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7 Steps to Planning a Staycation

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More than half of American workers left unused vacation days in 2015, and you know why you should cash in on your PTO days. You have hard earned Paid Time Off (PTO) days piling up at work, you're feeling burnt out, and you deserve a break... so take the stress out of planning a vacation and schedule your staycation today! Staycations are wonderful because you don't have to plan them far in advance, worry about getting a good hotel deal or booking a flight that fits in your price range.

Never forget that Paid Time Off is part of your salary and work contract, and therefore your personal hours to spend how you wish; you wouldn't give part of your paycheck back to your company, so why would you leave money on the table and not spend your PTO hours!? Below are 7 simple steps you can follow to plan your (easy and free!) personalized staycation.

1. Figure out how many PTO hours you have to spend
Knowing how many vacation days you have is key to getting yourself on track to using your earned time off. If you don't know, ask your HR person where you can find how many hours you have accrued - and plan to keep a regular eye on it! You can also make your own tracking chart for the year to ensure you're planning in advance to cash in your salaried vacation days.

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Photo Credit: Strategic Stephanie

2. Determine how many days to take off
Based on how many vacation days you have to use, decide if you'll be taking a long weekend, a full week off, or somewhere in between. If you start worrying about your workload, remember two things: (1) the work will always be there, but time is flying by and there is no better moment than the present to take care of yourself and (2) that you are literally throwing money away by not using your PTO.

3. Decide on your staycation vibe
There is no shame in the staycation game! They are YOUR personal paid time off hours to spend however you wish - whether you are spending time with your kids, working on your side hustle, or staying home to sleep in. Take a deep breath and a few minutes to decide what vibes you need from your PTO. Setting clear expectations or goals will ensure that you enjoy your time off, and come back to the office feeling refreshed.

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Photo Credit: Strategic Stephanie

4. Prep for PTO work coverage
Many fear that staying home will lead to checking work emails and falling into their usual routine. Set expectations prior to starting your staycation with yourself, family, friends, and especially with your co-workers. Your company and colleagues need to be respectful and realize that although you won't be on a vacation with no cell service in a different country, it certainly doesn't mean you're available to work. Prepare your team in advance for you to be fully out of the office, then shut down your work computer and remove emails from your phone. You're the only one who can do that for you, so take control over your time off and follow the guidelines you set.

5. Plan your staycation schedule
Or not! This is your Paid Time Off - so use it as you please. If you have plans to be productive, writing out your daily goals will help keep you on track - but don't forget to schedule some downtime to relax. If you need to catch up on sleep, be lazy for once, or just get out and have some fun, then there's no need to create a daily plan. Your goal is to be happy and to arrive back at work rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running.

6. Prepare your home
Make sure your home is feeling the staycation vibes too! Since you don't have to pack a suitcase and you're not spending extra money on flights, spruce up your home with your favorite indulgences - whether that means buying flowers, stocking up on your favorite wine, or scheduling a cleaner before your staycation begins. Knowing what staycation vibes you are aiming for will help you figure out how to achieve maximum PTO enjoyment.

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Photo Credit: Strategic Stephanie

7. Act like a tourist
Mindset will be everything to make the most out of your staycation. The night that you wrap up work and your PTO time begins - set aside time to sit down, take a deep breath, and meditate on your goals for the week. Let any work worries or fears go, deactivate work apps from your phone, put on a Hawaiian shirt, pour yourself a glass of wine, and act like a tourist that just arrived in your hometown!

Congratulations will be in order once you take these 7 steps to planning your staycation and spending your vacation time - you may even inspire a few of your burnt out co-workers to take their time off too! Take control and empower yourself to enjoy this time off that you have been working so hard for; soak in that fact that you are avoiding airport security lines, the packing and unpacking of a suitcase, and just revel in your personal hours getting paid to do whatever you desire to do.

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Photo Credit: Strategic Stephanie

Stephanie Huston [@StrategicSteph |@StrategicStephanie], is a career mentor, volunteer, social media strategist, and world traveler living and working in New York City. Stephanie has served as the NYC President of The United Women in Business Foundation [UWIB] since 2014, leading the organization's long-term development in efforts to help members excel despite the challenges and inequalities that women face in today's business environment. A passionate traveler, Stephanie has explored over 25 countries across 6 continents and will be going on an adventure to her 7th continent, Antarctica, this November 2016 with Oceanwide Expeditions!