“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  If you’re one of the ‘50% of U.S. travelers expected to leave unused vacation days on the table this year’ I’m talking to you.

When I was working in an office for someone else and had two weeks of vacation to use, I used it. Every stinking last day of it. Now, being self-employed my schedule is more flexible. However, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. But I’ve learned how to manage it and rather like having more than two weeks of vacation a year. The thing I don’t understand is that more than half of U.S. travelers expect to leave unused vacation days on the table this year, according to a recent survey. Besides just leaving unused vacation days on the table, when people do take time off, they struggle to leave the stress of work at the office. I get that. Totally. But really guys, as the saying goes – ‘have a glass of wine and you’ll be fine’.

  • “Too much work” ranked the second biggest obstacle for taking a vacation (cost was the first)
  • 68% of those 35 and older reported that their job is the number one reason for needing a vacation, yet a majority do not plan to take all of their vacation time
  • Half of the respondents said work frequently keeps them from relaxing while on vacation
  • Enjoying their time off is even tougher for frequent business travelers; 52% say work is more likely to ruin their vacation than bad weather
  • 55% of respondents said they cannot go a full week without checking work emails or voice mails
  • 45% admitted five days is the longest they can stay unplugged from work while on vacation

Ground Control to Major Tom – We have a problem!

I’m the first person to admit that I can’t go an entire vacation without connecting. When my laptop fried on my trip to Russia I felt panicked. Sick. Totally disconnected. But, by the end of the week those feeling had all subsided and I was relaxed and enjoyed sipping my Stella not worrying about work, Twitter or Facebook. Some of that was the pure fact I could not constantly check my devices. Another was that I found a few strategies to stay connected, but still unplug so I could enjoy my time away.Here are my 10 tips on how to unplug and enjoy your vacation (or at least kinda unplug).

unplug on vacation

10 Ways on How to Unplug and Enjoy Your Vacation (or kinda unplug)

1. Set a specific time when you’re going to be online. Constantly checking work email or voice mail was cited as the top vacation crime in the survey. Also on the vacation rap sheet was skipping exciting plans to get business done. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME ON YOU! If you MUST check emails and voice mails, set a time during the day – or night – that you’re going to be online. If you need an hour, do an hour but keep it to an hour. Then, shut the laptop. Turn off the phone. Take a breath and enjoy the next 23 hours.

2. Don’t answer your phone. It’s OK not to answer the call. Fire drills happen everyday but true emergencies are rare. You’re on vacation so there is no need to allow yourself to get sucked into the fire drills. People can leave a message or send a text. Then you can get back to them on your schedule.

3. Do the basics. When you first leave for vacation your phone and email may be going as if you’re still in the office. But simply doing the basic things, including setting your out of office and voice mail to reflect when you’re out/back will slow down the incoming traffic. Word to the wise, do not let people know you will be checking email and voice mail on your vacation unless you want to work. If people know you’re gone, they’re going to either wait for you to return or reach out to your colleagues/replacement.

4.Train your replacements. I hate to say it, but you are replaceable. We all are, at least when it comes to a job. I know it’s terrifying for a lot of people – to give up control to someone else. What if they do a better job? What if they mess it up? But you have to trust, train them and leave written instructions (ok, that’s my type A coming out). Let go…

5. Don’t post to social media sites when you’re traveling. I know that’s hard but if you’re posting content to Facebook or Twitter that means you’re online. In other words, you have access to email and more than likely your phone. Which means you can easily click over and be sucked right back into work mode. If you can avoid the lure of email and voice mail on your phone, then forget this tip and post, post, post away!

6 Leave the technology at home (or have TSA ruin it for you). I know, easier said than done. Leaving all your devices at home (or turned off in the hotel) can be liberating and nerve wracking at the same time. It forces you to engage with the people you’re in-front of, not gravatars on the screen. (Your kids are going to remember that you built the Mordor sandcastle at the beach with them 10 years from now. Your colleagues aren’t going to recall you reworking that proposal in a week.) If you simply can’t leave your devices at home, at least try to rid yourself of the laptop. Bringing your iPad or smartphone can still allow you to be connected BUT it will limit the amount of work you can actually do while you’re on the road. And, it’s one less thing to carry.

unplug on vacation

 7. Check to make sure your travel dates don’t coincide with major work projects. This one is tough given that sometimes work projects just pop up. But if you know about industry events or product launches you’re going to be involved in ahead of time, it may be best to change your travel dates to ensure you’re not going to be working from your hotel room.

8. Make sure your boss and team mates know well in advance you’re out. And remind them. Frequently. This seems like common sense and most people are good at making sure their colleagues know when they’re traveling. It’s strange though how quickly people forget the things they don’t want to remember.

9. Guilt be gone. Don’t tell your colleagues you’re going to check emails. Or that you’re going to be available in case they have questions. Even if you implement #1, they don’t need to know this. Per #8, people like to forget you’re taking time off. Don’t feel guilty when a last minute project pops up and they have to take it on. If the roles were reversed, would they change their plans or miss out on their vacation time? Again, let go…

10. Just be. Life is short. You only have two weeks of vacation. Take it. Enjoy it. Soak it in. You deserve it.

 Do you have other techniques you’ve used to unplug from work when you travel?



  1. This is so true! I always feel so much better when I go on vacation & tell myself I won’t go online (or set a limited number of times to go on). Just found your blog & will def be following it from now on : ) I just started a bucket list blog if you want to check it out!

  2. Great tips. What I find myself doing for work is only working for as long as my laptop battery last. So I won’t have my charger connected and when it warns me that I have 10 minutes to plugin in, I simply wrap up what I’m doing and put away my computer.

    1. That’s a good one! Although I think my battery last around three hours or so. Way too long to work while on vacation. =)

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