Dear El Cardinale’,

I recall you and I talking about a unique way you have to optimize your vacation time. Please remind me what tips you have to share.

– Vacation Envy

Dear VE,

You are right. I do value vacation time and can’t overestimate the importance of having a dedicated time (and, in my case, place) where I am focused on my family and friends.

My family and I head up to Harbor Springs, Micigan each summer – about 1,000 miles north of Charlotte and located on Lake Michigan. Harbor Springs has served as the Camelot for the Culbertson kids for 18 years. My family stays there for two months. Thanks to direct flights to and from Charlotte, I travel back and forth.

But it’s not enough to just go someplace new to get a new experience. Here’s how I create high-quality vacation time:

1. Be hyper-intentional to plan fun activities before you leave. You have to know what you love to do. For me, it is cycling, going fishing with my kids and spending evenings with Leslie and our friends. My cycling buddies know when I am arriving and we have established our routines. The boat is ready and my family know which days we have Capt. Ron scheduled. We have 4th of July planned with about 30 friends at our house and the caterer knows what I like!

2. Daily one-on-one time with some lucky person. Every day I try to schedule one-on-one time with someone in my family. It’s my time to check-in to ask about what is going well, what isn’t and where are they with the milestones they have set for themselves. I take notes using Evernote and try to be prepared – then I cajole them with an offer to break bread, get ice cream or go shopping.

3. Vacation starts at day 4 – you better take at least 10 days off! It takes me three days of being totally disconnected before I feel relaxed. Most westerners do not take long enough vacation time and never unplug. The result is we come home exhausted and feel that we need a vacation to feel rejuvenated from the one that we just had!

4. Do not make yourself think. When I am in Charlotte, I like to avoid routines and try everything new that I can. I do not want to go see the same store or have the same dinner. However, when I am on vacation, I like the “same old place.” I do not want to think. I love the predictability of the same old cycling routes and the same restaurants. Bar Harbor . . . here I come for my Swiss Olive Burger with Onion Rings and a Two Hearted Ale!

5. This is the key: Work and Play shall never meet. I specify one day a week for when all I do is work, all of the other days I am out of touch. Of course if there’s an emergency, people can get a hold of me. The interesting thing is that people in my office will step up when I’m not available, and when I come back, these tasks are delegated and clients have new relationships with people on my team.

This is how I make my summers happen. It’s worked well for me going on for two decades. Thanks to our first-class Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and high-speed internet, I’m fortunate to be able to keep working and earning a living while creating lifelong summer memories and enjoying new experiences with my wife, sons and extended family. I wish you success in making your summer what you want it to be.