Vacations help recharge your batteries and allow you to spend important time with family and friends. But if you get away only to find yourself checking your e-mail and voice mail frequently, worrying that work will dry up in your absence, and feeling you’re shortchanging customers and colleagues, you haven’t prepared sufficiently. Let this timeline guide you; adjust it as needed. Bon voyage!

At least five weeks out
Begin keeping assistants, colleagues, and your broker in the loop about your deals and inform your customers when you’ll be away.
If you have a shared office calendar, be sure to add your vacation dates early—at the beginning of the year, if possible. The dates may change, but the heads-up helps colleagues prepare mentally.

Four weeks before
If you haven’t already, arrange with an assistant, partner, or colleague to cover your listings, closings, and phone duty. If you like certain procedures followed, spell them out. For example: “Call current listers once a week with a status report.”

If you’ve already lined up a backup, check with the person again to make sure his or her schedule hasn’t changed so that you both won’t be away at the same time. To avoid misunderstandings, decide on a mutually agreed fee for each transaction closed in your absence.

Remind other colleagues by e-mail that you plan to be gone, provide exact dates, and let them know who’s covering for you and whether there are any circumstances under which they should contact you during your vacation.

Three weeks ahead
Remind clients and potential buyers and sellers that you’re going away and give them the name and cell phone number of those covering for you. Tell clients how to contact you in case of an emergency. If you’ll be out of the loop—in a jungle without cell service or an Internet café, say—take extra time to reassure them you’re well covered.

Two weeks ahead
Give your broker and colleagues who are covering for you notes on your current listings and closings, sufficient brochures and disclosure forms, and the phone numbers of others involved in your transactions, such as co-op salespeople, loan officers, and attorneys. You may want to slip copies of this information into any open files, too.

Give your contact information to your broker and backup. You may want to provide a specific hotel name and phone number or just say, “I’ll be in Santa Fe, N.M,” and provide your cell phone number for emergencies.

One week ahead
Ask buyers and sellers if they have last-minute concerns that you and your colleagues should know about. Set dates to meet with prospects and clients on your return. And schedule a post-vacation meeting—perhaps over lunch or a latte—for a brain dump from co-workers who handled your work. Before you head out of town, organize future work, such as scheduling open houses, stagings, and photo shoots.

By this point, you’ll know whether you really need co-workers to keep you in the loop about transactions while you’re away. Broker John Mayfield is more relaxed on vacation if his assistant types up notes of the most critical goings-on and e-mails them to him daily. He also asks her to forward less important e-mail that he should read before he returns. He checks in by phone midway through his trip.

A few days before
Tie up loose ends. Record a voice vacation message on your office and cell phones. Set up an out-of-office e-mail, saying, “I won’t be retrieving messages while I’m away (if that’s the case). Please call my office instead. So-and-so will be happy to help during my absence.” And include the person’s direct number.

If you plan to stay in touch, be sure you pack your cell phone, laptop, handheld device, adapters, cords, and extra batteries.

While away
Relax and have a great trip. Don’t worry: You’ll be found if a true emergency occurs. So focus on being rested for your return.

Sources: Elizabeth Ballis, ABR®, CRS®, Coldwell Banker Residential Banker, Chicago; Bob Herd, Coldwell Banker Success Realty, Tucson, Ariz.; and John Mayfield Jr., ABR®, CRB, Mayfield GMAC Real Estate Inc., Farmington, Mo.