Hyperopics and the All-Inclusive Vacation

I just got back from six days in the Dominican Republic with my husband and three kids. It was the first time we stayed at an all-inclusive resort, and I learned some important lessons about happiness – specifically for hyperopic people like myself. Hyperopia is an excess of far-sightedness. Hyperopics tend to think too much about the future, and save like crazy for retirement and college. "Carpe diem" isn’t in our vocabulary.

Columbia University researcher Ran Kivetz has conducted 20 different studies on the subject over the last dozen years. Hyperopic people tend to "deprive themselves of indulgence and instead overly focus on acquiring and consuming utilitarian necessities, acting responsibly and 'doing the right thing,'" he wrote in an article in the Journal of Consumer Research. (Frugality tends to go hand in hand with hyperopia.)

In one study with Professor Itamar Simonson at Stanford, Rivetz and his researchers offered participants the opportunity to win $90 cash, or a self-indulgent item (such as a massage) worth slightly less. Some 40 percent chose the massage, telling researchers that if they took the cash, they would use it for savings or groceries rather than spend it on themselves.

I discovered than all-inclusive vacations are the perfect panacea for hyperopics. I planned and paid for the trip in full last summer, making it feel like a freebie when the date finally rolled around (and prohibitively expensive to cancel). As a result, I was happy to indulge in memorable extras, like zip-lining through the forest. I can be kind of a wet blanket on family vacations ("Don’t order those $2.50 sodas!") but the all-inclusive removes the need for frugality. If the kids chose something from the buffet they didn’t like, they could go back and choose again, because it was "free." (Unfortunately this usually resulted in my husband and I eating their leftovers, so we packed on a few extra pounds by the end of the trip.)

Nevertheless, I'm convinced pre-planned indulgences are the key to a happier life for hyperopics. "We’re not talking about catastrophic choices, but everyday dilemmas about working or taking time off, eating fruit salad or chocolate cake," Kivetz says. "They’re not dramatic — but they become dramatic because choices add up over time. You delay vacation again and again, and at some point you'll look back and say, ‘I didn’t enjoy myself enough.’"