Getting to Grips with Travel Gripes

May 19th, 2015

The Airparks Guide to being a Traveller, not a Holidaymaker

There’s nothing like a holiday to look forward to – and there’s nothing like packing up and making those final preparations to go. Releasing your car into our care is the final piece in the jigsaw before your adventure truly begins. You enter the transfer bus and head off……it’s just such a pain that there’s an airport between you and the freedom of your time away!

What is it about an airport that sends people into a spin? Despite being the gateway to adventure it’s impossible to pass through like a summer breeze – there are a whole host of seemingly unnecessary obstacles. These are called holidaymakers. You of course are not one of them. You are a traveller – an adventurer. Holidaymakers are different; they’re the ones with the annoying habits that are spoiling your fun. You could of course avoid them as much as possible by opting for the tranquility of an airport lounge, but if not, then here’s a list of top gripes. Take note of them – be a traveller not a holidaymaker!

1. Water is a Liquid!
Why is it, that despite the signs, despite the many years that this has been the case, there are still people that don’t realise that liquids must go in a re-sealable see-through plastic bag? Every bottle of water, nail varnish and tube of hand sanitizer in the bulging bin by security represents 3 or 4 minutes of frustrating delay in the queuing process. Bag it before you leave, people!

2. Holding up Security
As you are stuck in the inevitable line through the security checks there are several signs to remind you to remove your belt, your shoes, your coins, your mobile phone, your laptop…..these signs are not just to keep folks in the queue entertained – they mean you have to do it. In the queue. Not beside the irritated security officer. That goes for the other members of the family too.

3. Duty Free for all
Airport shops. You can buy a tube of toothpaste or a multi-thousand pound outfit, a diamond bracelet or a Paddington Bear. Whatever you buy, you need your boarding card to verify your purchase. It’s not because of the tax, it’s because they want your marketing information – but have it ready instead of holding up the line of slightly anxious passengers because you have to locate your other-half who’s patiently guarding the bags.

4. Walking Slowly or Standing Still on Airport Walkways
Walking the moving sidewalks make it easier to get from point A to point B. However, they aren’t a ride and you are not in Disney World yet. Meandering along or stopping to browse your mobile can hold up other travellers and put you in an embarrassing and ungainly position when you reach the end. Keep walking, stay to the right and avoid stopping or blocking the way for others. Oh – and nobody thinks it’s funny when you try to walk on it backwards, or forwards whilst going backwards. Old joke.

5. Boarding Traumas
Now there are several different types of people in an airport boarding lounge. Those that get there as soon as the gate number is called, those that arrive at the last minute in a red-faced flurry, those that queue up before their group number is called, those that edge around the outside of the queue and those that remain nonchalantly in their seats with arrogant confidence that ‘the plane won’t leave without us’. Give it too much thought and any of those types can provide fuel for annoyance.

6. Baggage Offences
In one of our previous posts we gave you the rules and guidelines around the size allowed for carry-on luggage. Obviously the holidaymakers didn’t read it. Why do they have more than one bag? A suitcase that doesn’t seem to fit down the isle despite their insistence on trying? A bag that will not fit in the locker without someone revealing their bare tummy as they agitate the carefully stowed luggage around it (squashing your neatly folded coat) to make it fit. Then later, just before take off, they remember something in that luggage that they desperately need. And the process begins again.

7. Seat Etiquette
Never has a sanctioned action made so many so irate. The seat recline button is there for a reason and when it’s our turn to press the button it feels reasonable and right to do so. When it’s you that is pinned by your own tray table in an already restricted environment, it is absolutely the rudest thing that has ever happened and it seems only right that you should ‘tut’ and shove the seat and jiggle the table in disgust. Or does it? What about the armrest? Shared space or a rule of first come first rest? Invasion of territory is a real blood boiler on an aeroplane.

8. All about Timing
Why is it that some people hover their finger over the seatbelt release as if their life depends on it? When that release seatbelt light pings – are there prizes for the first to the draw? No! These are the people who decide that it’s ok to walk around while the flight attendants are heading towards us with the food and drinks trolley, the ones that need to get their book from the overhead locker just as you find a comfortable position for your tiny cushion to support your sleepy head.

9. Overstepping the Carousel
Ok – so this might not be so bad in the excitement of reaching your holiday destination, but you can bet your last piece of foreign currency that it’ll be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when you’re on your way home. Why oh why do they find it necessary to crowd around the baggage carousel desperate to be the first to retrieve their luggage? Not only does it mean that you have no view of yours, but it also means that when you do see it, it’s a scrabble to reach, an effort to pull it off and you are likely to injure yourself in the process.

Mind Your Ps and Avoid the Queues!

May 8th, 2015

Your holiday is all booked. You’ve worked for it, waited for it – and paid for it! Finally the day is nigh.

Most of us will be travelling to the airport by car, and it will often involve a few hundred miles of motoring – more than our everyday commute or school run.

The last thing we would want is to hit the buffers with a car-snag before we even get to the Airparks car park (or indeed on the way home afterwards) so what tips are there to reduce the stress and the risk to a minimum?

Let’s break it down into three sections – Mind your Ps!

  • Planning the Journey
  • Preparing the Vehicle
  • Providing for the Passengers

Planning the Journey really does matter!

Start from the point of making sure what time you MUST be at the Terminal by (and monitor any security issues that might mean an earlier arrival) and calculate back from there, working in your route to the Airparks location and transfer-to-terminal time. You can keep an eye on our Airparks Newsfeed to make sure you know if there are any snags en route. We will also keep updating our social media feeds with traffic reports too.

Add an hour for unexpected traffic chaos, dial in some coffee time, and never ever leave yourself tight for time – you simply don’t need the stress of a rushed journey.

Airport hotels offer the chance to start or end your holiday with a touch luxury. They are also a practical and convenient solution to the problem of arriving back to the airport late at night or having to depart early in the morning. Rather than endure a tiring drive home late at night after a draining flight, book a hotel near the airport. You can be in a warm, comfortable bed within minutes of stepping of the plane, and awake the next morning refreshed for the last part of your journey home.

Research the route and get it programmed into your magical electronic gadgets; you might even make some old-fashioned paper/pen/map provisions in case you forget to charge your device!

Time spent planning is rarely wasted.

Preparing the Vehicle is perhaps the most frequently overlooked part of our travel plans. We take it for granted that our modern cars will do what we want, without letting us down. But a few simple checks can go a long way to alleviating the risk of a breakdown.

Here is a simple aide memoir – POWDER

P – Petrol (And this includes Diesel!) So many motorists ‘break down’ for lack of fuel; will you have enough for the mileage (there AND back?) and where can you refuel if you need to? Fill up before you travel – one less job to do on the day.
O – Oil. When DID you last check yours?
W – Water. Coolant and screenwash. A clean screen makes driving – and especially night driving – so much easier and safer.
D – Damage. Does anything need rectifying before you leave?
E – Electrics. Does everything work? ALL the lights checked?
R – Rubber. Tyres and Wipers! Check your pressures, and make sure you have plenty of tread; get any dubious tyres examined or changed.

Providing for Passengers can go a long way to giving you a stress-free journey – especially if you will be travelling with children.

Food and drink, games, books, movies, stops for a leg-stretch or loo – have them all ready. Make sure you will have enough charge or chargers for all the devices in the car!

Most of all – enjoy the trip, and enjoy the Airparks service!

Stepping on the Scales to Travel Light

May 1st, 2015

It’s coming up to the silly season – when all those phrases that we ‘love’ to hear keep cropping up in the press: ‘Bikini body’, ‘Beach Body Ready’, ‘Sexy Summer Abs’, ‘Get in Shape for Summer’, ‘Get the Perfect Beach Bum’, and ‘Summer Slimming’ – not forgetting all those quick fix holiday ‘must haves’.

Well, you’ll be glad to know that we don’t really care whether you’ve fake-tanned, detoxed or consumed your own body weight in celery and cabbage soup to prepare for your holiday! The only thing we care about it making sure that you have a stress-free trip, a wonderful holiday and a smooth, uneventful return home. So we thought we would help, by coming up with suggestions, not based on the result of the scales you stand upon, but the scales that weigh your ‘holiday essentials’ (sorry – that’s another one!).

Here’s some advice that we think will help to do all those things – avoiding stress, making up time and saving money – leaving some extra cash to spend on something such as one of our airport lounges or even an upgrade to get your break away off to a great start by making it even better value for money.

Why consider just taking hand luggage?

Even if it isn’t a business trip or a city break it doesn’t mean that you cannot make hand luggage work for you. If you can pack it efficiently you can make it work for a week or even longer. The benefits are that

  • It’s quicker and less stressful – no need to join a check-in or bag-drop on departure
  • Easier to put on and off the transfer buses
  • No long wait at the luggage carousel
  • Get ahead of everyone else for a taxi or car hire
  • No worry about your luggage going missing, or bursting open
  • Avoid checked-in bag charges, which can be up to £160

What bag should you use?

It’s amazing how many people nowadays will use the small hard cases as their hand luggage bag, simply because they are marketed as being the ‘right’ one. However they’re unforgiving. A hold all or soft-sided bag on wheels could mean that you can fit your belongings far more efficiently and they are lighter to start with too. But before you make the final decision, do make sure that you have checked the hand luggage restrictions for the airline(s) you are travelling with.

Tips for Travelling Light

  • Wear Your Heaviest Clothing. If you are travelling somewhere warm, then the heavy clothes will only be needed whilst you travel. But if you are heading to a cooler destination wear your heavy items like jeans, hooded tops and coats.
  • Pick your Pockets. Use the pockets of the clothes you’re wearing to take heavier items such as phone chargers, cameras and books, which you can then transfer to your bag once you are on board
  • Roll, Don’t Fold. Despite looking as if it were an ironing nightmare, rolling can actually prevent unsightly creases and reduces space. Remember that the insides of shoes can provide storage space for small items too.
  • Be ruthless! Unless you are heading to a catwalk in Milan – you probably don’t need to pack as much as you think you do. Lay out in piles, the outfits you have chosen, along with the shoes, the underwear, and accessories if you have them. Then reduce it by a third! Could you mix up a couple of them to provide more options?
  • Wash and go. Don’t forget that you can only take 100ml bottles of liquid, sealed in a clear plastic bag in your hand luggage. Now is not the time to introduce a whole new range of toiletries to your collection. You can buy small empty bottles from the chemist and add small amounts of your usual ones. It will cut down on expense and limit the use of space. Small travel versions are often available of you need them – such as deodorants.
  • Duty-free. Alcohol, food, tobacco and other items can be bought and carried in one duty free bag. Some airports such as Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester also allow you to buy duty free, collecting it on the way back.

Have you got some packing tips for travellers? Send us your packing pictures and let us be the judge of your expertise!

10 Tips for Making Allowances Work

April 23rd, 2015

When you are travelling, whether it is on the way to the airport, sitting around the airport waiting for a flight, or during your adventure, it is a good idea to keep a close eye on how we use our phone.

For many of us, our phone will be more than just one thing; it will be our camera, our translator, access to games, social networking, our guidebook, weather forecaster and of course – a phone!

With smartphones, there’s one small problem, unusual data usage can make your data quota disappear very fast as it can be costly to access abroad. Wifi can not always be easy to come by either.

When you park in an Airparks car park we provide free wifi within the car park itself, and in the buses too and often you can use wifi in the airport. But it’s once you are abroad that the costs of being online can mount.

So what can you do to conserve data? We have provided top tips that we think will be useful.

Turn off mobile data
This is going to sound a little obvious really – but we had better say it anyway! Cut down on mobile data use until you absolutely need it! Switch it off in settings.

Don’t Stream Video
Streaming video is a surefire way to use up your data. This includes videos on a facebook newsfeed, on apps like YouTube or NetFlix, or just within your internet browser. This also includes streaming music on Spotify.

Facebook recently added a feature that means when you are scrolling through your news feed any video that’s been posted will automatically stream – even if you aren’t on a Wi-Fi network. To stop this happening when you are trying to conserve data, change your settings so that it only streams if you are in Wi-Fi. Go to Settings > Facebook > Settings and scroll down to Video and switch to Auto-play on Wi-Fi only.

Change your settings
In Settings you will see a list of apps that can use mobile data and by default they’ll be enabled, so you can stop certain apps drying up your allowance by sliding them to the off-position.  Also remember to switch off any push notifications.

Stop background app refresh
One of the features of iOS 7 was an automatically updating operating system. Head to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and make sure that the Background App Refresh switch is set to off.

Maps can dry up your data too. The maps app re-loads the tiles but when you close the app it wipes clean and has to reload once again – hence the increased data consumption.

Turn off iCloud Sync
Another major source for data consumption is iCloud. Every time you take a photo, add a contact and download mail it’s pushed to the cloud. Photos – large files can really use it up. Turn it off unless you are connected to wifi – and just remember to sync it then instead.

Change App Settings
Some apps can restrict particular functions to only Wi-Fi such as Dropbox. For this particular app you can disable mobile data, preventing it from uploading when there’s no Wi-Fi connection.

Online Games
We all want to keep the little ones entertained on our devices, but be aware that they may be accessing games that use the internet in real-time.

Turn off auto-downloads In Podcasts
If you’ve set your device to automatically download the latest podcast in a series – make sure you turn it off whilst you are away and enable the Wi-fi download mode instead.

Data Monitors and Apps
There are certain apps that can be used to keep track of your data allowance for you and an iPhone also helps. Go to Settings, Mobile, then scroll down to Mobile Data Usage, you’ll see two counters: Current Period and Current Period Roaming. Reset the counters when you start a new month and you’ll be able to stay on top of your stats.

What is the cost of exceeding your data allowance?
If you use a lot of data, then it’s worth paying extra upfront although fees can be high. Vodafone charges £6.50 for every 250MB of data you use over your allotted amount. Three sends texts when you’re at 80% and 100% of your allowance, giving you the chance to buy more data. Charges vary according to plan, as most new Three deals offer unlimited data access. EE will also let you know when your data access is running low and give you the chance to buy more.

Bottling up that Holiday Spirit

April 20th, 2015

We have all experienced something that we commonly call the ‘post holiday blues’. The holiday may have been planned for a while and so your life has been full of the excitement of its arrival – but suddenly, it’s over and things are threatening to get back to normal! It’s a hard slog to get back into that daily rhythm that you paid good money to escape from.

But we have six suggestions that we think might help. Some of these you can do in advance of the trip – and some on your way home. You might even find that some of these tips could put you on a new direction!

  • Springtime Sunshine
    It’s never nice to come home to a messy house after some time away, but imagine coming back to a house that is sparkling in the light of the springtime sunshine! Why not invest in a good Spring Clean? Get a local cleaning company in to give your house the once-over just before you go away, or if you can leave the task in the hands of a trusted friend, have them do it whilst you are away!
  • Let us add some Sparkle
    Consider the same for your car. Whilst you leave it in our car park we can provide a professional valet at any of our Airparks car parks and we’ll have it sparkling for your return! Packages vary between sites, but normally there are three different types of valet – bronze, silver, and gold. Some sites have platinum packages. They all start from just £10.
  • Look on the Bright Side
    On your way home, write a list of the benefits of the good side to the end of the holidays:
  • You’ve had an opportunity to rest and relax, you have been able to do things that are different to your usual routine – which is good for the spirit and providing you with the chance to rejuvenate.
  • You may have managed to get some fresh air and exercise if you have been walking, skiing or taking part in water sports? Maybe you should challenge yourself to keep up the good work and continue it at home. Exercise will give you the mood-boost you need.
  • Perhaps you have managed to get some time to get a new perspective on your work/life balance or your relationships. Are there some changes to be made
  • Finally, make those changes – realistic changes of course! Time away can often highlight the things that you really want to change in your life, be it for anything from sorting out your finances, redecorating your home, or dealing with the any negativities.
  • Do it all Again?
    Your holiday may have been to get away from your everyday life – but it was most probably full of interesting people, from the locals, to friends, partners or family. As humans it is important for us to be around people when we feel low, so lift your spirits by continuing to stay connected with friends and family. Put some dates in the diary to spend time with them, plan some days out for when you return, or maybe book another small holiday to look forward to?
  • Let us be the Parker to your Lady Penelope
    As if coming home isn’t bad enough – the fuss and bother with passport control queues, collecting luggage, and finding your way to the transfer bus can really add to the post holiday downer. With the Airparks Return Greet service, you can remove the need for a return transfer. All you need to do is step off the plane, collect your luggage and give us a call to say you’re back. A qualified driver will then bring your car from our secured car park and deliver it to you at the airport within minutes. (You can also have the same service to the start of the holiday too!)
  • Eat those Blues Away!
    Has your holiday been a little over-indulgent? Although we enjoy eating all those naughty foods and tasting all those delicious wines or rich coffees, it actually doesn’t make our body very happy! It can leave you feeling a little out of shape and worse for wear in the nutrition department – so eat away your blues with foods that boost your serotonin (feel good) neurotransmitters including bananas, poultry, dairy produce, and peas.

Strike a Pose! Your Car is on Camera 24/7

April 13th, 2015

We take security very seriously – that’s why our car parks have been awarded the Park Mark by the police for meeting a stringent set of criteria for crime-prevention and security measures. One of these measures is our high quality CCTV camera systems that are monitored 24/7. That’s not an optional extra – it comes as standard and you don’t have to do anything to get your car especially noticed…unlike these cars! Here’s a small gallery of photographs of some ‘pimped-up rides’ that we have found. Strike a pose…

Surely this is taking ‘smart’ to a whole new level!

Is there such a thing as too much pink?

This car could give you wings….or maybe not.

Of course when you mix ‘flying’ and ‘car’ this might be what you have in mind! This one actually has wings…

Not sure which of these three crazy cop cars you might prefer to see in your mirror!

Always a favourite for some cool conversions, VW Campers are inspirational – big, small or long! And we can accommodate whichever size of car you need.

This Diamond Swarovski crystal covered Mercedes might need more than a CCTV camera to keep an eye on it!

Hmmmm we might need a bigger parking space…

…or a ladder!

High Flyer, Low Battery

March 31st, 2015

A Guide to Emergency and Portable Phone Chargers

We have all been there – phone out of charge, with an important call awaited or the need to look up directions to a meeting. That’s bad enough in your everyday life, but if you are abroad with no real idea or possibility of finding a mains power source you are clearly headed up a muddy creek with no paddles left in the shop!

When you travel with Airparks, we try to make things as easy as possible for you – particularly if your trip is for business. That’s why we provide all of our customers with free wifi in our buses and in the car parks; it’s easy to access, it’s fast and it’s exactly what you want when you are on the move. We also have free wifi and internet access in our airport lounges as well as the opportunity to charge your phone before you fly.

But whether you travel for leisure or business, it is important that you have planned ahead.

  • Made sure that your device is fully charged at the outset
  • That you are carrying a mains charger to fit whatever mains outlets you expect to find, as well as USB and car sockets
  • Be aware of how you use your device and how much power those functions consume – kill unused screens and the Bluetooth, don’t play games or watch video!
  • Limit your use to what is essential if you need to make it last!
  • There are many other solutions available to back up your battery or provide an alternative means of charging. We have listed five choices that you may find it useful to invest in before your trip.

Some of these draw power from an off-the-shelf battery and convert it for phone use (becoming less popular); others are pre-charged from a USB source to be carried as a spare for when the need arises. These are fast becoming the most common with the element of choice being ‘how big do you want it?’.

Remember – ‘you get what you pay for’ so try before you travel! You need to know that your system works, how quickly, and what limitations it may have.

You will find the more basic back-up’s in a wide range of shops or online; if you need something more than ‘basic’, a good first port-of-call is Power Traveller who market a wide range of ‘chimp’, ‘monkey’ and ‘gorilla’ devices across the price and size range.

Battery transformers

These commonly use one or more AA batteries (you will therefore need some of those in your bag!) Rapidly falling from favour as USB/rechargeable based devices become increasingly available.

Maplins stock this basic AA battery model for just £2.69

USB-charged back-up batteries

All computer monitors and most TV’s will have a USB socket nowadays; as well as allowing data to flow, they provide a small power source. Ask before connecting to somebody’s computer though!

For £59.99 via Amazon, the ANKER Astro Pro2 can take a charge from USB or mains sources and provide up to 9 full charges for your phone – or even one charge for a laptop.

The Monster Power Card (around £30) is a credit-card sized back-up battery that should give you the charge when you need it for very little size or weight.

The Nomad Chargekey is a novel design, fits on your keyring, and retails for around £20. One end fits a USB socket, the other fits your iPhone. Simples!

Alternative Power Sources

You won’t need bright sunshine but you will need a decent amount of light. This might seem obvious, but if you will be travelling by day and static at night you’ll need to plan how you will charge on the move. The independence may come at a higher price but is very worthwhile. Remember that in a group you can share the charger, and also between devices – so it can still be cost effective.

For £65 the Powermonkey Explorer can charge your phone and other devices.

Park, Lock and Walk Away

March 31st, 2015

I know, sounds like a firm of solicitors.

But it’s no joke! At Airparks we are serious about security and are proud of the high level that we offer our customers when they trust their vehicle to our care and head for their flight.

That’s why all the car parks featured on have excellent security facilities and procedures.

In fact – the car parks are so safe that the Police, who consider them to be at the top-end in terms of security, have awarded us the Park Mark. This is only given to responsible parking operators whose facilities meet a stringent set of criteria set out by the police for crime-prevention and security measures. So when you leave your car in an Airparks car park, you can travel with peace of mind that it is in good hands.

Because we are so passionate about keeping cars secured, we have gathered together some tips from the Police that will take the risk as close to zero as possible whenever you have to leave it in any other car park or public location.

  • Simplest of all – make sure you lock the car. Travel, a day out shopping, or a school run can be a stressful business and it is surprisingly easy to forget to lock and check the vehicle
  • Similarly make sure all windows, doors and sunroof are secured
  • Use any alarm or immobiliser fitted in the car whenever possible
  • Do not leave any Car Parking tickets in the vehicle if they are ‘pay at end of stay’. Should a thief wish to remove your vehicle it will be that much easier for them if they have the ticket
  • Remove temptation; if a potential thief can see something valuable just on the other side of the window, he will be tempted to smash and grab. Lock away or otherwise put out of sight anything that you DO leave behind in your car.  Handbags, rucksacks, a few pounds in car park change, CD’s, and even device leads that might suggest the presence of valuable electronics. All are tempting targets
  • SatNavs – take it off the screen, hide it away – also remove the suction clamp AND the ring-marks on the glass. Don’t leave clues!
  • If you have a car with an exposed loadspace, take a dark blanket with you to throw over any small items left behind; this reduces the risk of things being noticed in the first place. But be aware that lumps under a coat or blanket invite suspicion if observed!
  • Make sure there is nothing on view bearing your address; if a thief knows that you are out then your house a) becomes a target for burglary and b) any car keys found there may well be brought to your car to steal it
  • Leave no vehicle documentation in the car
  • Consider fitting theft-resistant number plates to reduce the risk of the car or its identity be used elsewhere

Destination Chocolate

March 31st, 2015

As Easter fast approaches, one thing is sure to be on the mind of every child, woman and man – CHOCOLATE. The world over, there are shops and cafes offering a chocolate experience; every major city has one, and an internet search will set your plans in motion. Meanwhile here are a few ideas!

Cadbury World

Perhaps the UK’s best know choco-fest destination and just 25 min drive from our Birmingham Airparks carpark. For decades visitors have been touring the factory and sampling the Dairy Milk, and learning about the history and origins of chocolate. Click here for more info!


Easy to get to especially by Eurostar train, Bruges offers a host of high-quality continental chocolate shops and a museum. See the processing of the dark brown deliciousness on marble slabs and purchase the most incredible confections. The shop window displays are amazing too!

M&M World

If you are in London and passing by Leicester Square, take a look in the Wonka-esque M&M World. On several floors this is a chocolate and sugar scented department store or primary-coloured fun. Not quite Easter egg territory, but well worth a look!


Simply, if you are searching for ‘class’ in chocolat, visit Paris, and wander the incredible shops and cafes. Expensive? Yes. Are you worth it? Definitely!


One of the world’s primary sources of cocoa, wouldn’t you love to get right to the beginnings of the chocolate journey and tour production farms and research institutes, and meet the people who grow the beans that eventually become the product on the shop shelves? Well, good news! You can go on a tour of the whole thing.

Switzerland – The Chocolate Train

This one really catches the imagination – Switzerland, trains and chocolate! Travelling on a scenic route this venture between the Rail Company and Nestle offers views and chocolate – when can I go?

Chocolate Hotel Bournemouth

A hotel with a difference, specialising in tasting and understanding chocolate, with the welcome addition of wine and a seaside location.


Enjoy a Chocolate Ecstasy Tour in London around Mayfair and Chelsea, sampling chocolates, truffles and hot choc drinks, with a little walking in between to salve the conscience.

Grindstone Getaway – 8 Tips to Switch off and Re-Charge

March 31st, 2015

There’s nothing like the feeling of pressing the ‘book it now’ button when you’ve found the holiday you like, well – until the glorious moment that you fill in your annual leave form at work, that is.

The sparkle of that approaching holiday is something that can get you through the days at your desk gazing out of the window at someone enjoying a coffee with friends (why aren’t they at work?) or the photos of your Facebook friends at happy-hour somewhere tropical, or even moments in a grey boardroom.

It’s all wonderful….until the holiday is actually upon you. Suddenly the work ramps up, emails flood in, meetings you HAVE to attend coincide with your last day in the office. Swiftly the thought crosses your mind that you cannot possibly go on holiday.

It’s important to remember that you should be able to take time off without being or feeling compromised.

A holiday allows the mind and body to recover from the mental and physical pressures of your job. But the concept of ‘switching off’ is stressful. The lack of control means that a mobile device is often a way of ‘touching base’.

During the holiday, the thought of getting back to the daily grind can have you weighed down with dread, knowing that the second you cross the office threshold you’ll be hit with 100 ‘urgent’ tasks and an inbox full of emails.

German vehicle-maker Daimler has an innovative approach to staff taking holidays and being bothered by their technology. Email their staff while on leave and you’ll get a message that says; “I am on vacation. I cannot read your email. Your email is being deleted. Please contact Hans or Monika if it’s really important, or resend the email after I’m back in the office.”

The auto-delete policy – which is optional – follows a piece of government-funded research on work-life balance, which Daimler carried out in 2010 and 2011 with psychologists from the University of Heidelberg. The company now trains managers to set a good work-life example. Daimler’s move follows Volkswagen’s decision to turn email off after office hours and new guidelines in France ordering workers in some sectors to ignore work emails when they go home.

Andy Dallas, Associate Director of Robert Half UK works with leading companies to locate highly skilled professionals in the areas of finance & accounting. He says; “With global technology these days it doesn’t matter whether you are on the other side of the world or not. Many professionals feel chained to their desks, mentally and virtually. But if you are willing to work on holiday does that automatically make you a good employee? Not always. Working while you are away contradicts the idea of annual leave – to re-motivate and re-energise.”

With this in mind, here are some top tips to prepare, switch off and enjoy a stress-free holiday:

  • Provide plenty of notice of your leave and remind everyone regularly of the date you go.
  • Block out your time and prioritise what needs to be done before you go. Stop making giant to-do lists or flagging “urgent” emails. Instead look at your days left and figure out where you have blocks of time to really focus and engage on what needs to be done before you go. Tie up those loose ends – don’t create new ones!
  • Reduce meeting time lengths in the week before you go. Announce that you are going on holiday and that only things that need to be done before you leave take priority.
  • Learn to delegate. Identify exactly what needs to be done and by when and provide a thorough handover! You’ll be less stressed knowing that somebody capable is covering your work. Supplying a thorough and complete handover will also help to display leadership potential to your employers. Make sure you leave yourself a note of what you have given to whom – it’s amazing how time away can erase some of that detail.
  • Set up an ‘Out of Office’ alert in your email inbox, informing people you are away and when you will return. But make sure that you have given polite warning to clients that this will be the case. It helps to develop and maintain relationships.
  • If emails that came through at the start of holiday haven’t been dealt with by the time you return and no-one has ‘kicked off’ and is waiting at your office door when you do, then they probably weren’t that important anyway. Start with the most recent and work backwards. The email replies to correspondence 2-weeks old can be amusing – in future, they’ll think twice before emailing when you’re on holiday again.
  • The first few days back will be busy, so with this in mind, don’t overcommit to meetings or new projects. Trying to cram too much could have consequences impact negatively upon your work.
  • Book yourself a special treat or two to look forward to when you return, such as a Valet Service and Greet Service from Airparks.