The Science of Great Holiday Memories

What makes a holiday memorable? For the first time ever, scientists have uncovered the factors which influence lasting holiday memories, from the most memorable destinations to the effects of social media use on memory.

About the study

HomeAway partnered with researchers at the University of Texas to design a first-of-its-kind study which investigated factors such as destination type, cost of holiday, group type, work habits, amount of time spent on mobile devices, and social media use to determine their impact on the memorability of holidays.

The HomeAway Science of Memories study participants reported on holiday plans and demographic characteristics in a pre-holiday survey, reported their feelings and memorable experiences in three in-holiday surveys (on the first, middle, and last days of their trips), and recalled their memories and emotions in a post-holiday survey. A subset of travellers also downloaded an app that tracked the amount of time spent on their devices.

How was memory measured

Memory Recall: Participants were assessed on how well they could recall experiences they had recorded during their in-holiday surveys one week after returning from their trips. Both visual and written cues were used to assess memory recall ability.

Emotional Memory: Participants were assessed on how accurately they could recall emotions they reported experiencing across the study.

Research findings

Mountains are the most memorable destination type. They were shown to be significantly more memorable (12%) than cities, the least memorable destination, and slightly more memorable than small towns, beaches, and amusement parks.

How much should you spend?

The amount spent on holiday does not significantly impact the memorability of holidays. Expenses considered included: airline tickets, accommodation, petrol,, car rentals, dining, entertainment, and more.

The power of photography

Those who took photos and selfies using their phones were 40% more likely to remember their holidays well than those who didn’t. Participants who created an online photo album are significantly more likely to recall all trip events than those who did not make such an album. In addition; displaying holiday photos or souvenirs; inviting friends or family to one’s home to see holiday photos or videos; and uploading updates, photos, or videos to social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter also positively correlate with accurate emotional recall.

Facebook or Instagram?

Social media use does not have a major impact on trip memorability.

However, use of certain social media sites correlated with better emotional memory. In particular, Instagram users had better emotional memory than users of Facebook and Snapchat: Instagram users were 24% more likely than Facebook users to have clear memories of how they felt during their holidays.

Uploading photos and videos to social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter also positively correlate with accurate emotional recall.

Too much of a good thing?

HomeAway’s research found that people who use smartphones for certain activities, such as taking photos and finding things to do, actually remembered their holidays better than those who don’t.

However, this effect reversed at high levels of smartphone usage. Those who used their phones for more than two hours each day were 26% more likely to have trouble remembering their holidays versus those who spent less than two hours on their phones.

Working on holiday

Working while traveling decreases trip memorability. Those who work while on holiday are less likely to recall all of their memorable events than those not working. This effect increases as people spend more time working.

Of those who used devices for work-related activities, just 43% who spent one hour or more working recalled all trip events, while 60% of those who spent less than an hour working recalled all events. Overall, working an hour or more on holiday made participants 43% more likely to have trouble remembering their trips than those who worked one hour or less.

Those who used laptops, versus smartphones or tablets, also had significantly more trouble remembering their holidays.

Who should you travel with?

People who travelled with a mix of family and friends remembered their holidays at least 20% better than those who travelled with just family, just friends, in a couple, or alone.

People who travelled for a celebration, such as a birthday, wedding, reunion, or bachelor/ette party, also displayed 69% better emotional recall of their holidays - they were significantly better at recalling how they felt during important moments of their trip.

Pre-trip emotions = post-trip memories

People who reported feeling happy and excited before their holidays were 73% more likely to have excellent recall of their holiday memories versus those who felt other emotions, including stress, frustration, or calm.

More information and download whitepaper

Holiday Memories


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