So you're ready for a raise, huh? Being prepared is the key to successfully asking for -- and getting -- the raise you deserve. By following these steps, you can greatly improve your chances of receiving a nice pay raise.
Check Company Policies
Before making an appointment with your supervisor to discuss a raise, check your company's policy manual or employee handbook to understand its salary review policies. Some companies won't consider granting raises unless you've been employed for a specific period of time, such as a year or more.
Request a Meeting
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for your meeting with your supervisor. Ask for a 30-minute meeting to review your request. This should provide enough time to discuss your reasons for the raise. Hopefully your boss or supervisor has their own office; you don't want the personal details of your salary to be overheard in the next cubicle.
Ask for a Realistic Amount
Although it's tempting to ask for a big pay increase, make sure your expectations are realistic for your position, experience and qualifications. One way to see whether or not your request is realistic is to look at salaries for comparable jobs in your city or state. How does your salary stack up against the same jobs elsewhere? You may want to keep these figures handy to show your supervisor so they can see how you arrived at the figure you're requesting.
Give Them a Reason to Say "Yes"
Give your boss every reason to say "yes" by gathering evidence that you've done an outstanding job and have contributed to the company's success. This supports your request for a merit-based raised, or a raise based on your achievements and accomplishments. Some examples to bring to your meeting could include:
- Facts and figures about success achieved on projects. For example, did your marketing plan increase sales for the company or leads for the sales team?
- Evidence that you've saved the company time or money.
- Positive feedback or good performance reviews that show you've done a greatjob.
It's helpful to prepare a folder to leave behind with your supervisor if he or she needs time to consider your request. Print out a copy of each of your supporting documents, and create a summary to leave on the top of your printouts. The summary should include your name and a list of the highlights from the supporting documents. At the end, conclude with your request for a raise and include a specific dollar or percent amount.
Paint a Bright Picture
Before closing your meeting, paint a bright picture of your future with the company. Based on what you've accomplished so far, what will you achieve in the next year? Show your supervisor how valuable you are not just for what you've done, but for what you will do, too.
Say Thank You
Most supervisors will consider your request and many will grant a raise, even a small one. But what if your supervisor says no? Thank them anyway. Granting a raise may be out of his or her control, or the timing may not be right for the company. You never know if that polite response will make your supervisor think of you first when it's time to hand out bonuses or a better-paying position within the company becomes available.
In the future, keep track of all of your successes, big and small. Keep a file at your desk or on your computer to store project results, congratulatory emails, customer recommendations and other positive notices. It may seem silly, but the more you can show how your work impacts the business, the better.
Like many incoming freshmen, I started college without a major. The practical side of me was inclined to choose something like finance, figuring it might increase my chances of actually getting a job after graduation. But then I realized -- I kind of hate math. I've just never been a numbers person, and I didn't want to spend four years of college focusing on material I'd probably find frustratingly challenging and dull.
At the start of my sophomore year, I decided to pursue a major I knew I'd both enjoy and be good at: creative writing. When I told my parents, they were less than thrilled, and in a way, I kind of didn't blame them. After all, while it seemed like an awesome idea in theory, there was the aftermath to think about. Would majoring in creative writing render me completely and utterly unemployable upon graduation? Would I be qualified to do anything … real?
Surprisingly, majoring in creative writing was more challenging than I initially anticipated. Many of my workshop classes were limited to five or six students, which meant I had to audition for most upper-level courses, and with that came the risk of not getting in. Thankfully I was accepted to the classes I needed, but I found myself repeatedly faced with writer's block throughout my senior year, during which I was expected to churn out both an extensive poetry anthology and a 100-page memoir among other assignments.
Entering the working world
Once I graduated college, my creative writing major came in handy in helping me craft what I thought was a pretty respectable resume. But for a while, that was all my major seemed to be good for. Companies weren't exactly hiring writers left and right, and magazines wanted people who studied journalism, not creative writing, which, in my case at least, was far more general.
I was beginning to lose hope when an opportunity arose to interview for an investor relations position at a hedge fund. The firm wanted someone with strong writing skills who understood financial concepts -- and thankfully, that was me. Since I'd spent the summer before college working at an investment bank, where I was tasked with proofreading tons of financial documents, I'd grown familiar with many financial topics, though the fact that I'd opted to minor in business also helped.
After working at the hedge fund, I branched out into the freelance world. I snagged a few steady online writing gigs and quickly found a niche in content and product development. In fact, what was supposed to be a temporary content development job at an electronics company turned into a longer-term role in which I actually got to design toys. After that, I was hired by an online marketing company and put in charge of content.
When I had kids and the time came to trade in full-time work for part-time gigs, I was able to pick back up on the freelance front, and these days, I work as much as possible but mostly on my own schedule. In hindsight, majoring in creative writing was actually a smart move because it set the stage for a flexible career that allows me to balance work and family life. Had I majored in something like finance, I'd perhaps be making more money (probably a lot more), but I don't think I'd be as happy.
So to all the people who mocked or lectured me about my supposedly useless major, there you have it: I may not have chosen the most lucrative subject to study, but it wound up paying off in more ways than one.
What do you see yourself doing in 10 years? Where do you see your career going? If you haven't been asked these questions by your parents or gym teacher yet, expect them.
Your parents, guidance counselors and other caring adults in your life want you to do well for yourself as you become an adult. But have you considered which jobs you'd like in the future? Have you started looking into industries that interest you? Do you know where to begin? All you have to do is start looking.
That's what I did when I was in high school, but my idea of a dream job didn't become clear until after college. I knew that I wanted to study sociology and help people, even though I was encouraged to study business or physics by others in my life. While both are impressive fields, there was no desire within me to pursue either one. "What are you going to do with a sociology degree?" was a frequently asked question. But what they didn't understand was that I knew my options because I did my research. Simply put, sociology is the study of societies and how people govern one another, and I saw its potential in my life as a possible career choice.
Finding the Right Path
Through research I learned that sociology is a great foundation for law school and that it can also lay the groundwork for anyone who wants a career in human services. I knew that with this field of study under my belt, I would have opportunities to help people who are dealing with homelessness, domestic violence, drug addiction, mental health issues or other prevalent issues in our society. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statisitcs was a great resource that helped me focus in on my niche, and could help you, too. My options were endless between volunteer services, criminal justice, youth and senior services, public relations -- and this was just a fraction of the possibilities.
While I was in college, I attended career fairs and inquired which companies and organizations would consider hiring employees with sociology degrees, taking my time to browse through the occupations that appealed to me. Even though I was a career nomad and was also freelance writing part time, there were times when I felt professionally stuck. I knew that the companies I worked for were beneficial but they weren't going to be a permanent solution. I was too determined to remain content -- I needed to get my foot in the door on the road to career compassion.
Persistence is Key
Since there were no open positions in my desired human services organization, I decided to volunteer. If there were networking events or workshops being offered, I would show up and mingle with the employees. Volunteering isn't just working for free. It's donating your time, learning the work culture and most importantly, networking. After all, when a position suddenly opens while you're volunteering, you may be the first person they ask before posting the job online. Your experience volunteering can only help to impress the hiring directors.
Don't give up if it takes a while to find your dream job. Stay on top of volunteer opportunities with companies you're interested in. Tailor your resume to show how multi-faceted you are as a professional and learn about your company and its mission statement. Really analyze if you can fill the role they are looking for. Most importantly, do your research and spend the time to find a career that will be the right fit for you.
Imagine trading in your daily bus ride or drive for the option of rolling straight out of bed and over to your home office. For some people, this setup is a sweet reality.
Whether you're self-employed or are employed by a company that allows you to work remotely, the opportunity to do your job from the comfort of your own home is a definite perk. For one thing, you'll save money on commuting costs, and you won't have to waste time getting to and from an office. Additionally, working from home gives you more flexibility. After all, you can be home to sign for deliveries or throw in a load of laundry on your lunch break. And speaking of lunch, there's something to be said about having all-day access to your kitchen and fridge, as opposed to having to deal with packing or buying food.
But while working from home most certainly has its benefits, it also has one major drawback: distractions. From household chores to TV to your oh-so-comfortable couch that beckons you to sneak in a quick mid-day nap, it can be really difficult to stay focused while working from home. Why is this a bad thing? For starters, if you work for an outside company and don't pull your weight, you could easily go from being gainfully employed to suddenly terminated. And if you're freelance or self-employed, less productivity means lower earnings.
Clearly, it's in your best interest to do a bang-up job from the confines of home. Here are a few tips on how to pull it off:
Designate a Work Space
Having an office-like setup will make you feel like you're at work. If you don't have a spare room to use as an office, designate a corner or area somewhere and fill it with the tools you'll need to be productive, such as a laptop, printer and phone. Make sure you have a comfortable table or desk and chair as well, as this will help you stay put when you're supposed to be plugging away.
While the idea of working in your pajamas may sound enticing, putting on actual clothes will trick your brain into thinking you're at a real office, where other people will see you and mock you for donning sleepwear. Besides, if your work involves video conferences or Skype, you'll need to look the part anyway.
Set a Schedule
One of the best ways to stay focused while working from home is creating a set of deadlines, even if they're self-imposed and won't actually be enforced by anyone other than yourself. If you commit to accomplishing specific tasks within a certain timeframe, you're more likely to push yourself to power through those afternoons when laziness might otherwise take over.
Arrange for Childcare if You Have Kids
If you have children, don't even think about working from home without making some sort of steady, reliable childcare arrangement. There's nothing more distracting than a restless child in the background demanding food or attention.
Remember, working from home is a privilege, and if you abuse it, you could face serious career-related consequences. Even if you're self-employed, you have much to lose (like money and the ability to pay your bills) if you spend your days goofing off. Before you decide to work from home, ask yourself whether you think you've got the discipline to pull it off. Working from home can be wonderful, but it isn't for everyone, and if you need to haul yourself into an office on a daily basis to keep yourself on track, so be it.
If you've recently looked for jobs online, then you've probably noticed the required employee attributes posted on almost every listing like, "must be a team player," or "looking for a self-starter." Then there's perhaps the greatest fallacy of all: "must be able to multitask."
Multitasking is often touted as a prized ability of a solid worker, but the irony is that the opposite is true. Our brains are designed for a single input and a single output. Neuroscience suggests that when we multitask, what we're actually doing is focusing on one thing at a time while switching tasks rapidly. This is a less efficient use of our neural patterns, because every time we switch from one task to the next, we have to remember where we left off, which uses more brain power to recall that information before processing it.
Science Sides With Monotasking
One Stanford researcher studied the effect on multitasking in 3 key areas: memory, filtering out irrelevant information and effectively switching from task to task. According to the Standford Report, among these three, those who "often multitask" performed significantly lower than those who do not multitask in all three areas. This shows that multitasking doesn't actually work -- it just makes us feel like we've accomplished more. Instead, we complete things that are irrelevant and non-productive, while still receiving feelings of accomplishment. Another study shows that it takes 25 minutes on average to circle back to completing the same task, and that people at work are interrupted on average every 11 minutes with some form of communication, according to the The New York Times.
I spend my professional hours as a Systems Engineer. I work with large clustered virtual environments in several data centers, and support about 100 hospitals and their IT staff. I fix some of their weirdest and most troublesome problems on a very deep technical level, and having a lot of various tasks is a struggle I've had for years. Anyone else with a job has probably had the same struggles. What I've found through time is that the best way to increase productivity is through monotasking and effective time management.
This is worth rephrasing and repeating: Monotasking using effective time management will run circles around your multitasking myths. Steven Covey from "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" first gave me this idea. Putting it into action has helped me run circles around other millennials who hadn't yet learned this. Working a single task from beginning to end is considerably faster than switching all over the place.
A Myth Debunked
The ability to produce more with less in less time is a skill that most employers covet. The knowledge of how to effectively manage your time will enable you (yes, you, dear reader) to excel in ways that your co-workers won't be able to, because they're stopping this article halfway through to check Facebook, email and IM their co-workers or friends. The possibility of them finishing this, or any other productivity-oriented article is near zero, because they will undoubtedly be interrupted again.
If you can re-train your brain to avoid distractions, clutter, irrelevant media and cell phone time, you will increase your interpersonal relationships, work harder and generally get more done. Block off some time for your friends and family. Save your emails for later -- they can wait. Focus on one task at a time, and resist the urge to switch 10 minutes in -- this is barely enough time for you brain to warm up. Doing so could yield a higher salary, better work, more promotions and better leadership training -- but at the end of the day, there's nothing better than an un-cluttered mind.
There's that old saying about not mixing business with pleasure, but let's be real: You spend so much time at the office that it's natural to form friendships with some of your co-workers.
Sometimes it starts as a casual conversation around the coffee maker. Then it morphs into grabbing lunch. Eventually it evolves into happy hour, and before you know it, you're planning a weekend getaway with the people you work with.
Befriending your co-workers can be a very good thing. After all, it's nice to have some friendly faces around while you're busy working your tail off, and there's something to be said about blowing off steam after a hard day and having people around who will not only listen, but understand exactly where you're coming from.
On the other hand, there's a danger in befriending your co-workers as well. For starters, things can get complicated if a social dispute causes tension when you're back in the office. Furthermore, it's healthy to escape your work life every so often, which is hard to do when your work life and your social life are completely and utterly intertwined.
If you're going to seek out friendships at the office, here are a few ground rules to follow:
Keep things professional at the office. When you sit down with your team for your weekly meeting, don't start making inside jokes with your buddies or mention that some of you went out to dinner the night before. During working hours, treat your office friends as your colleagues, and stay focused on the job at hand. Don't spend 20 minutes discussing happy hour spots when you're supposed to be finalizing a presentation. Similarly, while it was perhaps quite uncool of your co-workers to ditch you last weekend, don't bring it up while you're on the job. The last thing you want is for your friendships to negatively impact your performance.
Be careful when befriending a manager or superior. It's one thing to hang out with co-workers on the same professional level you're on, but hanging out with your boss can make things awkward. If word gets out that you guys are buddies, it can cause bitterness on your team. There's nothing wrong with having a good relationship with your manager, but you're probably best off limiting your interactions to meetings and work events.
Don't get romantic. Or at least be sure to read your company's HR manual and understand the implications before you dive in. It's not unheard of for a friendship to evolve into a deeper relationship, but if dating a co-worker could get one of you fired, you'll need to consider whether it's worth the risk. Even if your company has a fairly open policy about dating colleagues, in most organizations, dating your direct superior is prohibited. If you and your boss fall for one another, there's a good chance one of you will need to find another job (but hey, it's a small price to pay for romance).
Accept that not everyone will be your friend. So maybe there's one co-worker you just can't seem to win over. That's fine. As long as you get along professionally and show each other respect, it doesn't matter that you can't ever seem to snag an invite to one of her famous pool parties.
Sure, it's nice to like the people you work with, but there's also such a thing as being friendly with your co-workers without actually being their friend. Remember, with friendship tends to come drama, and that's not the sort of thing you need when you're trying to advance your career.
My mother absolutely believes that dream jobs exist. She believes there's a perfect position out there for me, and she bases this belief on the fact that she's had two dream jobs in her lifetime. One was as a paralegal, and the other as my mother (her words). I had a hard time believing her -- not because she has a habit of lying -- but because I know how I behaved during some of my more formative years.
I, however, don't share my mother's faith in the idea of a dream job. I was a college graduate with two degrees and some proficiency in three languages, yet I worked in a coffee shop in my college town while a friend convinced me to start writing -- instead of just saying I wanted to be a writer. I made it seven months before I bought a one way ticket to the Middle East, where I lived next door to my best friend and managed to land a job as an English copywriter for a local start-up company.
A Slow Start
My assignments were limited and I watched the first three seasons of "Game of Thrones" at my desk. Some might call that the perfect job, but I was discontent. That feeling propelled me into a graduate program in Northern Ireland, which I was able to do while keeping up with the clients I had gained as a freelance writer. After graduating I realized that without a work visa for Europe or the UK, I would never be considered for the positions I was applying for. When my friends joked, "Just marry a European!" I cried a little inside for the state of the global job market and my available "opportunities."
The final blow to my notion of a dream job came in the form of the perfect job that combined two of my life's passions: rock climbing and writing. The job was located in the French Alps and my interviewer made reference to routine company trips to local crags for bouldering and climbing, among other outdoor activities. I was hooked. I enthusiastically waited to hear back, hoping that someone would give me the chance to experience what, in my mind, might be my dream job.
I was sitting in a hostel in Rome when I got the news that I hadn't been chosen for the job, but thanks for trying. I cried a little and sadly relayed the message to friends and family. Then I remembered that I was in Rome, and eating gelato in front of the Colosseum trumps job rejection every time.
Just Keep Searching
You could say that I have some fairly strict guidelines when it comes to considering something my dream job, which involves being my own boss, getting to work from wherever I want and having the option to work in my pajamas. In some ways I already have my dream job -- I just wish it paid a bit more, and maybe offered health insurance.
But freelance writing has allowed me to have an extraordinarily flexible work schedule while doing something I really love. Every assignment and every paycheck must be earned, because I only get paid when I finish a project. There may come a day when I have to find a more stable position in order to pay back student loans and continue to fund my worldwide adventures, but for now I am doing what I can to continue working, traveling and learning. There are hundreds of countries in this world -- maybe my dream job is in one of them!
For some employees, there's nothing more dreaded than review time, especially if your performance dictates whether you'll be getting a raise for the upcoming year. But while getting reviewed by a manager is nerve-wracking in its own right, perhaps the most stressful piece of the puzzle comes in the form of the self-evaluation.
In recent years, more and more companies have taken to asking employees to evaluate their own performances instead of just hearing things from the manager perspective. The idea behind it is to give employees a voice so they feel as though they're more active participants in the process. Unfortunately, what should be a good thing for most employees is typically a source of stress.
Most self-evaluations ask you to summarize your strengths and successes on the job. Sing your own praises too loudly, and you'll come off as conceited. Fail to hoot your own horn, and your boss might start to wonder why you were hired in the first place.
Similarly, most of these forms ask you to indicate what challenges or weaknesses you face. Say nothing, and your boss will ding you for failing to take ownership of your shortcomings. Say too much, and you just might cause a lightbulb to go off inside your boss's head along the lines of "Oh yeah, Sue does back down a lot when conflict arises."
Whether this is your first time tackling a self-evaluation or your fifth, here are a few tips to help you strike that ideal balance and come out ahead:
Companies ask their employees for self-evaluations because they want to know what people like you are really thinking. Use this as an opportunity to share your thoughts on your performance, career and working environment. If asked, for example, what you'd like to change about your role, don't be afraid to go into diplomatic detail about your boss's tendency to load up your plate with administrative work when you should really be focusing more on actual marketing.
You shouldn't shy away from pointing out the qualities that make you a star employee, but here's where you'll really want to stay away from exaggeration and fluff. Rather than use buzz words like "determined" and "thorough" to describe yourself, point to actual successes you've achieved while on the job. Let's say you're tasked with managing your company's invoices and spotted multiple discrepancies over the course of the year that would've cost the business thousands if left unnoticed. Rather than just tout your attention to detail, put down some hard numbers so your boss can see how valuable your contributions have been.
Nobody's perfect. Your boss is going to want to see you own up to your weaknesses, as doing so is a sign of professional maturity and growth. Instead of pretending that they don't exist, find a way to spin them in a positive fashion. If you have a tendency to make mistakes on presentations when you feel rushed, don't just say that point blank, and don't try to assign blame. Instead, acknowledge your errors and show your boss that you've put some thought into improving. You could say: "I need to work on putting together cleaner presentations even when faced with time constraints. Going forward, I'll try to gather data in advance to give myself more time to produce quality work."
Yes, self-evaluations can be stressful, but they can also present a real opportunity to have your voice heard. As long as you're up-front, respectful and realistic, you can get through the process with both your sanity and your reputation neatly intact.
When it comes to gift giving, they say it's the thought that counts. But what happens when the oh-so-generous folks in your life just happen to have the worst imaginable taste? It's an unfortunate fact that sometimes bad holiday gifts happen to good people -- and by "bad," we're talking everything from ugly sweaters to gaudy, kitschy fruit bowls that pain you to look at them. And then there are those gifts that aren't terrible per se, but just unneeded or impractical -- like that royal blue coffee mug that doesn't match anything else in your kitchen, or that gift card to your local steakhouse that would be awesome if you didn't happen to just turn vegetarian.
If you're coming away from the holiday season with a load of things you don't want or need, don't despair. Here are some options to consider:
Sell Your Stuff
Don't need that new selfie stick or high-speed food processor? Sell it for cash. You can try your luck with Craigslist, where it's free to post an ad. Or, for a safer bet, list your unwanted items on eBay. You'll pay a small fee, but on the plus side, you won't have to worry about some sketchy stranger showing up at your door wanting to buy your stuff, or just creeping you out. You can even try listing the items you're looking to unload on your Facebook page and seeing if your friends are interested in a swap -- but if you do, make sure the people who gave you said gifts don't have Facebook accounts. Otherwise you're as good as busted.
Re-gift What You Can
Maybe that cashmere scarf or fancy bottle of perfume isn't your taste, but that doesn't mean you can't put it to good use. Rather than throw it away or deal with selling it, see if you can re-gift it to someone who might appreciate it. As long as the item in question is of reasonably good quality, there's no shame in giving it to someone who's more likely to use it than you are.
Donate Items to Those in Need
If you're stuck with gifts you can't stand or don't want, why not take the opportunity to help someone less fortunate? You can donate your unwanted gifts to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army, where they'll either be sold or given to someone in need. You can also see if your local place of worship has put out a collection box. As an added bonus, you may even receive a receipt for your donation, which you can potentially count as tax deductible when tax season approaches.
Get Cash for Your Gift Cards
Many people enjoy receiving gift cards to spend as they please. But what if you're given a gift card to a store you don't like or a restaurant whose cuisine you don't happen to enjoy? Rather than let your unwanted gift cards sit around collecting dust, you can sell them online. Sites like GiftCards.com and Gift Card Granny allow you to get cash in exchange for your gift cards. Though you'll lose a percentage of your gift cards' total value by selling them this way, $30 in cash, for example, is better than having an unwanted $50 gift card taking up space in your wallet.
Of course, you can also take steps to avoid winding up with useless gifts in the first place. The next time someone asks what you want for the holidays, just be honest. With any luck, your friends and loved ones will actually listen and oblige.
I recently had the opportunity to backpack through Europe with my best friend from college. In an effort to prove my worried family wrong (we may have watched "Taken" too many times), I compiled a list of everything we would need for our trip overseas, from our passport to an extra hair dryer.
If it's your first time traveling abroad, don't worry. Follow these tips and you'll be ready for anything.
Order your passport early. You'll need it to get out of the country. If you don't have one already, be sure to order it at least a month or two before your trip. According to the U.S. Passports & International Travel website, it can take up to three weeks to get your passport.
Make a travel itinerary. It doesn't have to be fancy. Our itinerary listed train schedules, flight times and which cities we planned on visiting. Beneath each day was a list of restaurants recommended by Trip Advisor and the other things we wanted to do. Having a plan of what you'd like to see or eat that day will allow you to save time and make the most of your trip.
Bring a suitcase that's easy to carry. Be prepared to take your luggage with you wherever you go. Having a suitcase that either doubles as a backpack or has some sort of strap is going to save your back a lot of pain.
Consider purchasing an international phone plan. This isn't a necessity, but having unlimited texting and enough data to use our mobile maps when we were lost sure came in handy. We would have wasted so much time if we hadn't been able to navigate to our must-see sites. Depending on your phone carrier, international plans can range from a flat fee of $30 to various per-minute prices.
Pack Comfortable shoes. A lot of European cities have gorgeous cobblestone streets, but it was the death of my feet. Pack shoes that you can walk around in for a few days without getting blisters, and don't forget socks!
Download a language translator app. It could really come in handy if you ever get lost, or even if it's just to look up how to say "thank you" in the country's native language. Check out this list of the best translator apps for smartphones.
Keep track of currency exchanges. If you're traveling to a country that uses a different currency system than the Euro, make some notes on your itinerary of what $20 and $100 is equal to wherever you're going.
Essential Items to Pack
- A universal adapter and converter. You'll need one for your cellphone, laptop and even hair styling products. For hair products, be sure to use the right voltage setting on your adapter/converter because you can burn your hair off if the voltage is too high, which happened to me.
- A travel belt. It sounds geeky, but better to be safe than sorry. Buy it, bring it and use it. You never know when a pick-pocketing Pete might be lurking around.
- Body spray or some type of fabric refresher. After a few days without a laundromat, you'll be thankful you brought some along to spritz your clothes with.
- As for clothing, I was able to get away with 3 pairs of pants, two pairs of leggings, one dress and some shirts. If you're backpacking, you're going to have to repeat outfits.
Like traveling anywhere, you have to be safe, ask questions and listen to your gut. If you plan ahead, get ready for a (hopefully) stress-free vacation!