Eight in 10 British holidaymakers claim the anticipation is integral to the experience itself

A top psychologist has dubbed it ‘the ah! Factor'  - anticipatory happiness - which she claims is vital for wellbeing.

The poll of 2,000 adults found 68 per cent feel the lead up to a big event, such as a birthday or holiday, is often more fun than what you’ve actually got planned.

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Holidays abroad emerged as the occasion they most enjoy looking forward to (57 per cent), followed by catching up with friends (57 per cent) and going out for a meal (56 per cent).

Nearly half (49 per cent) think planning is ‘half the fun’, while 48 per cent get a ‘thrill’ from preparing for events, such as hitting the shops for new outfits for the occasion.

Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos explained how having something in the diary mitigates anticipatory anxiety and helps 'orientate the brain into positivity’.

She said: "Research has shown that having something to look forward to orientates our mind to positivity for the future.

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“Whether it's a lunch with a friend in two months or a holiday in six months, anticipation of something good is a way of projecting positively into the future.

“At times, we fear what's going to happen next, especially in these uncertain times but booking something in, means we mitigate this, we minimise that uncertainty.

"'Anticipatory happiness' means we're moving towards something positive and helps us understand our worries or stress aren't going to last forever.

“Crucially, it also gives us a sense of volition which means we feel able to control the outcome for the future, which is critical for our sense of wellbeing."

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Reaching optimal excitement

The study was commissioned by TUI to mark the launch of the ‘How to Book’ book, a guide developed by a secret travel expert on how to bag the best deals for next summer to ensure holiday makers are getting the most joy from their experiences.

It also revealed the point at which adults get most excited for the plans they’ve made, with 12 per cent getting a buzz as early as one to two weeks before something’s due to take place.

When attending a wedding as a guest, Brits get a thrill for the upcoming event around six weeks before, while optimal excitement of a holiday abroad starts at 11 weeks.

It also emerged when planning typically kicks in for all number of big events on Brits’ calendars, where preparing for a holiday abroad lasting more than three days starts as early as 11 weeks pre-departure.

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And planning will commence for a weekend overseas as many as nine weeks before the trip takes place.

The research, conducted via OnePoll, also found 62 per cent will get excited when they’ve set up plans for their next vacation, with 55 per cent feeling a lift in their mood.

A further 32 per cent feel organised when they’ve booked upcoming trips, with the adults who get their ducks in a row doing it as early as 10 months pre-holiday.

And nearly one in 10 (eight per cent) will plan their next trip before they’ve barely unpacked, booking their next holiday immediately after they return from the last.

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A spokesperson for Tui added: “Booking early gives us so many advantages, not just financially, but also for our mood too.

"There has been so much uncertainty over the past two years, so having a holiday on the horizon can really help to lift your spirits, whether that’s looking forward to quality time with loved ones or knowing there will be a chance to relax and recharge while on your break.

“Our newly commissioned How to Book book gives a travel expert’s insider insight into how to really make the most of booking early and getting the best deals along the way, from locking in prices now, spreading the cost over a longer period and grabbing one of the thousands of free kids' places that are currently available, including in school holiday time.”

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