En español | You don't even have to pick the envelope up; you can tell it'll be a wedding or graduation or something of the sort. It's an obligation vacation — also known as the oblication.

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While it's a treat to get something in the mail that isn't a bill, the contents of this envelope will cost you a lot more than electricity for the month. You will look at your schedule and begin to add up in your head the hotel, airfare and rental car costs and realize that being there won't come cheap. What's worse is that your budget for the travel you want to take is slowly being chipped away by events you have to go to.

The majority of us use some vacation time for these excursions, and how grumpy you feel about it depends on how you feel about the people you are traveling to see. But remember that your presence is important, and that being there reinforces bonds of family and friendship. I've moaned and groaned right up to the beginning of an event only to be incredibly happy that I made it. And I've come away with memories of love and joy that, quite frankly, have helped me get through some rocky times.

So my advice is to embrace the oblication! Here are some tips for making it a real vacation.

Carve out some time for yourself

No matter where you're going and what event you're going to, do a little research ahead of time. Even the smallest of towns have an interesting shop or two, a Saturday morning flea market or a nature hike nearby.