When Vacation Ends: Tips for Readjustment

Readjusting to "normal life" after a trip is hard. If you find it hard to jump back in to your normal routine when vacation ends, give these hacks a try.

Who dreads returning home when vacation ends? It’s not just that you’re no longer away from all the stresses and cares of daily life. Readjusting to daily life can be a major challenge – especially if you’re a mama.

We’ve just returned from the first of several family trips this summer, and I’m already struggling to get back into the groove, even as we’re literally gearing up for another trip next week (!). Some of my favorite readjustment tips, I was able to pull off without a hitch. Others, I’m wishing I’d been able to.

Readjusting to "normal life" after a trip is hard. If you find it hard to jump back in to your normal routine when vacation ends, give these hacks a try.

If you also struggle to jump back into things when vacation ends, these hacks to ease your readjustment may help. It’s rare for me to nail all 10 after every trip, but whenever I hit at least the majority, things go so much more smoothly for all of us!

Readjusting to Life at Home When Vacation Ends

1. Plan smart BEFORE your trip

One of the best hacks for post-vacay readjustment I learned from my mama was to always leave the house clean when you go away. Always.

So catch up the laundry before you go. Throw out the trash and empty the sink. Pick up the countertops, and have your kids tidy/put away their toys. Coming home to a tidy house means you won’t have to clean while you unpack.

2. Leave a “free day” on either end

I’ve learned the hard way not to schedule things the last day before I travel, if at all possible. This way I have time to wrap up all those “loose ends” before I leave town.

Likewise, I’ve found that life goes more smoothly if I leave the calendar blank for the first day we return. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten home late at night, and totally forgotten about a doctor’s appointment first thing the next morning!

Especially if you’re flying and/or will suffer with time zone changes, having a built-in buffer when vacation ends will help you readjust your internal clock, and is invaluable if your flights get delayed or cancelled.

3. If you’re driving, head out early

OK, yes, I’m a morning person – and my husband is not. But I so love hitting the road as early as possible. You not only beat the traffic (and, if it’s the dead of summer, the worst heat of the day). You also can better absorb those inevitable delays, like when the highway gets backed up for 10 miles because a load of chickens got loose and is running all over the interstate!

4. Unpack ASAP when you get home

At the very least, see if you can empty the car that day. But more importantly, see if you can unpack as much as possible (ideally, everything) before you go to bed that night. If I don’t unpack the girls’ and my clothes etc. before bedtime that first night, I find it so much harder to get back to the unpacking – meaning my suitcase may sit for months before everything gets put away!

Likewise, if you’re visiting family, run all that laundry before you pack to return home (one less thing to do when vacation ends!). If not, get that laundry at least started right away, if not finished that night as well.

5. Keep it simple that first night!

This is one I wish we did better with! My dear husband loves cooking so much, nothing says “home” to him like whipping up a “quick” supper (which to him means about an hour of cooking, plus time stopping at the store). Now that the girls are older, they don’t need so much constant supervision. But when they were littler, being on kid patrol for all that time made it hard for me to do #4. (Hence taking months to finish unpacking!)

A better plan: Either go out to eat, or make a casserole or something for that first night back that you can just pull out of the freezer and reheat. Trust me, the times we’ve been able to do this, it has made things so much simpler!

6. Manage expectations

This is one I learned long before I became a parent and blogger. Coming back on Friday? Set your email auto-response to say that you’re gone/not answering messages until at least the following Monday (if not Tuesday). I’ve been known to tell people that I am returning one or more days AFTER I actually am, because I know it will take me that long to get caught up on email and voicemail.

7. Cut the kids some slack

This is another one I had to learn the hard way. Kiddos don’t like it when vacation ends any more than we do. When the girls were older, they had a hard time getting used to being back in their own space. They were happy to see their toys again, but unhappy that the excitement of being away was over.

So just as I don’t schedule things for myself the first day back from a trip, I try to keep things equally unstructured for them. (This means not returning home on a Sunday night with school on Monday, whenever possible!) If I can, I let them sleep as late as they need to, then play with their toys all day, rather than schlepping them around on errands. They deserve a readjustment window, too!

8. Set aside time to deal

With your email, your voicemail, your snail-mail, bills, etc., that is. I try hard NOT to stay on top of email while I’m away – and my auto-response lets the world know this. Ditto for voicemails that I just don’t want to deal with while I’m out of town, or out of the country.

But as soon as our held snail-mail gets delivered, I deal with it. As in, immediately recycling all the junk, and sorting the rest (bills/must deal with ASAP and lower priority). The one exception is if we’re arriving later in the day, in which case I leave it til the next morning (see #2). More than once, I’ve come home exhausted from travel, opened what seemed like something upsetting (e.g., an insurance denial), and gotten all worked up about it. Had I waited until the next morning, I would have been better able to handle it, and not lost sleep.

9. Get ahead before you go

Not only should you get work deadlines and such met before you leave, you should get ahead if possible. If you’re a teacher, get at least a week ahead on your lesson planning before you leave. If you’re a blogger, make sure when you leave town that your scheduled posts and social media posts stretch out at least one week farther than your usual scheduling. This way, you can ease back into things without feeling so behind.

10. Take notes

This is something best done while still in transit, if at all possible. Take notes on what worked well from your trip (the resort or hotel you chose, the airline or highway route you traveled, your packing lists). Also note what you wish you’d done differently. Then file your notes away in a safe place where you can find it for your next trip.

And if you come across any parts of this reentry routine that worked especially well (or not so great) for you, make note of them, too! I am keeping lists like these in my bullet journal these days, which means I can always find them again in the future.

What about you? What hacks do you use to make reentry easier for your family when vacation ends? Let us know in the comments!

Readjusting to "normal life" after a trip is hard. If you find it hard to jump back in to your normal routine when vacation ends, give these hacks a try.

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