
• 43% of women worry about whose birthday they will miss while they are away, compared to just 21% of men!
• A secret nation of national lottery addicts, one in three of us are concerned about missing out on a million pound jackpot whilst away, rising to one in every two people for the over 55s;
• For the younger generation, safe sex is a priority, with 59% of 16-24 year olds making sure that they have appropriate contraception before departure;
• Locking up the house and informing neighbours and friends of departure were cited as key concerns (87% and 67% respectively). A further 64% were concerned with ensuring that all bills are up to date;
• The research showed that the Welsh were the most concerned about contraception whilst those in East Anglia worried more about getting a national lottery ticket.

 

Table 4
Q: In terms of travel insurance which of the following apply to you?
Total Sample
%
Men
%
Women
%
I don't bother as nothing has ever happened to me
10
11
8
Have annual travel insurance through work
3
4
3
Provided by my bank, alongside other financial products
11
13
9
I have an annual policy which I purchased independently
19
17
20
I buy a different policy each time I travel
48
45
50
In Terms of Your Travel Insurance, which of the Following Applies to You?
• Nearly half of those surveyed buy a different travel insurance policy every time they travel, missing out on the advantages of the annual policy. Many people admitted they were confused by all the different policies available and don't ever know which cover to take – this applied to one in every five 16-24 year olds;
• Over half of those interviewed admitted that they left travel insurance to their travel agents. A further 2% admitted they waited till the day of departure to sort out insurance, adding to the overall stress of preparing to go on holiday;
• More worrying however is that 10% of people asked don't bother with travel insurance when travelling abroad, as nothing has happened to them (to date) whilst they have been away;

 

Table 5
Q: At what point in your holiday do you buy your holiday money?
Total Sample
%
Men
%
Women
%
When organizing finer details, i.e. booking time off
42
39
45
When buying the actual holiday
13
15
12
Whilst I'm on holiday
8
9
6
At the airport/ferry port/train station
8
7
8
When packing
7
6
9
I mainly use my credit card
5
5
4
When researching the holiday
5
7
3
At what Point in Your Holiday Preparation do You Buy Your Holiday Money?
• While over half of us purchase our currency whilst organizing the finer details of our holiday (i.e. booking time of work), the rest of us are more likely to purchase foreign currency much nearer the time of departure;
• 24% of those in the East Midlands purchase their currency when they book their holiday, regardless of changing interest rates;
• 35% of people are driven by the best value on commission, while only one in four of us buy holiday money on the strength of the pound.

 

Case Study

Dianne Bortoletto is 28 and has been living with her boyfriend Richard, a chartered surveyor, for two years. She lives in London and is employed as a PA to a Deputy Managing Director of a PR consultancy.

Dianne likes to go abroad as many times as her annual holiday leave will allow her, and so never 'wastes' a day off. Unlike her boyfriend, she knows good preparation is important but that doesn't mean she likes it or has the time to do it properly.

Dianne comments, "I hate packing, it's such a hassle! I run round the house like a mad woman the night before, checking we have passports and travel insurance, washing clothes and emptying the fridge."

She continues, "Richard packs his basic clothes and would be happy just turning up as he is and getting anything he'd forgotten out there. I am the one who sorts out currency, buys the suntan lotion and makes sure the transport to and from the airport is arranged."

Dianne's hectic lifestyle, combined with the last minute rush to get away, often means that she finds it hard to switch off once they are away. Dianne comments: "I always feel like I need another holiday as soon as I get back!"

Case Study

Gareth Edwards is 27 and works as a materials project engineer in Basildon. Gareth loves holidaying abroad but because of time and work pressures never succeeds in properly preparing his break away. Gareth comments: "Holidays always turn into a last minute panic, however much I try and get organized before I go."

One of the most stressful things Gareth finds about holidays is actually getting away from work on time. Gareth says: "Invariably I leave work right at the last minute without having taken time out to sort my holiday insurance, money and other essentials items like swimming shorts and suntan lotion! The start of my holiday then turns into a mad dash – first from work to the airport, then around the airport terminal getting holiday money, clothes and other necessities!"

Although Gareth goes on holiday to relax he often finds it difficult to switch off once he is away, largely because of the chaotic start to his holiday. He comments: "Because it is always a last minute dash I find it hard to unwind once I'm away. For the first couple of days little things can play on my mind, like did I lock the flat up properly, turn off the heating and empty the bin. However after a few days in the sun all my worries are usually buried to rest under a healthy looking tan!"

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