Dear Kelly,

After being cooped up inside for so long due to COVID-19, my family and I are ready for a vacation! They would like to go somewhere for a week, but I’m currently enrolled in classes. Should I wait until the semester is over or take a week off and go on the trip that my family and I so desperately need?

It’s summertime, the perfect time for a vacation, especially after the challenge we’ve all been through. For almost three months, most of us only went out of our homes for groceries or necessities. Nothing sounds better to me right now than sitting on the beach, holding a nice cold drink in my hand and listening to the waves crash into the shore. 

Vacations are a great time to just unwind and reboot. One of the perks of online classes is that you don’t have to take a week off to go on a trip — you can take the classes with you. 

Of course, you might be thinking that taking quizzes or answering discussion posts aren’t the most fun activities to engage in while you are on vacation. I agree, but if you plan accordingly, you can set aside time for sun, fun and getting your coursework done.

After all, generally not every minute on a vacation is spent doing activities; there is some downtime. Think of your past trips. How did each day begin? How did each day end? Were you the first one awake in the morning waiting for the rest of the family to rouse from their slumber? Are you a night owl and tend to stay up after your family goes to bed? Does your family take breaks during the day where everyone tends to do their own thing? You can find time to still work on your classes, even when you are away.

Personally speaking, I’ve been in classes every summer since 2017, and each year, I have taken vacations. In fact, my husband and I traveled to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, for an entire week while I was enrolled in three courses. The trick to navigating a vacation and not falling behind on your courses is to plan ahead.

If you plan accordingly, you can set aside time for sun, fun and getting your coursework done.

The first thing you need to do is talk to your professors. I always say this, but remember, professors are people, too. They understand the need for vacations; in fact, they take vacations themselves, but they plan ahead. Email or call your professors, and let them know your family needs a vacation, but you truly do not want to fall behind in your class. Ask their advice and definitely let them know that you remain committed to your coursework. 

Then, check the syllabus to see what assignments are due and when, and try to plan your trip during a week that might have a lighter course load. You certainly don’t want to take your trip the week a group project is due or the weeks you are taking midterms or finals. While examining your syllabus, check to see if there is some way that you could work ahead of your trip. Completing what is due ahead of your travel will allow you to truly rest and relax.

If that’s not possible, however, be sure the hotel or place you will be staying has Wi-Fi. Before my trip to Punta Cana, I called the resort and explained the importance of Wi-Fi and let them know I was a college student and would have classwork and quizzes that had to be completed. When we arrived and were checking in, the receptionist made it a priority that the room we were assigned to carried a strong signal and told me if I ever had any problems to please let them know immediately (which I never did). 

Finally, have a meeting with your family. You are in school because you want to provide a better future for them. When you were completing homework, going to class or studying for tests, they were there to support you. Let them know how important spending time with them is, but you have to make your coursework a priority as well. Allow them to be a part of the process of helping you find quality time to do what you need to in order to succeed in your classes. You may be surprised at how they rally together to make sure you don’t fall behind.

Following these guidelines will help you enjoy some much-needed relaxation while staying focused on completing your courses successfully. There is always a moment when you arrive home after a vacation, that you sit on the couch and say to yourself, “Goodness, what an awesome time we had, but it’s time to get back to reality.” Planning ahead of your trip will help to guarantee that “back to reality” doesn’t mean having to play catch-up or do extra credit work to cover all of the zeros or incompletes. Instead, “back to reality” will mean you are still successfully accomplishing your goals and being the best you can be.

And to be completely honest, completing homework while sitting on a balcony with the sound of the ocean in the background and the smell of the salt air in the breeze, is probably my most favorite way to do homework. 

Good luck to you, and have an amazing trip! As always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey!

Do you have a question about distance learning or coping with school in these challenging times? Each week Kelly Browning, an early childhood education/special education major and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at kelly.l.browning@live.mercer.edu or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.