A vacation? What’s that? Many small business owners don’t get a vacation, but more are beginning to take some time off. So says a new study from American Express’ OPEN Small Business Network.

Sixty-six percent of business owners are planning summer vacations that are at least a week this year. That’s an increase of 15 percent over 2002. But it seems that it’s not all fun and no work. About 30% of small business owners say they try to link vacations with business trips to save time and money. What’s more, 73 percent expect to grapple with business worries while they travel.

What exactly are they going to worry about?

  • 24% worry important clients/customers won’t be well-served

  • 18% worry about who will manage the business

  • 18% worry about missed opportunities to land new business

  • 15% worry about staff judgment calls

  • 12% worry about equipment or operational breakdowns

  • 8% worry about security at their business


"Business owners are often reluctant to take vacations because they fear the company will suffer if they are not minding it. The irony is that vacations can be a long-term investment in the success of the business by helping owners re-charge and return to work invigorated," says Alice Bredin, Small Business Advisor for OPEN. "Since business owners don't always have the luxury of time, it is important for them to do some careful planning to ensure they can create the time they need to get away."

Bredin offers some tips for planning summer vacations:


  • Schedule a vacation well ahead of time. Especially important for those who think there is never a "right time" to get away, putting a vacation on the calendar early will enable you to appropriately prepare for it. This includes preparing your staff to cover while you're away.

  • Consider using a professional to handle your travel plans. Working with a travel counselor to book your trip can save you time and money and make planning a vacation easier. Travel professionals can find good values and can also help if plans go awry.

  • Schedule breaks during business downtimes. Consider planning some time away this summer when your business may be slowest—or the least hectic. If your business is seasonal, consider vacationing during the off-season.

  • Commit yourself financially to your vacation. Consider putting a deposit on a rental house or a trip. Committing to take that time off and setting up financial consequences if you back out (lost deposits, cancellation penalties, etc), can help ensure you actually take the vacation.

  • Budget your workload. Once you decide how long you'll be away, figure out exactly what needs to be done before you leave and build in this extra work into the days or weeks leading up to your vacation. By leaving with a "clean plate," you can reduce your anxiety about leaving the office and give yourself a greater chance of relaxing.

  • If you must work on vacation, do it in brief spurts. Ideally, you don't want to take work with you on vacation, although working on vacation is better than no vacation at all. If you must work, do it in short spurts, perhaps in the early morning, so you can quickly get back to the business of relaxing.