You’ve selected the ideal destination. You’ve made all the necessary arrangements and plans. You think about this upcoming special getaway frequently in the months leading up to it, especially during a tough day.

So when the perfect family trip finally arrives this summer, you suddenly find yourself taking a work call at the airport before your plane’s departure. You’re then delaying the start to your family’s first fun day there, checking email in the hotel room. You next find yourself sneaking away from an outing to handle a work situation that has arisen in your absence.

What exactly happened to your blissful time away?

Let’s just say if you’ve found yourself in this scenario, you’re not alone. Over two-thirds of respondents to a recent survey stated they work during paid time off. Some assume time off makes them appear less dedicated to their job and company. Some fear they’ll never catch up upon their return to the office. Others think time away will demonstrate they’re replaceable. In reality, none of these thoughts are actually true, and employees should realize that stepping away from work and fully disconnecting carries a ripple effect of benefits. According to Glassdoor chief human resources officer Carmel Galvin, “It allows employees to return to work feeling more productive, creative, recharged and reenergized.”

The research is clear. Failing to take a vacation creates higher levels of stress and greater levels of disengagement at work.

Once upon a time when work was confined to a brick and mortar building, this may have been easier said than done. But now it may take a special effort on your part to fully disconnect during time away –not only to reap the professional benefits, but the personal ones too. What steps can you set into motion to really make this happen? Read on:

  1. Preparation is the name of the game. Always being prepared serves you well at your job, and will also do the same when trying to unplug. Get your PTO approved as soon as possible, and put it out there. Tell your team and remind them a necessary–place it on your department calendar, etc. If something big is brewing, take the time to review things with team members and even go over who can cover what in your absence. 
  2. Lose the generic out of office reply……and replace it with one that points your client or co-worker in the right direction. State that you are away from the office and unavailable during the set time, but that a specific person is there to help for a specific need, etc. Be sure to record a smart voicemail greeting along the same lines. Today, 66% of employees report still working during a vacation.
  3. Pack only personal devices. The easiest way to separate work from play is to leave your work phone and work computer at the office. This doesn’t mean having to go out and buy new hardware; for your phone, for example, you can buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card, so that you can use the device without using your work number. 
  4. Plan a phone-free excursion(or two!). Book some kayaks or mountain bikes for an afternoon, and it’ll be easy to leave your phone behind. Nothing like the fear of your phone sinking to the bottom of a lake or getting crushed to sway your “need” for it! Similarly, if you’ve planned a nice family meal out, state well in advance that it’s phone-less and stick to it.
  5. Try something totally new. Always wanted to give snorkeling a go? Been meaning to try a meditation class? Going beyond your usual work routine and trying something different will move your mind away from the stress and worry of the norm, and help you to truly disconnect during your time away. And by doing this, you may stumble upon a new stress-relief activity that you’ll do again in the future.

So there you have it. In addition to your packing list, include this list in your upcoming family vaca prep, and you’ll be prepped to enjoy that time away as much as humanly possible. And your family can enjoy it more too when your whole heart is put toward everyone’s enjoyment. That will make for some lasting memories, and allow you to be recharged upon your return to work.

Bon voyage!