Cape Town, Camps Bay. 111216. Edwina Sauls takes a quick pic of her friends Siphokazi Ntongambini, Ntomtikele Mehlwana and Busiswa Jolingana(all from Wallacedene) while enjoying their public holiday on Camps Bay beach. Picture Courtney Africa

It looks like the sort of mathematical code that may hold the secrets to life itself – or, at the very least, an equation that may have appeared in the movie A Beautiful Mind.

But the seemingly impenetrable mixture of letters and numbers above may be a formula for something we are all searching for – the perfect holiday.

A study commissioned by Holiday Inn found that an ideal getaway comes together as a combination of factors, with the amount of time off, the cost of the break and issues such as boredom, relaxation and anxiety all playing a role.

The formula was identified by Dr David Lewis, a psychologist at research consultancy Mindlab International, which is based at the University of Sussex.

And it suggests the holiday that provides maximum relaxation with minimum worry is a three-day escape that takes the subject no further than four hours from home.

“Research shows that many people find breaks abroad so stressful that they return home more worn out than perked up,” Lewis explains. “This helps to explain the growing popularity of shorter breaks, with many holidaymakers finding that taking several long weekend breaks is more rewarding.”

Elements assessed as part of the formula include N(d) – the number of possible holidays of length “d” that can be taken in a year – and C(d), the cost of that holiday dependent on the number of days taken.

The a(d) stands for the anxiety levels a holidaymaker may feel about a certain break – concern about taking time off work and tasks piling up while away – related to “d”, the duration of the getaway.

The r(d) relates to the level of relaxation a holidaymaker is likely to achieve while away from home, as placed against the length of the holiday.

“The traditional post-holiday slump can cause even more stress for people returning to the workplace to a backlog of work requiring their urgent attention,” Lewis says.

“Holidays are intended to recharge our batteries and help us come back refreshed and reinvigorated. But given the over-indulgences that can be made on holiday – from too much sun to too much food and drink – the longer the holiday lasts the greater the potential risk to one’s health.” – Daily Mail