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New Travel Plans: Tips for Taking a Real Vacation

This article was written by in Travel. 13 comments.

I try to visit my family on the other side of the country a couple times a year. Most of my family has migrated to the west coast from the east. The migration, at least in my immediate family, began over ten years ago, and more of the clan join the California contingent each year. Having family gives me a nice excuse to travel, though, and I’m trying to visit more often.

Over the last few years I’ve tended to not have real vacations while I travel, and I’m now considering that to be a problem. While away from home, rather than also separating myself from work, I’ve mostly remained connected and involved. As a business owner, I felt I had that responsibility. I hope to change that aspect of my travel this year, and have some thoughts on doing so, but first I wanted to write about my latest flight search experience.

Since beginning regular travel to the west coast several years ago, I’ve noticed my location and destinations generally led to Continental Airlines for the lowest fares — often lower than the recommended JetBlue and Virgin America (whose flights out of New York City tend to be less convenient, anyway.) Southwest is the most popular recommendation I receive, but they don’t fly the routes I travel most often. For a few years, I’ve noticed the good pricing pattern with Continental, and that led to my decision to give into marketing pressure and focus on the Continental frequent flyer program.

Continental Airlines LogoHaving accrued a good number of miles, the airline has succeeded in converting me to a loyal customer, price-checking my flights but usually selecting Continental and United. In just a few days, the merging airlines’ frequent flyer programs will be consolidated, making it theoretically easier to use the miles I’ve accumulated in both programs. My favorite benefit comes from holding the co-branded credit card. Most of the time, I’m able to bypass the long security lines, even when I don’t have a first class ticket. (I’ve only flown first class twice, which I was only able to do by cashing in miles I earned mostly through credit card usage for an upgrade. Paying for a first class ticket is not something I would consider at this point in my life with my finances.)

I could have saved some money by choosing inconvenient flight times. Had I chosen to depart at 7:00 am or fly overnight, I might have spent $50 less on the airfare. For me, traveling is not always about choosing the least expensive options, it’s about convenience and compromises. I’m willing to pay a little extra (in this case about 10% more) for convenience. In fact, if I were able to choose a different week to travel, I could have found flights for a little more than half the cost of the dates I chose. I’m bound to what happens to be a popular week for travel, and prices are higher when flights are in demand.

A few days after my flight was ticketed, I decided to compare prices. I was able to find availability on the same flights on the same days in the same fare class for $10 less than what I paid. That’s a $5 savings per passenger. Obviously, this was not significant enough of a price decrease to warrant changing bookings for a ridiculous $150 fee per ticket (the fee does make sense if you consider it as a disincentive to change flights frequently, but there’s no justification for the fee in a “cost of processing” sense). It did make me consider that the day you book a flight might have an impact on the final price. Saturdays may be expensive while the middle of the week could offer slight discounts.

Checking for the same availability today, I see the fare class I originally booked on the return flight is no longer available, and the total price increased by $300 for two passengers.

Unlike every so-called vacation I’ve taken for the past five years, I’d like to prevent myself from working. I usually fall into the habit of mostly continuing to do business while traveling, and I hope that this year I can begin finding time truly for myself. That’s the plan; I’ll see how it works out.

How to take a real vacation from work

If you run a business or are responsible for a major project, it’s difficult to leave your work behind and trust that any plans you put in place for the work to continue while you’re away.

  • Start planning as soon as you know you’re going to travel to have any necessary responsibilities or tasks handled by someone you trust. This might take some training, so thesooner you can start, the better.
  • Proactively notify your most important contacts, internal and external, particularly anyone who relies on you.
  • If you intend to refrain from answering or reading work-related email, make sure your system sends an automated response to outside contacts informing them of your unavailability and offering options for alternative people to contact.
  • Remove the temptation to check your email or voicemail. If you don’t have your mobile phone or laptop with you, you might find it easier to relax. It won’t be as easy to check in with your coworkers or clients.
  • Realize that the world will not end if you’re not immediately available.

What are your tips for taking a real vacation?

Published or updated March 1, 2012.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

You might be able to get a travel voucher for the difference in fare. I’ve done it before. They would have charged the change fee to send me a check for the price drop, but a travel voucher was free. And since you travel Contintental frequently, you’ll have plenty of chances to use it.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

Go to places that don’t have internet. No internet, no work :) Seriously – camping and third world countries and the place to be.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

I agree with Jenna. Alternately, you can just say “I’m pretty sure they don’t have internet in Belgium.” They won’t believe you, but they’ll get the point.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

I second Jenna’s idea, The best vacations for me have been where technology like my phone had to be left behind. I’ve traveled to other countries and been able to spend significant amounts of time working and playing soccer, and it really was an awesome and relaxing time away from the grind-style life I had in the US.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

I tend to check the ticket prices online for a few months in advance of the trip – and then pounce on it when I come across a price that’s decently low. I agree that the cheapest flight isn’t always the best. I always pay a little bit more to get a direct flight to where I’m going – to avoid having to deal with connections and the stress of delayed flights missed connections. Not to mention dealing with multiple take offs and landings!

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avatar 6 Anonymous

I thought Tuesdays were the days with the cheapest airfares, no?

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avatar 7 Anonymous

I currently love what I’m doing so much that I think I would miss it too much if I truly unplugged. We will see when I put it to the test in April. I will have my laptop with me, but if I can refrain from using it I will. I’m not taking any bets though.

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avatar 8 wylerassociate

When I go on vacation, I leave work at the office. I’m always looking for discounts when I travel. I live in Arizona so I love going to San Diego, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles. My company is part of a rewards network where we can get discount tickets for hotels, theme parks, etc.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

I’ve never understood why people really want to “get away from it all”. I like my life, I like going on vacation, but I feel no need to disappear into some place where I would never be found if I died. Maybe it’s a function of my outlook being incredibly stress free (to the point where I’ve had people *complain* about it and wonder how I manage to just let everything slide off of me. However I do work for a tiny company and there is simply no way to take a vacation without at least being reachable. But because of that I get away with longer vacations that I otherwise would (since you know I can always work if need be). I usually manage a full month long vacation every few years and at least 2-3 week long ones otherwise. I can understand the pressure, while I don’t own the company I work for I might as well, my level of responsibility is only slightly less than the owners and a major fuckup by any of the regular employees could lose us a large vendor, which would be incredibly bad. I think people simply don’t understand how to prioritize – my boss is like that – he is a total workaholic. I on the other hand, when on vacation will check my e-mail, read everything but only actual work on the things that no one else could do and/or are time sensitive and critical. This usually amounts to no more than a few hours work over the course of a week.

Maybe it helps that rather than seeing the internet as a distraction, as far as i’m concerned it’s a way of life – I love being connected – laying on a beach with no internet connection for weeks is not my idea of a good time.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

Juggler, I wholeheartedly agree! I absolutely LOVE my job. I am a Professor running a large research lab and working towards tenure. I am connected 24/7. I routinely work 16 hour days and full days on the weekends. But I don’t even see it as work…to be honest, I couldn’t imagine NOT doing work-related things.

We cruise a lot and I am forced to be unplugged. I do buy internet packages so I can check my email 1-2x/day and I usually bring piles of work. Vacation is honestly the best time to get work done (no students or meetings to distract me from my writing).

When I travel to Europe I book hotels with internet and bring my laptop with me.

Sitting on a beach and NOT doing anything? I couldn’t even imagine it. I’d need to at least bring some manuscripts and a highlighter lol

Getting away from it all is not for everyone!

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avatar 11 Ceecee

I find it very hard to disconnect. I’m attached to my laptop. I could go a day or two without, but after that I’d be looking for a sit and surf location.

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avatar 12 qixx

I find that i too like to be connected while on vacation. I take a couple of days however to be disconnected completely and don’t connect to work while away. Even thinking about my upcoming vacation is a good stress relief (4 days to go).

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avatar 13 Anonymous

I have to turn my cell phone off! If I have it on, I will go back to checking emails and I need to avoid that!

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