Step 1: Ask off early. First of all, it seems obvious, but make sure you ask your boss for time off plenty early. This can prevent any scheduling conflicts that might put your timeshare deposit in jeopardy. Make an effort to avoid asking for time off during a particularly busy time of year for your company; it'll only stress your boss out and leave a pile of unfinished paperwork on your desk for your return.
Step 2: Let everyone know. There's nothing worse than expecting to have the help of a co-worker on a project only to find she's out for two weeks. Give your team members the courtesy of letting them know you'll be on vacation a week or two before you leave, so that you have time to delegate your work and wrap up anything that is expected of you.
If you interact with clients or suppliers, let them know you'll be out as well, and give them an alternate contact for issues that might arise in your absence.
Step 3: Clear your desk (and computer). Going on vacation is a good opportunity for you to tie up loose ends, take care of paperwork you've been putting off, and otherwise make a clean slate for your return. Prepare for this several weeks out to ensure you have time to finish all projects before you leave.
Step 4: Set up your vacation autoresponder. Create an autoresponder in your email so that anyone that emails you will get the response saying that you're on vacation. Be sure to list the period you'll be out, and the specific day you will return to the office. You may want to list an alternate contact, but first make sure it's OK with that person. You don't want her receiving a flood of calls meant for you without knowing what to do about them.
Step 5: Clear your calendar. Sometimes we automatically accept meeting invitations without thinking about our schedules. Go through your calendar for the period you'll be gone to make sure you didn't promise to attend any meetings while you're out. If you did, ask the meeting coordinator to reschedule, or see if the meeting will survive without you there. If your online calendar has the capability, block off your vacation period so nobody will schedule anything for you during that time.
Step 6: Pre-schedule what you can. If you write blog content or send email newsletters, you can create these and schedule them to go out while you're sunning on a beach. You can even schedule emails to be sent with programs like Boomerang. It's best to stick as closely to your work routine as possible, so if there are activities like these you can prepare in advance, without having to ask a co-worker to manage them in your absence, take the time to get them ready to go before you clock out.
You want your vacation to be completely relaxing, and you don't want any work you forgot to take care of ruining your good time. Begin preparation weeks in advance, make lists of what needs to be done, and you'll be 100 percent carefree when you leave.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.