by H. Jude Boudreaux, CFP®
With Labor Day on everyone’s mind, it’s worth noting the meaning and history of this celebrated day. It’s also a good time to think about what to do with the fruits of our labor! For many of us that includes planning some kind of vacation, so in this blog we’ll give you a short history of the holiday and some ideas for making your next vacations less costly and more fulfilling!
According to the Department of Labor, Labor Day “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” The first Labor Day national holiday was recognized in 1894 after being signed into law by President Grover Cleveland. There’s more of the historical background here if you’re interested.
So what do we get for all of that labor? Many of us are fortunate enough to have paid time off and yet we don’t do a good job of maximizing that time! Glassdoor, a firm that reviews companies and their management, found that the average American only took about 54% of their available time off in the previous 12 months. Here’s the link.
Vacations can be good for you and your health
Multiple studies have found that vacations can have positive health impacts. This nine-year study shows that vacationing yearly reduced the overall risk of death by nearly 20% and risk of death from heart disease by as much as 30%. As the Cleveland Heart Lab states so well, “Regular breaks likely provide a buffer against stress, which fuels the chronic inflammation behind heart disease as well as diabetes and other chronic ills.”
Friends tell me that the two biggest reasons why they don’t take time off are: their work responsibilities and the cost of vacations. Below are a few strategies that might help.
How to unplug while on vacation
- Prepare for your vacation ahead of time so your team has what they need. Chances are you work with a regular group of team members at your job. So start looking at the calendar a few weeks out as your vacation time approaches, and find ways to get everybody what they need in advance. Not only will your team be more productive (and less likely to contact you while you’re away), you’ll feel great and able to leave for vacation with a clear mind. You will find a vacation planning tool that might come in handy here.
- Swap responsibilities with a buddy. If you’re like me and you have client responsibilities, it’s critical that those get covered while you are out. I swap with other team members who can monitor my email and voicemail so work tasks get taken care of in a timely manner. There may be things that only you can handle though, so you could try the following.
- Set up an email folder. Before I leave for vacation I set up a few email sub-folders such as:
- @JudeNow (things I need to handle immediately while away)
- Action Support (things I need to handle when I return but that aren’t urgent)
- Backlog (anything that has been handled that I need to read when I get back)
- Read/Review (things to read that aren’t time sensitive)
My folder structure allows the person who is screening things for me to have places to put items that need to be addressed. It also includes a way to reach me, if needed. Since I’m in the compulsive habit of checking my email when I take my phone out of my pocket, I just look at that one folder and keep myself from looking at the others until I return. In that way, I feel confident that our clients are cared for, and things are running well in my absence.
Vacations don’t have to be expensive
- Leverage your credit cards and points — If you have a card accumulating travel points or miles, use them. These programs are subject to frequent changes and devaluations, so unless you’re saving them for a big trip (that you have planned!) go ahead and use them as you accumulate them. Cards for Travel is my favorite resource for finding cards with high sign-up bonuses that can help you accumulate a meaningful amount of points quickly.
- Try a “staycation” — The odds are there are lots of wonderful sites and activities in your area that you would like to explore. Yet, you probably only enjoy them when friends or family come to visit. Take a day or two off. Stay off of your work email, and go and sightsee near where you live. Visit an online travel guide for your area like TripAdvisor if you need some ideas or inspiration, and get going.
- Take a long weekend — Vacations don’t mean you have to take two weeks and fly across the globe. If you took a map and drew a circle that was a three-hour drive from your home, I’d bet you can find at least four places you’d like to visit.
- Hit the Grocery Store — Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have to dine out all of the time. We’ve found that our kids love to eat wrapped-up cold cuts with cheese inside, cheese and crackers, or fresh fruit as dinners. That’s allowed us to make a single grocery trip for food that can be turned into several meals. That saves us money, and that the kids surprisingly love and talk about it after we get back. We travel with a medium-sized ice chest and water bottles for everybody that we can refill with ice and water along the way. Bringing along a couple small cutting boards and knives has allowed us to create a lot of easy-to-make grocery store meals. More and more stores offer a lunch or early dinner buffet that can make fun, inexpensive meals for everybody to eat back at the hotel or the campground.
I hope we have given you some inspiration and incentives to take time off from your work and make the most of it! Email me if you have other ideas, suggestions, or if you’d like to share an adventure of your own.
Please email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.