experiment Leisure travel

A Dream Worth Not Remembering


With warmer weather comes having to roll up your car window and blast A/C to avoid cigarette smoke from the car in front of you, dad legs, and Gradient family vacations. After last year’s family vacation snafu at the World's Largest Ball of Twine, we are no longer letting Uncle Jerry choose the destination… or hold a lighter. This year, we are taking a more analytical approach and using a conjoint experiment to guide our decision.



As any real estate agent can tell you, location plays the biggest role in Americans’ vacation decisions, with scenery not far behind. The number of days and activity level are less important because no amount of time off work can make a hike on Snake Island fun. Taking all of America’s preferences together, the most preferred vacation consists of sipping piña coladas on a beach in the Caribbean for 10-14 days. How original. If the price of plane tickets keeps rising, a beach in the U.S. will suffice as long as the nearest bar (or ball of twine) is within walking distance.


Next, we asked Americans to choose which vacation they thought was most boring. Then, to choose between taking that boring vacation or taking one to their dream destination—with a catch: There would be no record of the dream vacation, including a Men in Black-style memory erasure as soon as the vacation ended.


Three-fourths of Americans (78%) would rather experience and forget their dream vacation than remember a boring vacation. This supports the findings of Nobel prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman, that Americans are more likely to prioritize their “experiencing self” over their “remembering self.” Come on, nobody wants to remember the braces and pimples from middle school.

This raises an important philosophical question: If you post a picture of your vacation at the coal mines of Wyoming and it doesn’t get any likes, did it even really happen?