Have you planned this summer's vacation yet?

Temperatures have been high for a few months now here in Texas, but it's now officially summer everywhere. In Europe, kids are finishing school right about this month which means their parents can finally take two or three of their average annual six weeks paid vacation and take the tykes somewhere nice. What are your plans?

If you live in the USA, you might want to close your mouth now before you swallow a fly. Yes, European office workers get about six weeks off. (Relax, they pay pretty steep taxes and gas prices are even higher over there, so it does even itself out.) Now, you may feel short-changed as most American workers get about ten days paid leave per year, but my point is, when you do use them, however many they are, do try and make the most of it.

For instance, if you're planning on going to Spain, go this month or in the fall, because most of the country closes down in August. No kidding. Literally. Their normal two-hour siesta-hiatus every afternoon notwithstanding, owners of local shops, restaurants, bars and taverns even in tourist-meccas like Barcelona leave the city in August, most of them for the entire month. Of course, having said that, there's still plenty of beach, architecture, museums, parks and exclusive shops to enjoy; I just find it hasn't the same flavour when the locals are away.

No matter where you go, while you plan your get-away, make sure you've taken care of everything so you can enjoy your time away and relax without worrying about your home or your work. Is your passport up-to-date? Have you had the medical check-ups and vaccines recommended for your destination? Are all the bills that'll arrive while you're out taken care of? Did you enlist a friend or relative to check your mail and water your plants? As for your job, have you instructed your substitute what to do with special customers? Have you set up your out-of-office reply? Have you given yourself permission to go away without having to check in with anyone or take phone-calls? Because I'm sorry to hammer it home here, but if you want a holiday, the BlackBerry has to stay put!

Holiday or vacation do not equal working from home, the hotel, or by the pool. Just imagine the cocktail spilling over your laptop! No, no, better leave it; the company will thank you for saving money on new hardware. But now, do you know where you're going? Have you found a good deal on cheap flights or an adventure-packed excursion? Are you going with people you like, who you don't mind spending a lot of time with (seeing you first thing in the morning, no make-up etc), or are you going in a group to make new friends? Either way, if you're not the happy-go-lucky type, do take some time and make a plan of which sights you want to see and how your expectations fit in with those of the people traveling with you, or you might want to kick yourself afterward. I don't recommend being the guy who went to Paris and didn't see the Eiffel Tower ("That's HERE?" Billy Crystal, Forget Paris).

Of course there's no need to go to Europe to have an adventure, reconnecting to your home state is always a great idea, plus you don't need weeks to go exploring, a long weekend like this one does nicely. Whatever you do, have a great independence day, and wherever you go this summer, I hope you have the time of your life. Do check out this article about how to make those memories last, so that when you do have a blast, you'll remember to tell us here all about it.

Til next time!