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.
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!
30 thoughts on “When Vacation Ends: Tips for Readjustment”
I never really thought about a readjustment period whenever you travel with kids. I have been on so many trips when I was a kid that I don’t think we had much of a need to readjust.
I don’t remember needing this, either – but after a week away from their own rooms and spaces and friends and toys/books, my girls definitely want to reimmerse themselves before anything else happens!
These are great tips! I definitely love coming to a great clean house.
While there is a lot of talk on things to plan before a vacation, one hardly comes across anything about post vacation time. So, it’s good to read this post. I like the tip about leaving the home tidy. More often than not, the home is messy when we leave because of last minute packing and all. Shall keep this in mind for my next vacation!
Even if you can just take 5 min to tidy whatever you’ll encounter first (for us, it’s the kitchen), it really makes reentry feel so much happier! 🙂
the day before and after are huge for me and we have started to plan our trips that way. I couldn’t imagine back to back travel trips though, that’s not something I’ve done
It’s not my first choice, but it’s happened more than once, even before we had kids. Packing for multiple trips at once is easier for me than the UNPACKING on the other end, though!
Getting back in the swing of things is always tough. I love a good vacation but I also love coming home
Me too – usually by the end of the trip, I’m ready for “normal life” again…
These are great tips – I’ll definitely use them this summer! I hate the few days after getting back from holiday… mainly because I dread unpacking followed by doing mountains of washing!!
Yes yes and yes!
We are going away next week and I will make sure to remember your tips, Flossie, wish all of us good luck to get rid of our bad habit and learn to unpack as soon as we come home.
LOL for sure! I am 90% unpacked from that last trip, but it’s the last 10% that’s always the kicker for me…
I love coming home to a clean house too. My mom always make sure that every corner of our house is clean before we leave for our travel. These are amazing tips
So glad you liked them! 🙂
Yep, we do all of this! We do a 17-hour drive from Houston to South Florida and we always have the house clean before we leave. We leave at 3am and drive straight through. I try not to plan things for the day we get back, either. Most of the time, my in-laws are home so they will call us while we are driving home and grab a frozen pizza or cereal or similar food so we have something quick and easy when we get home.
Oh my goodness, you’re even more hard-core than we are! So lucky your in-laws are close and can help you out on the return trip!
Thank you for the tips. I do not have children yet but your pieces of advice are really good. I was an Aupair and also a Nanny and i sooooo agree with you with the fact to give the kids some slack. the changes between vacation time and non-vacation time are not always easy for them to deal with it. Great blog post.
So glad you liked it! It’s easy to forget that they can struggle with readjustment, too!
We’re the same. We always leave the day after our vacation ends free. Just time to chill at home, do nothing, relax. Nothing worse than having to go from vacation to work with no gap in between!!
Absolutely! NOT fun!
I think unpacking ASAP is what I struggle with the most haha.. I easily leave everything packed just because of laziness and someday I unpack .. But it’s much better to do it once you arrive.
*Thanks* – so glad you like them! The unpacking-right-away thing, I struggle too – it never used to be a priority when I was single/childless, but now it really bugs me if I can’t get it all done (or at least the clothes/toiletries) that day, else I’m always rifling through our bags for something the girls or I need. But alas, having enough time to do this when we get home often involves getting all four of us on the road sooner than is often realistic 🙁 …
I read about taking notes on trips often, but I’ve never thought about making it a little fun with my bullet journal! Great tip – I’ll definitely jot down my travels in my journal from now on!
This works not only for after the trip, but during the trip, too! I kept my BuJo with me when I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land last Feb/took notes on what we did each day there, and I’m surprised at how much I’ve been flipping back through it in the months since! 🙂
These are such awesome tips! You make so many great points, I will definitely keep these in mind! Thanks!
So glad you liked them, Heather! 🙂
Thanks for your great tips. We have to learn to unpack as none of us in my household does so. I will try to follow all your tips, thanks for sharing
I know – you’d think it’s a no-brainer, but our front hall still has bags from our last trip, and we got home over 24 hours ago now – if not for leaving again next week, goodness only knows how long til all would be put away where it belongs!