Some titles focus less on a specific destination than on the motivations and methods behind getting there. These books merge travel with self-help, offering strategies for upgrading one’s downtime.

In March, Clarkson Potter will publish the slim, stowable How to Pack, by a former consultant and career traveler, Hitha Palepu, who writes that she has “always packed for the person I wanted to be.” Taking a page from Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the book tackles “one of those things that everyone wishes they could do better,” says senior editor Amanda Englander.

She calls out the book’s sample packing list section as one of its best features; it includes hypothetical travel scenarios such as a wedding weekend, a five-day business trip to Chicago, and a 10-day visit up and down the East Coast. Road-testing the tips, however, has not always brought the editor what Tidying author Marie Kondo might describe as joy: “You are never supposed to bring more than three pairs of shoes, no matter what,” Englander says. “I am not adapting to this so well.”

Taking joy as its central theme, The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations (Oxford Univ., June) is written by Jaime Kurtz, an associate professor of psychology at James Madison University whose research on happiness has received mainstream media attention from outlets including NPR and the Today show.

Allowing that travel is “an area that doesn’t seem to need science,” Oxford senior editor Abby Gross says that there is a danger of taking “really miserable trips in which we invest a lot of money and time.” To combat this, Kurtz offers strategies to help travelers make the most out of every hour away. For example, in a section on managing technology, Kurtz advocates experiencing new things—such as taking a moment to truly see a gorgeous vista—in real time, rather than viewing it through a smartphone screen with a goal of seeing it again later.

“In the past, you’d take a couple rolls of film on a trip and come home and relive the experience,” Gross says. “So set limits: take one picture per experience.”

Return to the main feature.