Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Lucy Mangan: "When did holidays become hard work?"


Summertime – and the living’s not easy. A new survey suggests that most of us have already embarked on a 30-hour (on average) voyage of discovery spread over five weeks in order to put together our perfect holiday. That’s around four working days to consult websites, friends, magazines, shop for bits and pieces, research accommodation and attractions, and sort out flights and other travel arrangements.

The researchers for some reason didn’t see fit to include questions about how long is spent preparing our nether and other regions for display in exotic climes or how much time we spend paralysed with panic about everything beforehand.

Then there’s the time we stay late in the office trying to clear our desks so as not to be overwhelmed by the backlog of work when we return – or indeed, the time spent clearing said backlog, which will form no matter how much advance effort you put in. I reckon you could comfortably double that 30-hour investment if they had.

I reckon you could also bump up the figure by surveying proto-holidaymaking men and women separately. In my experience, the insistence on research – for an individual or couples’ holiday – is a female trait. Men seem to bash about on the keyboard for 10 minutes, find somewhere that looks sunny, promises a bar, whip their credit cards out and are done and dusted in the time it takes us to verify the true en-suiteness of a bathroom.

My husband made it a condition of marriage that I never be allowed to book another holiday because I end up surrounded by huge mounds of print-outs, crying. He uses one notebook, three websites, a gimlet eye and half an hour.

Why do we do it? It’s partly for positive reasons, I’m sure. A holiday is, after all, a big commitment. It’s expensive, it’s rare and it is supposed to undo all the stresses, strains and woes accumulated during the other 47 weeks of the year. It really doesn’t do to get to your destination to find out that the airport is four hours from the hotel, your hotel’s 20 miles instead of 20 metres from the beach, and your loo is 20 feet down a corridor instead of 20 seconds from your bed. Some investment in ensuring that basic expectations are met is surely wise.

Plus, of course, planning is a lot of fun. Half the pleasure of most things – from a gin and tonic to first-time sex – is in the anticipation rather than the realisation.

But – probably, I realise now, not even halfway through the 30-hour stint – it can become not a pleasure but a pain. Happy expectancy gives way to obsessive compulsion. Fear of missing out – on a bargain, on a bluer sea, a more golden beach, a posher pool, a greater thrill somewhere, somehow – overtake delicious daydreaming. Seeking the best is a natural human tendency, of course, but these days it can easily be aggravated beyond any useful degree by limitless access to other choices, other opinions, other possibilities offered by the internet.

That men don’t seem to suffer to the same degree from the compulsion to keep searching for the Platonic ideal of a holiday suggests to me that it also has something to do with self-confidence. It takes a fair amount of the stuff to call a halt to your searches and effectively say ‘That’s it. I’ve done enough. I’ve found something that will meet my needs and that will do.’

Applying the label ‘good enough’ seems to be something men find easier to do than women – be it to holidays, to work (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen male friends hand in dissertations, work reports or projects in a state that would have their female equivalents conscientiously beavering away for days before deeming them acceptable), parenting or relationships. I suspect this is because they are more used to setting the rules and the standards to which society generally cleaves.

Their way is not entirely right, of course, but neither is ours and I suspect we lose out more – in terms of wasted hours and energies – than they do. Something to think about when you open up your ninth or tenth website: is it still a pleasure? Or has it become a pain? Will you soon need a holiday to recover from your holiday? Or have you – if you’re honest, if you’re brave – found something that is good enough?"



"I miscarried five times - and each time the NHS let me down"


This summer's best beach books and holiday reads


Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield grab attention with signs outside New York restaurant


Get set for Sex And The City 3


Top 20 outdoor events in the UK this summer


Kate Middleton's off-duty style hits


Lucy Mangan: “Apathy is domestic violence's biggest ally”

We shouldn't as why women stay - we should ask how it came to be that it was impossible for them to leave

by Lucy Mangan
01 Aug 2017

Lucy Mangan: we should “think twice” before considering porn harmless

“Porn has become normalised, placed almost beyond criticism by its sheer prevalence”

by Lucy Mangan
25 Jul 2017

Lucy Mangan is defending our right to platonic friendships

Our columnist on the infuriating mistrust a one-on-one dinner with a friend provokes

by Lucy Mangan
11 Jul 2017

Lucy Mangan: being ambitious isn’t for everyone

"I cannot live at full stretch"

by Lucy Mangan
08 Jun 2017

Lucy Mangan is exhausted by the “age of extremes”

“Can’t we all just agree to meet half-way?”

by Lucy Mangan
17 May 2017

Lucy Mangan: “Why I regret losing my religion”

"The older I get and the more chaotic the world gets, the more I wish I could trust in a higher power."

by Lucy Mangan
03 May 2017

Lucy Mangan exposes the dangers of parental point scoring

“Enough of this parent worship”

by Lucy Mangan
01 May 2017

“Family planning: the equality question”

Lucy Mangan on the burden of contraception

by Lucy Mangan
01 Apr 2017

Lucy Mangan on why feeling beautiful starts with your thoughts

“Erase the ugly voices in your head”

by Lucy Mangan
01 Apr 2017

“A step-by-step guide to sexism”: Lucy Mangan responds to ‘Legs-it’

You are a lady and you have legs. Use them to kick ass.

by Lucy Mangan
01 Apr 2017