The festive season is barely over and the new year has only just begun but already at least half of you have planned your big holiday for the next 12 months.

I've often heard from the travel industry that many families sort out their annual travel plans during the summer break, then make the bookings when they return to work, and that has been confirmed by a survey carried out by on-line travel company Expedia.

Of the 502 people questioned, by survey firm Pureprofile, 42 per cent said January is when they usually decide on their holiday plans for the year ahead. And quite a few more - 29 per cent of 18-34 year olds - said they had already locked in their 2010 holiday before the end of last year.

Why the rush? Mainly, it seems, because it's easier to cope with the thought of returning to work if we've got a holiday to look forward to.

Almost half of those surveyed said they "feel more motivated in their jobs" if they know there's a nice break coming up in the near future.

In fact, just to underline that, nearly a third of people plan to take another holiday before the end of April.

And, it seems our holidays don't tend to be spur of the moment things. On the contrary, we put a lot of effort into planning them. About a fifth of respondents said they usually spent in excess of 15 hours researching what to do in their annual holiday. If you're talking about a two-week break, that represents more than an hour of study for each day of leave. As a result of all that research, about half of those surveyed plan to holiday in New Zealand, just under a quarter are looking at a trip to Australia, 9 per cent will visit the Pacific Islands and 7 per cent are opting for Asia, while only a few are thinking about Europe or the US.

Perhaps because the weather has been a bit patchy lately, sun and sand is still top of mind. Asked what would be their dream holiday this year, 41 per cent craved for a tropical island or a beach. By contrast only 5 per cent were sighing for the snow and a ski holiday.

All of that sounds just a bit unimaginative. True, these are difficult economic times, and not everyone can afford to splash out on a trip somewhere exotic. But the flipside of the difficulties is that there are still a lot of amazing deals on offer out there.

Hey, you can go and lie on a beach anytime. In this long, skinny country there are great beaches within easy distance of just about anyone. For your big annual holiday why not try something different? You might find it even more motivating.