If there’s a skill I’ve never mastered when it comes to travel, it is staying chilled out in the days leading up to a big trip.
It’s not that I’m nervous about travelling, it’s just that there’s so much to do: on top of sorting out the house, packing, work, pets and gadgets, I’ve got to find a new swimsuit. And get a haircut. And paint my toenails.
It helps to know I’m not alone: a survey by Expedia shows more than half of Australian travellers spend considerable time and money getting “holiday ready” before they depart.
Forty per cent buy new clothes, while about a third go and get their hair done.
Waxing or other hair removal is on the list for 16 per cent, while 13 per cent get a manicure or pedicure and 11 per cent spend time organising a phone package.
(A work colleague admitted to having done all of the above before her last trip, and I’m sure she’s in good company.)
On average, we spend about $90 on these pre-holiday preparations, according to the Expedia survey, although I’d say that figure must be lowered by some low-maintenance folk because $90 doesn’t go far at the hairdresser or beauty salon.
It seems women are the worst offenders when it comes to the pre-holiday rush-around.
A 2011 lastminute.com.au survey of 6500 Australian women found one-third admitted to becoming a “stress head” in the lead-up to a trip.
However, social trends commentator Neer Korn believes most of our pre-holiday preparation is an important part of the travel experience.
“I see it as a very positive thing,” Korn says.
“Sure there are people who need to rush around and make phone calls and things like that, but buying all the things you need and getting your hair done is all part of the build-up of the excitement.
“It’s part of getting into holiday mode.”
Korn likens pre-holiday rituals to carefully wrapping a present and putting a bow on it: It enhances rather than detracts from the experience.
He says pre-holiday preparations appear to be more of a female trait, but men may be joining in more than we think.
“What is hard to gauge is whether women are just more open about it; more willing to admit that they do it,” he says.
Ironically, a lot of the things we rush out and spend money on before a trip may be the things we have given up to find the money for the holiday.
Lastminute’s latest annual trends report, which is based on a survey of 5700 Aussies, has identified the top items we are willing to go without or cut back on to save for a holiday.
Clothes shopping and eating out are in the top three for both sexes, while women are also prepared to sacrifice magazines and beauty treatments, and men say they will go without buying the latest tech gadgets.
This is backed up by the Expedia survey, which found Aussies tend towards saving up for a holiday and paying in advance, rather than coming home with debt.
More than half prefer to pay for their entire trip in advance, with only 10 per cent putting the whole trip on a credit card and worrying about it later.
Six months is the average time to save up for a holiday, with about 20 per cent of those surveyed having a dedicated holiday fund.
The Expedia survey, which is part of a global survey of more than 11,000 people across 24 countries, found Aussies are among the most deal-driven travellers in the world, with 81 per cent actively looking for deals as part of their booking process.
Flight deals, seasonal sales and hotels that offer meal plans are some of the most sought-after bargains, while beach holidays and cruises seen as the most cost-efficient escapes.
Only 8 per cent of those surveyed said they were willing to splurge on a business or first class flight, yet many said they would spend a bit extra on a hotel in a desired location or a room with a view.
One thing we’re definitely not good at spending money on is tipping: The survey shows we’re still among the meanest tippers in the world.
Half of Aussies say they don’t tip when they travel, compared to only 9 per cent of Americans, who are the most likely to tip.
If it makes you feel any better, we’re not the worst offenders: That title belongs to the Kiwis.
How do you get holiday ready? Is it making a visit to the hairdresser, booking in a pedicure or shopping for the latest travel gadget?