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Take control of your vacation
You deserve your time off. Here are strategies for leaving the office behind.
By Gerri Willis, contributing columnist

NEW YORK ( -- It's getting even harder for Americans to take a vacation. Almost 30% of workers plan to work while on vacation this year, according to a recent survey by

But you don't have to let your Blackberry, cell phone or laptop intrude on your R&R. In today's tips we're going to tell you how you can unplug on your vacay.

1: You deserve a break!

Not taking a vacation could be detrimental to your health. It's been reported that women who take at least 2 vacations a year cut their risk of a fatal heart attack by half.

Other studies have shown strong health benefits for men.

"Vacation is as important to your health as watching your cholesterol," says Joe Robinson, author of "Work to Live: A Guide to Getting a Life."

Taking a vacation can even help your productivity. According to the Work Life Family Institute, employees who don't feel overworked don't make as many mistakes on the job.

2: Talk it up

Make sure you let your colleagues and clients know about your vacation plans. You shouldn't have to keep your travel itinerary just between you and your travel agent, according to

This will help to remind your co-workers that your personal time is 1) already scheduled and 2) a time clearly marked "personal."

Set the boundaries with humor. Tell your colleagues not to contact you unless someone's hair is on fire. "That can be a good way to set up the expectation that you don't want to be disturbed," says Kevin Salwen, the founder of Worthwhile Magazine.

3: Cross-Train

Of course no one can do the kind of job that you do, but having someone that you can train to fill in for you is invaluable. If you have a vacation on the horizon, you may want to mention to your supervisor the benefits of cross-training, like the opportunity for shared learning.

Make sure that when you leave for vacation, that your voicemail and your e-mail directs people to your replacement. You don't want to come back to an e-mail inbox overload.

4: Get your ducks in a row

The last few days before you leave on vacation can be a real crunch time. Make sure you make a list of what you need to accomplish both at your job and for your vacation.

But you can avoid this situation. Download travel checklists to make sure you've covered all the bases. Microsoft Office for example has a number of templates for your adventures. Sewing up any loose ends at work means that fewer people will have reason to call you while you're away.

You can also log onto to get your travel checklist.

5: Set your boundaries

Remember, this is your time and that you deserve time off. Compared with other countries, Americans receive the fewest vacation days per year. So guard those precious moments and make sure you set some boundaries.

If you have to check e-mail, try to do it at the end of the day. It won't interfere too much with your daily schedule, and you'll be able to see how the problems that you normally handled, are handled without you, recommends Salwen.

If you're worried that you'll be buried once you get back to work on Monday, try to get back from vacation on Saturday or Sunday morning. This way you'll have enough time to clear out that inbox.


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