It’s happened to the most travel-savvy among us: you return back to work after vacation just to realize that ‘reality’ hasn’t taken a break. It’s right there waiting for you after your hassle-free trip in the form of unpaid bills, phone messages, and piles of laundry. It is possible, however, to ensure a smooth landing post-vacation. In the past few years of traveling extensively with my family, I’ve found a variety of small trip organization measures that enable us to return home happy — not stressed.
1. Work while you play.
I know it’s no fun, but building in even 30 minutes of work per day while you’re traveling can save you countless hours upon your return. I’m not talking about completing major projects or overseeing board meetings: just stay on top of important emails, meet regular deadlines, and avoid putting off the small things that build up: easy-to-answer emails, phone calls, and regular responsibilities.
2. Come home a day early.
I know, I’m really sounding like a drag, but scheduling your vacation to end on a Saturday instead of a Sunday night is doing yourself a favor (and will save you airfare, too). Those extra 24 hours go a long way toward reorienting yourself to being home, grabbing your mail, and maybe even debriefing about the trip over a nice meal before work resumes. (To really make the most of this time, don’t tell anyone you’re home!)
3. Unpack immediately.
When the suitcases sit in the entry hall for days (or even weeks), you’re conceding that much more time to feeling disoriented as you hunt down your toothbrush or that favorite pair of socks. The post-vacation workload will seem all the more painless if bags are put away and laundry is done on the day of your return.
4. Use transit time to get caught up.
Whether you’re traveling by air or car (or train), there will be plenty of downtime during your trip. Use the time you’re not in the driver’s seat to get caught up on your smart phone or tablet. As a travel writer, I write first drafts of destination reviews as I depart: it’s fresh in my mind and time I’m held captive in the car or plane anyway.
5. Download and categorize vacation photos as you go.
For my family, viewing the day’s photos over dinner or before bedtime is a fun way to remember the finer points of our day together. As I’m showing them the day’s greatest hits, I download and file the photos. This way, I’m not slammed with hundreds of raw images once I’m home.
If you have kids, consider these bonus tips:
Clear your kids’ schedule ahead of time.
You wouldn’t dream of leaving work for a week without preparation, and you shouldn’t do it to your kids, either. Even young children will have events, school assignments, or regularly scheduled activities they will miss while away. Schedule make-up classes ahead of time instead of afterward, and gather homework assignments that can be completed while on the road. Offer to help older kids keep a travel journal or video log to make up for missed class time: this can easily be accomplished while traveling without being considered ‘homework’.
Do laundry on the go.
Even during short-term travel, kids need ‘down days’. Combine these with laundry days and return home with at least some clean, folded clothes in their suitcases. (Find a movie theater or park near a laundromat to make this experience pain-free.)
How do you combat post-vacation stress? Do you stay on top of life-at-home, or prefer to play catch-up?
Photo credit: bradleygee.