When’s the best time to take a vacation? Some people say the summer is the best time to get away, but others say there are deals to be had in the fall. What about work? Should I just go, or wait for a quiet time when nothing is going on? Help!
Gotta Get Away
Dear Gotta Get Away,
The short answer to your question is that it’s always a good time to take a vacation! The long answer is that you have a little legwork to do to make sure that it’s a good time for your employer, but also a good time for you so you’ll be able to actually relax and enjoy your time away without worrying about work while you’re away. Also, you want to make sure you do a little prep while you’re planning your getaway so you don’t work your fingers to the bone in the days leading up to your vacation, and you aren’t miserable your first few days back.
Plan Your Attack First, Then Ask Your Boss
If your work demands coverage when you’re not around, or you know that being away will make a significant impact on your colleagues, you’ll want to plan your vacation a bit more carefully than if you know they’ll just make do without you on-shift one week. Think about a time that works best for you to get away first—get a few candidate days or weeks in mind before you go talking to your boss. Then ask your boss which of those times works best for them.
Your boss may try and give you a hard time, or just try and tell you that they can’t have you gone during any of those times, and if they do, don’t let that be the end of the conversation—make sure they suggest some times to you that work best for them. Be assertive, and change the conversation from “you can’t leave now!” to “when can I leave, and what should I do to make it easier for you while I’m gone.” For many of us, there’s just no “good time” to take a vacation, so stop waiting for one and just go.
With a Little Planning, Any Time Is a Good Time for a Vacation
Some people will tell you to wait for a “slow time” at the office. If your work has busy and slow times, then definitely take advantage, but know you’ll be fighting everyone else for leave during those slow times. Also, as someone who used to try and wait for it to be “slow” for vacation, I can tell you that if there’s a “slow time” in most businesses, it’s probably a bad sign and not the time you really want to be seen slipping away for a week on the beach. Some people say you should wait for a big project to conclude before taking a vacation, but there are merits to slipping away in the middle of a project, as well.
Whether it’s the middle of the summer or a holiday getaway, the most important thing about timing is when it’s good for you, and when you can get away without making life terrible for your coworkers (and subsequently, for yourself when you get back).
We’ve discussed how to hit the ground running when you get back from vacation, but some of it requires prep before you even leave. It’s key to make sure everyone knows you’ll be gone, be clear that your work is either covered or can wait until you get back, and to make your home and office comfortable places to come back to before you go. Arrange coverage well in advance of your vacation, and do a little extra work every day leading up to your leave so you’re not crunched in the last two days before you take off.
With a little prep (even if it’s at the last minute), you can clear your desk before you get away without having to work a ton just to make sure everything is just right before you go, and getting back won’t have to be a hassle either. Finally, if you’re really worried, there are ways to work on vacation without missing the point of a vacation, although we’d strongly suggest avoiding all work if you can.
However you choose to do it, take your vacations. You don’t want to be part of “no vacation” nation, do you? Your vacation days are part of your compensation and benefits package, the same way your paycheck is. You wouldn’t leave your paycheck on the table just because it wasn’t convenient for someone else, right? There’s no reason for you to do the same with vacation and paid leave.
Have a question or suggestion for Ask Lifehacker? Send it to [email protected].
Photo by EpicStockMedia (Shutterstock).