A few days ago, I returned home from my first family holiday since my daughter was born. It was also the first holiday for i’ve had for 3-years and, apart from the standard time off over Christmas and New Years that nearly everyone takes, was the first break for more than a few days that i’ve had for just over 2-years. Prior to this, holidays every year were a thing I really enjoyed and whilst there’re lots of reasons why there’s been a longer than normal gap this time around, I don’t intend to go for such a long stint without them again.
Running my own business however, I thought it would be useful to note down a few things that I learned on my first family holiday in the hope that it might help others who are in a similar situation – owning a business, wanting to take some time off, and have one or more young children.
Concerns Prior to the Holiday
I’ve been self-employed since 2010 and and running my own business since 2011. As most in this situation may know, providing that you’re growing in some way year-on-year, the first part of this is slower and less profitable than the second part. My last major holiday where I didn’t check my email at all was on my honeymoon in 2014 and the last holiday I had where I didn’t check my email much was in 2015 for a 4/5 day trip to Prague. That, in the terms of the life of my business, was quite a long time ago now and my business has grown a lot in that time. My greatest concerns going on this holiday were:
- How will it cope with the only employee taking 2-weeks off?
- What if a client has an issue with the hosting service I offer?
- What if a client needs immediate help because they’ve accidentally broken their site?
- How will (my side business) customers react to slower than normal support response times?
Nothing to Worry About
I’m going to skip ahead just to say that none of these turned out to be an issue at all. This is probably because I put a few things in place to try to ensure that this didn’t happen but mostly, I think it’s because some concerns in theory are simply unjustified in practice.
Firstly, my clients knew I was taking time off. I’ve been letting my current and regular clients know this for months. This helped enormously, especially as most of them knew I was going on my first family holiday with my (nearly) 3-year old. Secondly I added details on my upcoming holiday dates to my website and as a link in my email signature. I actually made a video about how I did this which you can see here:
Regarding the other points: no clients had issues with their hosting, or issues with broken websites. I think this is partially because the hosting service I offer is actually good and I’ve spent a long time developing and improving but also that I make websites properly too. Not trying to sound too headstrong there but it’s re-assuring to know the quality of your work, especially in times when you’re not available.
With regards to customer support, I reached out on Twitter about this and had some great advice in return:
wake a little earlier than my wife/daughter and spend an hour looking over things on holiday. It’s amazing how free you feel with a cup of coffee and the warm climate in the morning. You actually feel good doing that. I imagine that would help you for your side business?
— Ryan Gibson (@ryangibsonuk) May 8, 2018
I didn’t do this everyday however, I did do it occasionally and meant that I could stay on top of the few support messages I did get as well as ensure that any rubbish emails were deleted so that I didn’t have to sort my email as well as reply to them on my return.
It probably goes without saying that I took my laptop on the holiday but I only used it for the above. Outside of this, I didn’t use it at all. I also think it added to how I got into holiday mode as I could relax knowing that if I really needed a computer, I had one to hand.
With work not concerning me too much whilst I was away, I can honestly say that I had a wonderful time with my family on our first holiday together. We went to the South East of Spain in a little place along the coast from Fuengirola. We wanted to go to a place that had enough to do with a fun and adventurous toddler but also a place to relax to have some down time. Spain’s Costa Del Sol was perfect for this. It was only a 2 and a bit hour flight from England and the town of Fuengirola was big enough to visit a beautiful zoo, wander the old, narrow streets, and have the lion’s share of places to eat. It was easy to get to via a very short train journey from the Airbnb apartment we had and meant that we weren’t in the thick of everything during the night (Fuengirola can also be a popular ‘stag’ location).
The majority of our 7-day trip was spent walking along the beach, making sandcastles, eating ice creams in the afternoon, and swimming in the sea or in the pool outside our apartment. The evenings, after our daughter had gone to bed, were spent, just my wife and I, chatting, enjoying Rioja on the balcony, sometimes under some incredible sunsets.
So there’s a few things that I learned on my first family holiday:
- Don’t worry about work when on holiday. Put the systems in place before-hand and it should take care of itself.
- Take a laptop. It alleviates unnecessary stress.
- Don’t expect your head to get out of work mode the moment you leave home for the airport. It may take a few days to get out of that frame of mind, even if you aren’t checking your email often or at all.
- We can do more with our daughter. We do plenty anyway but her resilience and openness to new things surprised us.
- Have fun and book more holidays.