5 Proven Strategies to (Actually!) Unplug on Vacation

Alexis Haselberger
3 min readJun 17, 2024


And I bet you’re looking forward to that vacation you’ve been planning for a while.

Maybe you’re going to the beach.

Maybe you’re visiting family.

Maybe you’re even taking a big international trip you’ve been planning for years!

Or maybe you’re looking forward to a relaxing staycation.

But whatever you’re planning to do on PTO, I bet there’s one thing you DON’T want to do: and that’s to be thinking about work.

Or worse, actually DOING work on your vacation.

And here’s the good news!

I’ve got a few tried and true tips for you about how to avoid doing work, or thinking about work, on your next vacation.

How do I know these strategies work? Well, I’ve been in the workforce for 20+ years, and I’ve been using these strategies for almost as long.

But you also don’t have to take my word for it.

Last week, I met with a client and she said “OMG, I just used all those vacation strategies and this is the least stressed I’ve EVER been heading into a vacation, and returning from it.”

So, without further ado, what can YOU do to set yourself up for a truly work-free vacation?

  1. Communicate your timeline and (lack of) availability early and often
  • As soon as you know your days, block them in your calendar.
  • A few weeks before your vacation, make sure your team knows when you’ll be out.
  • In the weeks leading up to your vacation, continue to mention the dates you’ll be unavailable.
  • This will seem like overkill, but just remember that no one is thinking about you as much as you’re thinking about you, and you don’t want people to be surprised you’ll be out and dropping work on your lap right before you leave.

2. Block the last afternoon before your vacation to tie up loose ends

  • In conjunction with the strategy above, block off the last afternoon (or day) before you leave to tie up any project loose ends, communicate project status, etc.
  • And even if you’ve done a bang-up job of communicating when you’ll be gone, you can trust there’ll be SOMEONE who didn’t get the memo and is asking you for a last-minute task before you leave.
  • Just expect this, and plan for it.
  • And hey, if it doesn’t materialize, well then you can start your vacation just a few hours early. Lucky you!

3. Set an effective OoO reply

  • Make it clear that you won’t be checking email when you’re out, and ensure that you include information for both how someone can get what they need without your help, and when you’ll get back to them.
  • Here’s a template you can edit to your circumstances:
  • Subject: OoO — Will Respond the Week of [Month, Day]
  • Body:
  • Notice you’re also not committing to replying the day you get back, but the week you get back. (Set yourself up for success!)
  • Don’t forget about Slack/Teams and Vmail too. You can use a version of the above in all of the platforms where someone might contact you.

4. Turn off those notifications (and maybe even delete those apps temporarily)

  • If you have email, Slack or Teams notifications turned on, turn them off.
  • You don’t want to be tempted to look.
  • And, bonus points if you never turn them back on again, even when you’re back in the office! (No one uses written communication in an emergency anyway.)
  • If you think you’ll have trouble avoiding email/Slack/Teams even with the notifications turned off, consider temporarily deleting these apps on your phone during your vacation.

5. Block off your first day back in the office for catch-up

  • Well before you go, block off the first day back at work as “Do Not Schedule” (or, if your day is full of meetings on your first day back, then block off several hours that first week back, wherever you can.)
  • Use this time to get back on track. Get back to Inbox-0ish (or get there for the first time!), catch up on what you missed, get your tasklist back in order.
  • Trust me, this will feel so much better than trying to dig yourself out for weeks!

What’d I miss?

What strategies have you successfully used to ensure that you aren’t even thinking about work on vacation?

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Originally published at https://www.alexishaselberger.com on June 17, 2024.