Holidays involving some sort of planned activity topped the charts as the best types of holidays, because they provide an escape from your day-to-day life that both improves well-being and offers memorable experiences. Beach holidays and city breaks ranked as the worst types of holiday to go on. While ever popular, perhaps they aren’t the best option if you want to feel both rested and rejuvenated from your holiday, as well as return home with experiences memorable enough to recall years later. The best holidays strike the mark in three ways:
- They're typically organised for you, which takes the pressure off you to plan a great holiday
- You return home healthier than you left—whether that's with increased fitness or skill or a calmer state of mind
- The experience box is ticked because you'll either see lots of your destination or have an adventure—or both!
Best Types of Holidays
It turns out that holidaymakers get the most all-around benefit from sports-themed holidays—in particular, cycling and hiking. Never fear, however, if trekking up mountains or cycling down them at great speed isn't your thing, as yoga retreats finished a close third place.
1. Cycling Trips
With it's many benefits, cycling breaks top the "best holiday" list, providing an all-round positive experience. Holidaymakers on a cycling tour typically return home feeling refreshed and fitter after days of exercise, coupled with nutritious home cooked meals and lots of beautiful scenery.
|Experiences||1st place (tied)|
With hundreds of different destinations to choose from a cycling trip gives holiday makers a great deal of options, and two wheels can take you to places that a car often can’t. There are numerous operators offering organised tours, taking away the stress of planning your own routes and ensuring you see all of the key sites within your time frame. Whilst most tours do not offer additional options such as spas or meditation; most people return home feeling de-stressed after days of cycling through beautiful scenery with plenty of time to process your own thoughts. If partying and nightlife is your scene then a cycling holiday may not be for you; but if you are happy to swap clubs and bars for chilled group evenings and small family restaurants then you will reap the benefits.
2. Hiking Treks
If you enjoy the great outdoors and getting close to nature then a hiking holiday is a great idea. Levels of organisation vary; but for the less experienced hiker we recommend a fully planned week with all accommodation and routes booked—an easy way to eliminate the stress of planning your holiday.
|Well-being||6th place (tied)|
|Experiences||1st place (tied)|
Hiking will also improve your fitness levels whilst immersing you in exhilarating and adventurous scenery and providing the chance to visit local cultural attractions. Don't expect fancy spas or pool time sunbathing on a hiking holiday, but depending of the time of year you can still get your dose of sunshine with the added benefit of fresh country air. Off road routes mean that you will inevitably find small homestays and country restaurants that often go unnoticed, allowing you to experience true local cuisine in a friendly environment.
3. Yoga Retreats
Those looking for a truly relaxing holiday with a lot of 'me time' may want to consider a yoga retreat. When you book yourself onto a retreat, plan to return home totally refreshed and destressed. Companies take care of the whole booking process, ensuring you have comfortable accommodation, nutritious meals and a varied schedule.
|Experiences||11th place (tied)|
Daily yoga classes are often interspersed with spa treatments and meditation, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in relaxation. Location is an important factor, with most centres being found in quiet areas surrounded by the best that local nature has to offer. You won’t find any late night parties or adventurous adrenaline challenges here, but your body will truly thank you for giving it the mental and physical relaxation that it desires.
How we Compared Holidays
If you ask most people about their best holidays, you'll notice the greatest trips tend to provide experiences that, besides creating great stories for the next cocktail party, leave holidaymakers feeling rejuvenated. With that in mind, we've analysed different types of holidays across a set of well-being and experience metrics to figure out which truly provide the most space from the stresses and normalcy of day-to-day life.
To compare how different holidays improve a holidaymaker’s health and state of mind, we graded trips according to how well they provide access to the following 5 well-being metrics.
- On-site spa: Daily life is busy, and most people can’t find enough hours in the day to fit in spa time. A holiday can be the perfect opportunity to find time for the spa and give your mind and body a treat with relaxing treatments such as massages and reflexology. When we take care of ourselves we have more to give our friends, family and jobs when we return to 'real life'.
- Increase fitness: A nice relaxing week on the beach might sound like heaven, but it can often cause people to come home feeling deflated and lazy after very little movement and a bit too much food. Choosing a holiday that incorporates daily activities allows you to return home feeling fitter than when you left—a sure way to feel energised to deal with life until your next holiday!
- Nutrition: Who hasn't returned from holiday and stepped onto the scale with dread after a week of ice cream in the sun? Holidays can provide the perfect opportunity to access a variety of different fruits, vegetables and good nutritious meals to help give your body a boost. A new country can also provide new dishes to sample and ideas to take home with you to carry on once you're home.
- Meditation: Most holidays provide people with a bit of down time and the chance to relax, but you can take that to the next level by adding in some meditation to your break. Meditation provides you with the perfect opportunity to reset, and has been shown to have massive benefits to people's mental health and wellbeing.
- Nature: The world around us has so many naturally beautiful places to explore, from valleys and waterfalls, to forests and beaches. A holiday can provide the best opportunity to have a real change of scenery, get out in the fresh air and reap the mental rewards of seeing nature’s beauty first hand. You may sigh just thinking about it now!
Scores were allocated with either a 0 (typically not a component of that type of holiday/hard to access), 1 (typically a large component of a holiday/easy to access) or 0.5 (somewhere in between):
|Well-being rank||Holiday||Spa||Fitness||Nutrition||Meditation||Nature||Total Points|
To capture the ability of a holiday to provide consumers with great memories, stories and photo ops, we graded trips according to how easy it is to access these 5 experience metrics:
- Adventure: The human body thrives off adventure, and the chance to do something outside of your comfort zone will create an exhilarating experience and leave you with a great sense of achievement—and stories to tell your mates when you return home!
- Culture/local exposure: Travelling gives you the chance to see local traditions and learn about different cultures, but some types of holiday provide more opportunity to experience local ways of life than other holidays.
- Sun boost: Everyone loves coming back from holiday with a glowing tan, but the benefits of time in the sun go much deeper than our skin. A dose of sunlight triggers our brains to release more serotonin—our happy chemical. This provides a mood boost and reduces our risk of depression. Exposure to sunlight also causes our skin to produce more Vitamin D, which is essential to numerous body functions including keeping our bones strong. (It is however important to be aware of the risks the sun presents and to always wear suitable protection and limit your time in the sun.)
- Nightlife: Evenings provide the perfect opportunity to explore the local area from a different perspective, whether you're a party animal keen to sample the local nightclubs or a foodie looking for amazing restaurants.
- Organised for you: Planning a holiday can be stressful and time consuming, especially when you are booking for a group or family. An organised tour takes away this stress and by letting the experts do the work, you will ensure you see all of the best things within the time frame that you have.
|Experience Rank||Holiday||Organised for you||Adventure||Culture/local exposure||Sun boost||Nightlife||Total|
This study is primarily aimed at adults or older teenagers. Clearly, a cycling, hiking or yoga holiday is not suitable for a family with young children, and may be off limits for people with certain physical disabilities. We recommend that you fully research any holiday before booking, and contact tour companies in person if you have any questions or concerns.
Also, this study is about typical holiday experiences and is meant to inspire you to consider a new type of holiday that ticks a lot of boxes to help ensure you return home relaxed and with memories of lots of good experiences. Many people might have very different opinions on the matter. For example, if a week of golf sounds like heaven for you then, of course, that's the best holiday for you.
If you go on a sporting holiday, be sure your activities are covered by your travel insurance policy—activities deemed "risky" by your insurer may not be covered!