With every vacation my family takes, there is always the persistent nagging of my personal struggle with turning off work to be with them in the moment. It’s not that I don’t want to, more that the nature of my work requires my consistent attention to allow my business to continue to function. With all of the additional stress and cost of traveling from Australia, one of the perks was that your mobile phone didn’t work the same way when you arrived. It allowed you an escape from the reality you were leaving behind. Even the old patchy wifi the parks offered was a welcome relief from a constant stream of emails and texts that were too expensive to connect to international data roaming in order to receive.
These days, wifi has improved, international data is cheaper, and our Disney experience is glued to the phone anyway to keep everything on schedule. I find that the by-product of this is that it has never been more challenging to turn off your work life while trying to enjoy your family’s downtime. It’s a stressful balance, especially when you are conscious of the rising expense of your vacation and feel pressure to generate income to cover it.
Needless to say, the old cliche days are gone where Mom was always able to focus on the kids, and Dad said goodbye to his briefcase at the front door. Today, commonly, all adults in a family are hard at work, and putting that on pause for a week has never been so tough. Since the pandemic has resulted in a considerable influx of professionals working from home, more guests are discovering the brutal truth that there is no escape from the modern office when you work where you live.
Working partially from home is something I’ve done since my children were born, which means I have about 15 years of experience with traveling while being pulled in both a family and a work direction. It’s not easy, but let me share a few tips of mine that help keep the balance, and then you can add your own at the bottom.
Forgive Yourself for Taking Time Out
The worst part of the work/vacation struggle is constantly feeling like you are letting someone down. The kids and family or your colleagues and clients, you are never going to get it all right. You are entitled to take some time to yourself, and while clients might make you feel like it is an inconvenience, don’t let the guilt take over family time. Accepting this, in the beginning, will help you manage the days to come.
Allocate Yourself Time to Get Some Work Done
For me, it helps to put a number on it, a defined amount of time that both myself and my family know is work time, either early before the park opens or later when we get home. It might be an hour or two with a defined beginning and end. Whatever I can get done in this time is excellent; anything that doesn’t get done has to wait.
Save Your Calls for Lunch Time
This one I struggle with due to the time difference when we are in the U.S. and back home during the business hours of Sydney, but the theory still applies. Don’t answer your phone during family time. I know it is tempting, but it can ruin your whole day. Allowing your calls to go to voicemail lets your clients give you a heads up on the call; you will likely find that half of them can be passed off to someone in the office who can help or be replied to in a quick email back at the resort. If you have to return calls during the day, give yourself 30 minutes at lunchtime to respond to the most urgent ones as needed and then get back to your family.
Turn Email Off on your Phone
You might think that better access makes it easier to multi-task, but in contrast, it just increases the temptation and guilt associated with working. You want to be present in the moment when having those silly conversations in the attraction queue or when waiting for the parade to start, not fixed on your phone, raising your blood pressure from the outside world. Leave your email for the resort room and turn it off from your personal device in the parks. There isn’t much that can’t wait a few hours, and if it can’t, they can call.
Add an Auto-Reply
Even though you plan on working while away, it doesn’t hurt to give clients a little heads up that your response time might be longer than usual. Suppose you can provide an alternative contact at your office or even a link to FAQs on your website that might be able to filter out a few of the more unnecessary replies and save you time.
Don’t Be Afraid to Shut Off All Day
I might need some of you to remind me of this one when you see me in the parks. Everything else can actually wait. Don’t be afraid to say no and take a whole day here or there that can be caught up with later. There will always be never-ending work that requires your attention, but your time in the parks is limited and precious. Don’t give it up easily.
In a time where we are forced to heavily rely on our phones to access the added benefits of Disney planning while in the parks, turning off from work can feel almost impossible. Every time you try to use Genie+ or Mobile Food Ordering, there is an added glance at that call you missed or the email you’ve been waiting on all week.
How do you disconnect from work when you are on vacation? Let me know below, and we might be able to all inspire each other on how to get the most out of our magical getaway.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.