06/16/2013 11:16 am ET Updated Aug 16, 2013

5 Ways to Enjoy Your Summer Vacation

Vacations give us a much-needed break from work and responsibilities. They're a time to have fun, new adventures, rest and relaxation. In our fast-paced, over-scheduled and stress-filled lives, we often overlook the value of these benefits.

Here are five ways to ensure that you enjoy your summer vacation.

1. Always use your vacation time.

Compared to most countries, American employees have less paid vacation days, so it's amazing that some of us actually don't use what little vacation time we have! If you're all about work and no play, you are surely headed for a burnout down the road. You can't have an enjoyable vacation if you choose not to have one at all.

2. Define vacation on your own terms.

You don't have to take a trip, spend a lot of money, or even leave your house to have a vacation. All you need to do is take a break from your normal routine or work. If you happen to travel on your job, a staycation may be the perfect retreat for you. Or perhaps you'd like to spend your free time taking a pottery class, planting a garden, reading a good novel, spending time with friends and family, or just listening to the birds sing while you gently swing in your backyard hammock. A vacation is a frame of mind, not a place or schedule.

3. Do your research.

If you do plan on taking a trip, make sure there are no unpleasant surprises when you get there. Call and ask in advance to find out about things like kid-friendly or pet-friendly accommodations, transportation services, safety, climate, etc. There are plenty of travel books and Internet sites that provide all the necessary information to make your trip a pleasant one. Or, you can take the old-fashioned approach and book your travel arrangements through an experienced and knowledgeable travel agent or tour company.

4. Relax and enjoy.

Don't treat your vacation like a work project. Too much planning, organizing, list-making and over-scheduling gives you no time to relax and enjoy yourself. Get out of work mode and kick back. Don't feel as if every day needs an itinerary -- unless you're on a group tour and all you have to do is show up. Try to space out planned activities to every other day with alternate days off for whatever you feel like doing in the moment. You don't want to be exhausted from your vacation when it's all over.

5. Leave work behind.

The whole point of vacation is to take a break from work, not to have thoughts and messages from work mixing in with your thirst-quenching Mai Tai on the beach or your daring sky diving lesson. Leave the laptop behind, don't check voicemail, and don't call the office. Change your outgoing phone messages and set up an auto reply on email to make sure everyone knows you're not available until your return date. This is your time to put yourself first, renew your spirit and have a blissful experience!

For more by Debbie Gisonni, click here.

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