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Background Vacation has recently become a topic of interest in health research as both beneficial and adverse health effects have been documented. The present study was aimed at identifying vacation characteristics predicting health-related vacation outcome.

Methods One hundred ninety-one predominantly white-collar employees (109 female, 82 males; mean age 37.8 yr, range 16–62 yr) received a questionnaire in the week after vacation assessing subject characteristics, physical vacation characteristics, the individual structuring of the day, health and social behavior, and stress during vacation as well as the perceived change of recuperation and exhaustion from before to after a vacation. Regression analysis was used to identify variables predicting vacation outcome.

Results Twenty-seven percent of the variance of the change of recuperation and 15% of the change of exhaustion could be explained. Recuperation was facilitated by free time for one—s self, warmer (and sunnier) vacation locations, exercise during vacation, good sleep, and making new acquaintances, especially among vacationers reporting higher levels of prevacation work strain. Exhaustion was increased by vacation-related health problems and a greater time-zone difference to home, and was reduced by warmer vacation locations.

Conclusion Health-related vacation outcome is significantly affected by the way an individual organizes his or her vacation.