If you find it hard to avoid work interrupting your vacation, you’re not alone. A recent TripAdvisor survey found that 77% of U.S. respondents have worked on vacation during the past year. Indeed, on our vacations 91% of us check email (and 85% respond to it), 45% check voicemail (and 40% respond to it), and 42% create and/or edit documents.
Since one of the biggest perpetual challenges in my life is how to get my work accomplished when I’m traveling with my family, I thought I’d share a few of the strategies I’ve come up with for balancing precious vacation bonding time with email and deadlines:
1. Check email at times when your travel companions aren’t available anyway.
Some vacationers check email daily but only at a certain time of day and for a certain amount of time—and they manage to stick to it. Others choose to vacation in spots where there is no Internet and thus they are forced to unplug. Neither of those options work for me, so I check email several times a day, but at junctures when my loved ones are otherwise engaged—e.g., when the kids are asleep or taking sports lessons, or when we’re in the car listening to books on tape.
2. Choose accommodations where work will cut into your vacation enjoyment as little as possible.
If you need Wi-Fi to do your job, for instance, don’t choose a place where Wi-Fi will be costly, slow, or problematic. I just got back from a family vacation in Mexico at Rosewood Mayakoba, which I chose specifically because I knew that it has free, fast Wi-Fi on the beach and at the pool, as well as these other amenities that turn a “workation” from frustrating to enjoyable. Parents, if you know you’ll need to work, consider a resort with a complimentary kids’ club; here’s a list of 16 from our friends at Family Vacation Critic.
3. Consider a time zone where co-workers won’t be trying to reach you during daytime hours.
In parts of the world where daylight coincides with when your office is closed, you needn’t worry about email disrupting your day. If you live on the East Coast and you’re vacationing in Europe, for instance, you get a break till 3 p.m. (9 a.m. Eastern Time). Frequent traveler Gary Leff of View From The Wing likes Asia because of the 12-hour time difference: He can answer the day’s emails before breakfast and then go undisturbed by email for the rest of the day because everyone at home is sleeping.
4. Set a strategic out-of-office email message.
State that you’re returning a day later than you actually are, thus giving yourself a full day post-vacation to respond to the pileup of your most critical messages.
5. Plan a trip highlight—and at least one activity with each loved one each day.
On my Mexico “vacation” I had to work a lot, but I did tell the kids each morning at what time I would be available and planned an activity with each—say, a bike ride or a swim—so that there was a set event each day for them to look forward to. I also planned a highlight for the family: Swimming and snorkeling with whale sharks (yes, the world’s biggest fish) in the wild. My hope was that when the kids remember the trip, it will be that adventure (and not the hours mom spent on her laptop) that they recall most vividly. So far it’s worked.