What's the formula for the perfect holiday? I'd have thought it depends very much on what sort of person you are. But a mathematician, a psychologist and travel experts from online travel agency Expedia.co.nz, reckon they've got it sussed for all of us.

Based on research from 1000 Australians and 500 New Zealanders about their holidays they've worked out a mathematical equation which, they reckon, can guarantee a happy holiday.

Pure mathematician Dr Rupert McCallum says he used mathematical techniques to explore the relationship between the individual factors and overall enjoyment. "The factors that make up the equation are the perfect mathematical blend, some have a bigger bearing on holiday contentment than others, as denoted by the numerical values, but put them all together and statistically speaking, you should have a happier holiday."

His formula, with the weighting applied to different factors in brackets, is: Holiday happiness = happiness (baseline) + great destination (21.2) + plenty of activities (7.8) + great food (6.4) + value for money (5.1) + safety and security (4) + relaxed on return (3.6) + great weather (1.9) + great hotel (1.6) + holiday envy from friends or family (1).


That would seem to mean, if I'm reading it correctly, that if you're a happy person in the first place and you go to a fabulous destination with plenty of activities and great food you should have a good holiday.

Well, yes, I'd expect that would work. But it surely begs the question of what, exactly, is a fabulous destination. I know a lot of people for whom it's a resort with golden sand, a warm sea and lots of sun. But I'd far rather be walking on ice in the Antarctic.

And, as for the other criteria, some of the best holidays I've had were to places like Burma (mostly awful accommodation), the Silk Road (variable food), the Sub Antarctic islands (cold, wet and windy) and Burgundy (very expensive) and Oman (no one envied me).

Personally, I think the key to a good holiday is having a positive attitude. Though good weather and entertaining companions can certainly help.

GIVEAWAY: We're giving away five copies of the excellent book, Selling The Dream ($79.95, Craig Potton Publishing), a collection of Kiwi tourism posters. To go in the draw, email travelcompetition@nzherald.co.nz with your top tip for a great New Zealand destination.

Jim Eagles is a former Herald Travel editor.