Hello friends! Since it’s summertime here in the U.S. and I’ve been packing/unpacking over and over again (a wedding, a conference, camps, and a couple little getaways), I thought it might be helpful to gather our community’s best tips for getting back into the swing of things once we return from an adventure of one kind or another.
There are LOTS of travel tips out there, and the goal here isn’t to create a one-stop shop for all things travel related. Instead, I want to focus on how we get our MINDS back into homeostasis as quickly as possible so (a) we can move on to the most important things in our lives, and (b) we’ll look forward to our next trip/adventure instead of feeling weighed down by the sheer amount of work involved.
Growing up, we had zero systems for things like this, so packing took more than a week as we tried to gather items from around the house and hoped we had all we needed, and then the recovery pretty much sent my Mom to bed for a few days because it was like a bomb had dropped on the home.
And I know what it’s like to come home to ants in the pantry, tons of work, tired family members, etc. There are also a lot of hidden emotions, frustrations, things to work through before, during, and after travels (much of this is never really mentioned publicly), so hopefully today’s post can help you feel a little better about everything.
For support with this, I went to our STEP Mastery Facebook group, and below is a synopsis of what they shared:
General Unpacking & Laundry
Unpack your luggage right away and put a load in the laundry. If you are able to do laundry on your trip (if you want to), do it–it will save you when you return home! – Lisa Larkin
Have a dedicated spot for travel things so you can immediately unpack, and find those things easily next time. – Deborah Leedahl
On our last trip we got home mid day. It was my goal to get everything unpacked before we went to bed. I think I heard this in one of your podcasts, April…that it takes just a microburst to unpack a suitcase. The difference it made to wake up the next day with empty suitcases, ice chest, food bags, kids toy bag, etc. was amazing. We could get back to our normal routines without much further interruption. I have made it a condition to my 5 year old daughter that she must have her suitcase unpacked and her toys/books she brought on trip put away before she gets screen time. – Jill Henrikson Sylvester
Family unpacks dirty clothes downstairs next to laundry room before suitcases are carried upstairs. I also take out shoes, jackets, anything that belongs downstairs. My kids are little so I still do this part, but they are learning how to empty their suitcase when I bring it upstairs. It is their required chore the day after we get home from a trip. With this method the suitcases are in everyone’s bedrooms within hours of getting home and suitcases are stored away within a day or two. – Kim Larson Kozak
We have a dedicated laundry sack and if need be, will dedicate one suitcase to house it. I tend to stay in a place with laundry facilities so our laundry is almost all done before we get back.I also pack the other suitcases to unpack easily. My souvenirs in this bag. Beach or cold weather gear in that bag. The kids stuff is packed in a small bag (usually a packing cube, which they each have in their own colors). No sense in sorting it to bring home and sorting again when you are home. – Katherine MRatcliffe Barraza
Pack all “dark” colors for the 3 days so I have ONE load of laundry to do the night I get home. – Carrie Ramos
I try to have my house clean and my laundry done before I leave, so that there is space for the mess and laundry from the trip when we get back. I have also found that it helps to do some laundry on the trip when possible. – Elizabeth Stutzman
I like to empty the suitcases and put them away and put on at least one wash within 36 hours of being back home.This helps me to “close” the holiday and switch back to normal. – Christine Sachot-Cameron
The app Hampr. You can get someone else to do all your post-vacation laundry. – Kelli Kilgo
Have a standard “things to do” list that’s a reverse of the one you use to prepare to leave. Stuff like: restart the mail and paper, reset the thermostat, deactivate automatic light timers, etc. (We always turn off our water and hot water heater if we’re going to be gone more than a few days. We’ve seen too many people come home from vacation to a flooded house.) – Katherine V. Mitchell
Groceries & Meals
Get a crock pot or casserole meal in the freezer before I go. – Carrie Ramos
We tend to freeze our dinner leftovers in quart size bags. This is so helpful to have ready-made dinners available when we return from a trip until we can get to the grocery store. – Jill Henrikson Sylvester
Have a plan for the first couple meals and restocking groceries. If possible, set a grocery order for pick up on your way home. Go through your toiletries and restock anything that’s low (I travel often and keep my products packed at all times). Also schedule time to close “loops” from the trip. Deodorize, wipe down & put away luggage, find homes for souvenirs, and process any documented memories, such as journaling or printing/posting/archiving photos. Store your passport! – Katherine MRatcliffe Barraza
Before leaving on a trip, I will double up at least two of my regular meals, and freeze a couple of them. When I come home, it buys me a little time by not having to prepare lunches and dinners right away. I have also placed grocery delivery orders to arrive the morning after I get back, so I don’t have to run out for perishables. For me, this is a “sometimes” not every trip, but it’s good to have in my back pocket if needed. I review my inventory before I’ve left and queue up the order. – Roxanne Diaz
Schedule “catch up” time. Put it on calendar before you go. – Deborah Leedahl
I schedule a “pop up” review on the day after I get home to regroup and catch up on anything I missed. I often have one-off tasks that have piled up while I was away as well, so I also schedule in an hour to knock these out at one time so the rest of the week feels light and doable! I find that these 2 steps make a HUGE difference in how the rest of the week feels upon returning from a trip! – Jill Adams
Plan your trip so that you “have a day” before you have to be “on” again; before you have another meeting, event or appointment if you can. That way you create time and space to unpack and settle back in. Doesn’t always work, but when you can cushion your return with some space, it makes for an easier recovery. – Heidi Billoto
Work trip usually involves a time zone change and a long flight. I get back to “home mode” as soon as I leave for the airport. Check in with everyone in the family as to what they have planned the first few days of my return and whether they are waiting for some support from me on my return and catch up with my home/ family. – Ruth McLaren
Do your best to plan for extra time after the trip to return to normal life. (Don’t schedule to come back late on a Sunday and then plan to start your normal routine Monday morning.) – Jennifer Bessire
Aren’t they the BEST?
Thank you, thank you to everyone who participated. 🙂 And if you’re in STEP Mastery, you can find even more great conversations and ideas inside the group!
For general documentation purposes (in case our grandchildren read this someday!), here is….
Our Family’s “Recovery” Process:
Before we go:
- Laundry is typically done–so we have clean clothes to pack and so there isn’t a ton of laundry to do when we get back (in addition to what’s in our suitcases). Thanks to Eric, our Laundperor (Emperor of Laundry).
- We clean out the fridge so nothing will go bad while we’re gone, run the dishwasher, and take out all the trash.
- We turn off the A/C, lock things up, shut down, unplug, etc.
- I check my inbox to make sure everything can wait until the day after we get back.
- I get emails to zero.
- We do a general tidy of the whole house.
As soon as we get home:
- We take everything out of the car–except perhaps some garage items (like camping equipment) that we can put away later. This includes all trash, suitcases, water bottles, pillows, blankets, coolers, food bags, etc.
- Bags and personal items go right to our rooms to clear space in the general entry/kitchen area.
- All water bottles, food items, coolers, etc. go to the kitchen, and I typically turn on a fun Spotify playlist and start there. Since the fridge and dishwasher are already clean, it’s usually pretty quick to put things away, unload/reload the dishwasher, wash out the cooler, and get the kitchen feeling happy again.
- Then we quickly unpack our suitcases, and this isn’t that big of a deal, but it used to overwhelm me, so I’ll share my process: (a) Take everything out of the suitcase and put it into sub-files right there in my closet (things to go into the bathroom, things to go back to my nightstand, things for the office, things for the kitchen, laundry is sorted into our light/dark baskets, clean clothes are hung up right away/put back where they belong). Then I put my suitcase on the top shelf of my closet and quickly put the piles into the rooms where they belong (I sort them again next time I go into those rooms).
- Eric usually does laundry the day after we return, and since all the bags are unpacked by then, it’s easy to get right into the routine again.
- We eat simply right when we get back–and then we plan our regular grocery trip soon after. When our children were little, we’d pick up a gallon of milk at a gas station right when we got home so we could eat cereal. 🙂
- I do also plan some time the next day to catch up on email, sort mail, clean my inbox, and decompress.
And a Few Bonus Items…
One other reason traveling has been a little tricky for me is because I don’t like car food/fast food/airport food, and it’s really important to me to eat healthfully and exercise regularly–which is especially challenging when we’re going on long drives or flights. (For those who have been here at LearnDoBecome for awhile, you know I struggled with my health for a couple of years, and so eating well and moving my body have become non-negotiables…)
Here are a few things that are making a big difference for me:
Blendjet (not an affiliate link…I just really like it!) – Our Team Member, Jace, gave this to us, and it is AMAZING! I pack or buy a bag of fresh spinach and mix a couple handfuls with water and Power Beets (weird-sounding, but SO good…this is our Amazon Affiliate link), and then I have fresh green smoothies a couple times a day. This little blender charges with a USB cable, and it’s really effective. Way better than taking my whole blender with me (which I tried once!).
Foldable Yoga Mat (Affiliate Link) – This is great for Pilates or yoga on the go! I linked to one that is similar to mine, but mine looks like this and has a fun little travel case!
If we’re taking our own car, and I can pack a cooler or two, I also bring the following:
Frozen Chocolate Protein Smoothies
The night before a trip, I usually make a bunch of these (one per day for me–and a couple for Eric), and then I freeze them. Here’s what I sent to my friend this morning (who’d expressed interest in the smoothies we love SO MUCH!!)***:
***Important Note: After mixing all the ingredients together, I add a cup full of ice to the blender, a little at a time, so it is super thick. And sometimes I add a couple tablespoons of almond butter. Just in case you want it to taste just like mine….
Vegetables and Healthy Foods
I typically pack carrots, bell peppers, a green salad, and things like greek yogurt/cottage cheese. Hotel refrigerators sometimes freeze these items, so I usually put the smoothies in there and keep these things in the cooler with ice. That’s what works for me right now. 🙂
Eric and I have been working out with Caroline Girvan for more than a year now, and her YouTube videos are so fun–and easy to do in a hotel room. Sometimes we go to the hotel gyms, but they rarely have all the weights we need (or sometimes the website says they have a fitness center, but they don’t really….). So we pack a couple sets of heavy weights, and this makes it easy for us to maintain our workouts. Sometimes we just need a break–or we’re already doing activities on our trip that will provide plenty of exercise–so it’s not like we’re hyper body builders or anything. 🙂 But when we plan a little time each day for movement, I find I’m WAY happier on our trip, and then I don’t come home feeling sluggish.
Maybe all of this extra stuff is unrelated to the topic of “Recovering from a Trip,” but because here at LearnDoBecome we are interested in helping to support the “whole person,” I thought I’d add these things in!
We love you, and we’re grateful for you! Feel free to share your additional ideas here in the comments! We figure that if all of us can come together and share what works, we can save each other a lot of time and hassle–and move onto the things that truly matter most.