I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of listicles on how to work while traveling or travel while working, like this one or this one. These blogs and podcasts are definitely helpful, and I know plenty of translators who take advantage of their mobility to travel and work simultaneously, and they thrive on it.

For me, I like my home office. It’s comfy, I have my things, and I can spread out to my heart’s content. This means that when I travel, I do NOT want to work, so I take specific steps to cut out the stress while I’m on a much-needed holiday. Here’s what I did on my most recent vacation to Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands. I hope these tips are helpful for you.


1. Don’t work.

I could probably just leave this post at that, but for me, that’s much easier said than done. I’m always tempted to just respond to that ooooone email or just shoot off the suuuuuuuper quick note to answer a question. And while I am not advocating for shirking responsibilities or ignoring clients, this can be a slipperly slope. For that reason, the rest of this list will be much more specific. 🙂

2. Inform your clients or project managers about your vacation in advance.

As soon as I had the dates set for my vacation, I sent an email to the Vendor Management departments for all the agencies I work with. I knew I would need to remind them closer to the date, but it helps to give a heads up. Also check with each agency about their process for reporting vacation time – some agencies have a portal you can enter to add dates, and others request that you contact your PM.  About a week before I left, I also added a line to my email signature in red.

Please note, I will be out of the office from ________ to ________

3. Plan out the week before you leave

Only accept projects that you can finish before you leave or return to with plenty of time once you get back.

This meant turning down some larger projects I was offered a few days before my trip. While I hate turning down fun larger projects, I just tried to accept several smaller ones I knew I could finish the Sunday before I left. Pack Monday. Leave Tuesday. Boom.

I also communicated with a direct client about a project that I wouldn’t even plan on starting until I returned, so I made sure to set the projected delivery date well past my return date.

4. Set your away message.

I always include the following in my away messages:

– dates I will be gone
– whether or not I will be checking your email at all (DON’T DO IT!)
– someone clients can contact if they don’t want to wait for me

I have some pretty great colleagues who I trust, so I checked with them before I left, and I included their contact information in my away message. I don’t want to leave clients high and dry, so I try to give options.


And finally…

5. Turn off email notifications

I have the Gmail app on my iPhone, so to turn off your notifications, go to the Settings within the app and change Notification preferences to…


Done and done. You can also go one step further and delete the app. *gasp!* That’s only for the truly hardcore vacationers, though. But in an emergency, you can always check email through your browser.

In conclusion, not working on vacation was very important for my work-life balance. It was important to spend time with my husband and be fully present as we traveled. I wasn’t running around from WiFi hotspot to hotspot trying to keep up with work emails. I was eating tapas, eating jamón, and drinking Trappist beers.

The important thing to remember is that life will go on if you are not available via email for two weeks. And while we freelancers may not get the luxury of a paid vacation, it is still, if not more, necessary. Check out this post about why you should take two weeks off.

Also, good news! When I got back, the agencies I work for didn’t forget about me! The first week after vacation, I was swamped and turning down projects.

Unplug, eat good food, drink good wine, enjoy nature. Happy vacationing!

How about you? What tips do you have for a stress-free vacation?