Jean Chatzky
According to author and PR executive Caitlin Friedman, most Americans don't use all of their vacation time—mostly because they fear getting behind at work. Jean talks with Caitlin about how to take your vacation time without worry.

Caitlin says that according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 574 million vacation days go unused each year by American workers, and Americans only take an average of 10 vacation days a year. She says Americans need to start taking vacations that get them away from work and into some solid downtime. "We don't mean take a couple of vacation days where you are checking your BlackBerry every 20 seconds," Caitlin says. "Actually go away and think about something else other than work."

Here are some tips that Caitlin says you should use to prepare for a vacation from work.

  • Plan ahead for your time off. Fill your co-workers in on your current projects, meet with your boss and touch base with clients. Caitlin says the last thing you want is to come back to your job with a pile of unexpected work. "You want to leave yourself a to-do list before you go on vacation—review all the projects you are working on and put it on a list for when you come back," she says.
  • Fight the urge to check your e-mail. Caitlin says you should not check your e-mail every day while you are out of the office—that's not a real vacation. "You should check it a couple of times on vacation," Caitlin says. "Maybe your assistant [can] check your e-mail for you." By utilizing the people who work for and with you, Caitlin says taking a vacation won't be so overwhelming.
  • If you are the boss, you still need a vacation. While you might have to be accessible to clients and employees in case of emergency, Caitlin says you can still find a way to get away. "Part of it is expectations, what people are expecting from you," she says. "If you fill them in and say, 'I'm going away, I can talk at 4:00' or 'I am going to be away, I will check e-mail on Wednesday,' then people are more comfortable with you being out of the office."
  • A true vacation is more than a long weekend. Caitlin says studies have found that to feel rested and recharged, you need at least four or five days off.

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