Keeping Up With Work While on Vacation

Conde Nast has a piece on how to work productively while still making the most of your vacation.

Chaney Kwak interviewed folks like Wendy Perrin, Joe Brancatelli, and IT executives with involvement in the travel industry.

I was also interviewed, and here was my take:

Some hotel rooms lack power outlets. I always bring a compact power strip so I can recharge all of my devices at once. An air card or MiFi device is indispensable so I can even work in cabs. I actually love staying caught up with work while I’m away because if I don’t, all of the relaxation I’ve accomplished is immediately wiped away by the deluge I receive when I come back. I especially love traveling to Asia. Thanks to a 12-hour time difference, very little is happening the entire day that I’m on vacation, which leaves me free to enjoy without juggling any calls or crises.

Checking email just in the early morning hours of the day was echoed by two of the other contributors as well, though I find it easiest to do that when time zones cooperate.

And to be clear my comment about “I can even work in cabs” was about using technology to stay connected on the road, rather than on vacation… 🙂

How do you handle work while on holiday?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I often find it difficult to work while on vacation and I am terrible at time management to begin with! I usually find myself catching up with work for an hour or 2 in the wee-hours of night before bed.

  2. I find it more relaxing if I do 1-2 hours per day….strategically done like when Mrs. Scuta is getting dressed. However, I think it will be a different story when we have kids!

  3. I ask my team to call me if anything urgent comes up, otherwise I don’t respond to e-mails – just clear out the junk / items I don’t need to action in order to mitigate the deluge when I’m back in the office – and also (more importantly), to be aware of any issues I could be walking back into (and therefore prep a bit beforehand).

    I’ve never completely disconnected during vacation, but I feel I’ve struck a nice balance between doing just enough to stay ahead (of what’s happening back in the office), and enjoying time off. It’s literally 1hr a day (cumulative) in order to have piece of mind the place is not falling apart – which has never happened; but it’s just the way I am and I try my best to avoid it driving a wedge between family even outside of vacation as well.

    A delicate balance in a tough/competitive employment market – but I digress…

  4. This is really an article? Very few folks are important enough to actually need to work on vacation.

    If you believe you’re one of those, congrats. I hope you enjoy your job.

  5. When I am on holiday I don’t bother with work. I used to be part of a Search And Rescue team and that taught me what really matters. In my job now no one will die if they have to wait to get an answer. So they can wait. I have an old Razr phone with a UK SIM card in it so I can toss my work phone in my desk when I leave and then I’m out of contact until I get back.

  6. i do not work on vacation, certainly do not check email, which isn’t really work anyway.

  7. I always wonder how much time do you really “work” in your day job with all of your blogs all through the day. so it’s really amusing to hear about keeping up with work while on vacation 🙂

  8. You’ve got to switch off. Takes a few days and then it feels good to not think about it. If people think you will respond they send you stuff. I find that many emails solve them selves if ignore them. There is all e stuff to come back to but screw it – your on vacation.

  9. A tip – set up an emergency email address. In the out of office message say “If really important email me here otherwise wait till I get back”.

  10. I’m with you, Gary. I’m a software engineering senior technical contributor. I regularly browse work and personal EMAIL when I travel. During vacations I’d much rather spend a few minutes each day staying current with work issues (and providing guidance to keep critical issues moving forward) than face a lot of stress catching up when I return. I find that many other vacationers don’t understand my philosophy.

  11. When I’m on vacation, I set up my e-mail with an automatic out of office reply. I check my work e-mail, but won’t reply to anything. The people who need to know I’m out of the office will know beforehand that I’ll be out of the office, so they won’t be surprised when I don’t answer until I get back. Isn’t the whole point of vacation to get away from work?

  12. For me, work is a 4 letter word. Retired is much nicer. When I travel, I put a notice on my website until I return. I do not carry a computer or a cell phone. Vacation is vacation, even if it is from a project that is not work.

  13. Oh yeah, here’s another tiip to try. Set out of office before you leave. Nothing worse that that need email come in just before your set it up and head out. As Brian says – let those who are important know you are going to be gone and set the stage first. It’s ok to peek at email while away but keep the responses down to those that are critical to keep log jams building but don’t get sucked back in.

  14. I’m reading these comments and flabbergasted. Who are you that you can leave the office and not worry about work? I don’t have a high paying job or do anything hugely important, but if I want to keep my job in this economy, I’m expected to be connected and answer emails when I’m on vacation. You’re wired for it, they expect it. If you don’t, that vacation becomes permanent.

  15. I have a small business, and if my clients don’t find me accessible, they may very well choose someone else. Since the name of the game in my industry is repeat business, not checking emails or at least doing some work may lead to big problems. I tell me clients in advance that as I will be traveling during the period in question, I can’t take close deadlines or very large jobs. I find working a few hours in the morning is actually not at all onerous. I appreciate it when I bill at the end of the month, and don’t have to contend with financial worries. Talk about losing the enjoyment and relaxation of a vacation when you come home! As to many of the comments pooh poohing even a bit of work on vacation, I can bet dollars to doughnuts that most of them are not from self-employed people. On the positive side, I take a lot of trips, and these would not be possible if I declared a completely moratorium on work.

  16. @Nathan — I often write posts in the early morning or in the evening and schedule them to publish during the day…

  17. I change my out of office message to read, “I am on vacation. Upon my return, your emails will be deleted in the order received. If it is really urgent, call my assistant.”

    We leave my cell phone home and take my wife’s phone with us. My assistant has that number, with instructions to call only in case of an emergency that can’t wait.

  18. Holiday = no work. Very simple. The day I leave the office a try to blank my mind to things work related. It takes a few days. Taking a “sneak peak” at work e-mails just ruins it. 90% of the emails are irrelevant by the time I get back anyway. The rest can be solved after the holidays.

    It’s all about quality of life, really.

  19. Impossible not to work when traveling. We own our own business, so when we leave there’s no one left back at the office to do anything. We carry everything we need on a MacBook Air and spend an hour or so first thing in the morning and an hour or so late afternoon, before dinner, keeping up with correspondence and customer inquiries.

    The great thing is that most times we can earn enough money while traveling to pay for the entire trip! Almost like getting “paid vacation” time like all you “I go dark” guys must get :).

  20. I second NecessaryIndulgences’ thoughts — if I disconnect from work, we lose clients. Our business can be run from anywhere, though, so we take it with us without much fuss.

    Our preference is for extended vacations of 1-2 months. We’ll generally keep current clients happy for most of the time without looking for new work, and then spend 3-4 days at a time working more of a stable schedule but in a foreign locale.

    Even on a shorter schedule, my advice is to devote some amount of time to work if you have to work. Not working at all is best, but it’s not possible for everyone. Rather than fretting about work while visiting museums or exploring the city, spend an hour or two every morning and evening to keep things going.

    Generally, I find that my productivity is much higher when I’m on the road because I restrict myself to less working time. It really helps you to see what’s necessary and what could be cut out of your schedule.

  21. Like a few others, I am self-employed. While I don’t spend hours each day working, I take the time to check emails at least a couple of times a day while out of the country (usually during downtime), and, when visiting family, I’m rarely away from my smartphone.
    I can handle minor issues that comes up or simply reply that I am out of town and will address it as soon as I return. This gives my clients — and me — peace of mind.
    I would go out of my mind if I actually tried to “go dark.” I struggle to survive a long flight without access to email.

  22. I’m saddened, but not surprised, to see how many people think it’s good to work during vacation. I work with many people who do the same, and they can never relax during their vacations.

    If you can’t stop working when you’re on vacation, when *can* you?

  23. “How do you handle work while on holiday?” I don’t. That’s why it’s a holiday. Otherwise, it would be work.

    I’m fortunate to work for a company that recognizes the value in terms of work-life balance of their employees not working while on vacation. If I were to check or respond to emails while on vacation, my manager would say something when I returned and tell me to not check my email the next time I’m on vacation.

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