How to Keep Your WordPress site Busy While You’re on Vacation

It’s that time of year! The sun is shining (well, it is in the UK for once) and thoughts turn to vacations. But what do you do with your website while you’re away?

The good news is that WordPress makes it easy for you to set things up before you head off, and keep your site ticking over. Your users will never know you’ve gone!

In this post I’ll give you some tips to automate the publication and sharing of content while you’re away from your desk, as well as showing you how to automate updates and security too, so your site won’t run into problems while you’re busy relaxing.

I’m going to cover:

  • scheduling posts
  • scheduling social media shares
  • scheduling email updates
  • automating plugin and core updates
  • ensuring your site is secure and backed while you’re away.

It’ll take you an afternoon’s work before you go away and then you know you’ll be abe to enjoy your vacation without having to work. Perfect!

Scheduling Posts in Advance

Post scheduling is one of my favourite WordPress features. It lets you set a future date on which your post will be published, hit Schedule and then let WordPress make that post live while you’re busy working on something else, sleeping or on vacation. It’s a useful tool if you like to batch content creation and get a number of posts ready in one big frenzy of activity, or if you have an audience in a different time zone.

But it’s also useful when you’re going to be away, whether that’s a work trip or a vacation.

When you’ve written the post, simply click Edit under the post date, and set it to a date in the future. It’s good to pick a day and time when you know your audience is most likely to engage. Then click the Schedule button, which is what the Publish button will turn into.

scheduling posts in WordPress
WordPress’s publishing options make it easy to schedule a post ahead of time

Tip: As you won’t be able to check your post when it goes live, be sure that you haven’t forgotten anything. The featured image and post excerpt are easy to forget, so before you hit Schedule, make sure they’re ready.

Scheduling Social Media Shares

If you schedule your posts in advance, it would also be nice to automatically share them on your social media platforms, right?

Absolutely. In fact, adding automated social media sharing will also help you when you’re publishing posts when you’re not on vacation too, as it’ll save you a job.

Sharing Scheduled Posts

I use Jetpack to link to all my social media accounts and automatically share new posts on all of them. Once you’ve set it up and linked your accounts, you’ll never have to lift a finger again. As soon as a post is published, it’ll be shared. Which means you can rest easy knowing that you’re still engaging with your audience while you’re away.

Connecting social media accounts with Jetpack
Publicize your posts with Jetpack

Sharing Posts from the Archive

But as well as new and scheduled posts, wouldn’t it be handy to be able to share posts from your archives while you’re away, and bring users back to them? That’s possible too.

With the Revive Old Posts plugin, you can automatically reshare content that’s more than a month old, and remind your followers of the great content that they’ll still find useful or entertaining. You can set the frequency of shares and exclude posts which are time limited.

revive old posts dashboards
My Revive Old Posts schedule on my blog

This means that while you’re on vacation, and during the rest of the year too, your content can continue to work for you, pulling in new readers and growing your audience.

Emailing Subscribers While You’re Away

If you’ve got a mailing list, you won’t want it to go stagnant while you’re on vacation. You also won’t want to spend a load of time before you go on vacation preparing email shots for your absence – if you’re like me, you’ve got lots of other work to get finished before you can head off!

Email providers generally have a scheduling facility so you can create and schedule your emails before you go away. But it would be easier if you could simply repurpose the posts you’ve already scheduled for your vacation, and send that out to your subscribers.

subscribe by email plugin page

With our Subscribe by Email plugin, you can automatically email all of your subscribers when a post is published, or you can send them a weekly roundup of new content. So the posts you schedule for your vacation won’t only be shared on the site and via social media, they’ll also go direct to your email subscribers too.

And now that you’re driving all kinds of traffic to your site with these tools, set yourself up with Hustle to convert those visitors with custom ads! You can get really specific with the settings, so think about how you can segment each audience, and what you want them to do before they leave your site.

Automating Software Updates

The last thing you want to spend your time doing while you’re on vacation is updating your site’s plugins or even WordPress itself. For me, it’s always when I’m on vacation that there’s a major update to core – I sometimes wonder if the developer team check my calendar every year and work around that!!

If there’s a security update while you’re away, you don’t want to miss out on it and risk your site becoming insecure. And if there are updates to WordPress core or to your theme or plugins that fix conflicts and enhance performance, you won’t want to miss out on that either.

Updating Themes and Plugins

With our Automate service, you can relax and have theme and plugin updates happen in the background for you. Activate it for your site, choose which themes and plugins you want to include, and sit back.

Automate configuration window for updating plugins
Automate plugin updates with WPMU DEV

When Automate runs an update on your site, it’ll send you an email to let you know what it’s done. If there are any changes to your site resulting from the update, it’ll send you a screenshot from your site to show you. You can just check that and if everything’s ok, you don’t even need to log into your site.

Sure, there are other plugins that will automatically update plugins and themes for you, but I like Automate best because of those emails. It reduces the stress of leaving updates to the system and means you know what’s going on without having to do it yourself.

It also amuses me that Crocodile Dundee seems to be looking after my site for me:

automate message - strewth!
You can trust that hat to automate your plugin updates

Updating WordPress Core

If you’ve installed robust, well-coded themes and plugins, there’s no reason that a WordPress update should cause you any problems. So it makes sense to automate core updates while you’re away, too.

WordPress will already automatically make minor updates, which is a feature introduced in version 3.7. But if you want to also run major updates automatically, you can do this. Either edit your wp-config.php file, using these instructions in the Codex, or install a plugin.

The Easy Updates Manager plugin lets you configure both minor and major updates to WordPress core. In other words, you can add major updates to the already automated minor updates.

Easy Updates Manager plugin page
WordPress Easy updates Manager Plugin page

The plugin also lets you configure plugin and theme updates, but I prefer to use Automate because of the emails and screenshots it sends me. In fact, there’s a wide range of reporting you can have emailed to you via your WPMU DEV subscription, which you can use for internal records, or to communicate directly with clients.

Once you set up Automate and configure major updates to run automatically, you can jet off on your vacation knowing your site won’t go out of date while you’re away.

Keeping Your Site Secure and Backed Up While You’re Away

I think I’m cursed. Every time my site goes down, it’s when I’m on vacation. There was one year that I was on a camping holiday and woke up on the first day to an email from a colleague telling me my site had been hacked. As you can imagine, fixing it in my tent wasn’t an option. So I had to find a Starbucks and spend the first morning of my vacation fixing it. Not good!

You don’t want this to happen to you. Automating updates will help with this to some extent, as it will ensure security updates are installed (my vacation was before that became part of core). But automatic updates won’t be enough. You need to ensure your site is protected and that if there is a problem, you can restore it without wasting a whole morning of your vacation.

Hardening Your Site Before You Go

Our Defender plugin will harden your site, making it less vulnerable to attack. It’ll scan your site regularly and send you an email if it spots any issues. Meaning you only have to check your site if you get an email that concerns you.

Defender plugin
Defender has your site’s back

Set it up before you go away and it will protect your site in your absence, meaning you won’t get hacked like me!

Backing Up Before and While You’re Away

When I had my vacation nightmare of being hacked on the first day, I hadn’t installed a very good backup plugin. Sure, my site was running backups but these were being sent to my dropbox account in the form of the theme and plugin files and a sql file containing the database. Which meant that to restore the site in that branch of Starbucks, I had to rebuild it manually.

I learned my lesson. When your site goes down or is hacked, you need a plugin that makes restoring a previous version of the site as easy as possible. Which is why I installed our Snapshot Pro plugin as soon as I got home.

Snapshot Pro WPMU DEV plugin page
Snapshot Pro makes sure you’re prepared to restore your site

Snapshot Pro will make backups of your site on a regular basis and, even better, it gives you one-click restore. If I’d had that on my vacation, I’d have been able to do it on one latte instead of three, and even then I’d have been able to finish reading my book while I drank it.

It’s also important to ensure that your site is being automatically backed up while you’re away, and that multiple backups are stored. If a member of your team makes a change that causes a problem while you’re not there, or an update conflicts with one of your plugins, you want to be able to pick a date when the site was last functioning as it should, and roll back to that. Then when you get back, you can make any fixes you need to and update everything.

Snapshot Pro lets you backup the site every day, meaning you don’t have to worry about any changes while you’re away.

Prepare For Your Vacation and You’ll be Able to Relax

You don’t want to be working when you’re on your well-earned break. But at the same time, you’ll want to ensure that your website is ticking away nicely in your absence.

With the tips I’ve outlined above, you’ll be able to keep posting new content while you’re away, sharing on social media, and ensuring everything’s up to date and secure.

And when you get back you can continue to use some of the automations, and save yourself some time while you’re at your desk too. Bonus! Maybe you’ll use the extra time for another vacation?

Either way, enjoy your vacation and try not to think about your website while you’re relaxing.

Rachel McCollin
What's most important to you while you're on vacation? Share your site automation tips below.