I haven’t had a true vacation since I became a travel consultant. Every vacation I have had has turned into a miniature fam trip, even if it was SUPPOSED to be a relaxing personal vacation. It’s been a struggle, but I’ve been able to take at least ONE getaway each year where I truly leave the office behind and let my batteries recharge. If it’s something you struggle with, too, then perhaps my experience will help!
- Get Away: I can’t tell you how many people I know take time off work and then stay home. They get a to do list done, or they veg on the couch watching a lot of Redbox movies. To truly recharge and capture that energizing spirit that comes from a vacation, you have to actually GO AWAY somewhere. It could be the next major city, the state next door, or even an entirely different country. Doesn’t matter – go away. Leave town. You’ll appreciate your time off a lot more, I promise.
- Make a list. Make two lists: We’re all in the habit (I hope) of making packing lists when we have to go away, but what about task lists? Make a task list for before you leave, and for when you return. The first list is things that need to be done before you disconnect from the office. Calls to clients. Papers to file. Quotes to send out. The second list, for when you return, is just as mundane, but both task lists will help your peace of mind – you won’t do what I did on a cruise ship in the Caribbean recently, waking up thinking, “Oh no! I didn’t send Mrs. Smith her cruise quote before I left!” (I had, I just forgot that I had. And I wasted $5.00 on ship internet to find that out. Grrr.)
- Look for the Desktop: No, not your computer! My desk is perpetually covered in piles – organized chaos, I call it. But, when I turn out the desk light at the end of the work day, I have to see my desk top. I have to organize my work into prioritized piles – things that need immediate attention the next day, things that need filed, things that I have to work into my schedule sometime that week. The same goes for when I leave for any length of time – I need to organize everything otherwise when I come back and see the paper maelstrom on the desk, I will run away and avoid it like it was a puddle of bubonic plague.
- Buddy Up: When I was a young lad, and took swimming trips with my schoolmates, we were always told to buddy up and make sure each other was okay during the swim time. It’s a principle that works well in the office – find another agent that can act as your emergency backup if something comes up that can’t wait for your return. One agent I know partners with another one, switching her office number to ring to the others’ office while she’s gone. It’s a great way to provide customer service when you’re out, and you never have to worry about missing a call! Of course, this requires a certain level of trust and then you have to make your client files available to the backup person, so be judicious in your selection!
- Leave It Home: Don’t take work-stuff with you. Leave the laptop behind, and certainly don’t take any client files with you. The less you have with you to tempt you, the easier it will be to stop thinking about work and truly disconnect.
- Redirect: Set your office phone to forward to your backup person, or to proceed immediately to voicemail. Same with emails – use an autoresponder if you really, really have to, or forward the stuff to your backup person, or simply let it accumulate (as long as you are able to make quick work of clearing it out when you return). Make it difficult to get in touch with you with your work contact information – your backup should have your personal number, of course, for TRUE emergencies.
- Lie: This is my favorite tip. Don’t let people expect you to be available immediately upon returning. For example, I recently came home from a cruise, arriving back at home on a Sunday. As far as most of my clients knew, I was not back in the office until Wednesday. I had a few extra days to catch up on everything before the phone started ringing again.
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS has been a travel professional since 2005 and currently owns Exclusive Events At Sea (http://www.exclusiveeventsatsea.com) and Journeys By Steve (http://www.journeysbysteve.com) with specializations in group cruising, individual ocean & river cruising, and personalized experiences in Europe, especially the British Isles. In addition, Steve heads up WordPressForTravelAgents.com, an email-based WordPress education system designed specifically for the busy travel professional. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.