After last year’s numerous trips early in the year, I developed a pre-departure rhythm that helped me go from rage-cleaning as soon as I get in the door from a trip to relaxing and enjoying being home.
This checklist can be for a quick weekend away or an extended vacation, just adjust for some of the items that may not be necessary for a weekend away (like picking up held mail). This isn’t an exhaustive list, just the ones that I know I forget from time to time but am always glad I took care of before heading out on another adventure.
Clean your home
I will start with the most obvious…I would leave home so excited to get on the road that I would forget what a crazy mess I made just trying to pack! There was one summer that I forgot to take the trash out before leaving on a long weekend. It was no fun clamoring up the stairs to my apartment only to know that it would be stuffy from the summer heat only to be slapped in the face by the hot garbage smell.
I’m not encouraging you to do a my-mother-in-law-is-coming-over deep clean, just more of a my-college-roommate-is-staying-over kind of clean. Things are pretty much away, there aren’t dishes left in the sink, and there is toilet paper on the roll. Again, nothing fancy.
Fill the gas tank
Honestly, this is probably a low priority if you’re stressed before a trip, but let me tell you: when you need to head to the store because the cat decided to rip up that TP you left on the roll (and of course it was the last roll in the house) you don’t want to have to stop at the gas station on your way. Make sure you have some gas in your car for a quick errand.
Prepare freezer meals and round up coupons for take out
Alex’s mom taught me this by always leaving a casserole and salad in the refrigerator before we get home from a trip (she comes over to check on the cat and plants regularly). It’s honestly so nice to be able to warm something up that isn’t leftovers from a restaurant or try to search Yelp for another meal. I started stocking our freezer with some homemade frozen burritos (breakfast and lunch/dinner kinds), some veggies we can make into a stir fry, and a container of chili to get us through the first few days of being home. I hate grocery shopping so the last thing I want to do is get home, shower, and head out to buy groceries when all I want to do is veg out and backup my photos.
I am not sure how long it will take us to bounce back from our current trip so I stocked our freezer with some easy things to take to work for lunch and set aside some coupons for delivery (pizza, Thai food, etc.) in case we go through our food stores more quickly than I anticipate…or, the more likely scenario, is we are too lazy to warm up our own food. The freezer also has a few easy-to-warm-up freezer meal options like frozen raviolis and pizzas.
Select outfits for a smoother return to ‘real life’
So what’s the number one thing I forget to do when heading out on a vacation? Making sure I have clean clothes for work. I learned to have a least 2 or 3 outfits hanging up and ready to go in my closet. I’m talking a full outfit…underpants, blouse, cardigan, pants, and shoes all together in the closet so I’m not caught by surprise that I don’t have anything work appropriate to wear to the office. Honestly, this should probably be a normal habit considering how much I dislike picking out clothes every morning before work, but I’m too lazy.
If you work in a more casual atmosphere, I would still recommend setting aside a few outfits for yourself…you wouldn’t want to explain your “experiment with pattern mixing” when you decide to just go with what is clean and not wrinkled.
Bonus: Have your “work bag” ready to go so you’re less likely to forget important things as you rush out the door on your first day back to work. Recently, I prepared a pouch for my work bag that included basics that I figure I would need at work and didn’t want to forget to pack…lip balm, vitamins, charging cable, my security badge, extra contacts, and travel-sized saline. These are things that I normally keep in my desk at work, but I wanted to make sure to have them packed and ready to go so I wasn’t surprised to see my saline container empty and remember that my security badge is under a pile of laundry at home.
Schedule your held mail to arrive a day or two after you are due back.
Instead of asking house sitters to collect the mail, I hold our mail for longer trips and select a date that I will go and pick it up. We have a tiny mailbox in our community and I wouldn’t want to bother our letter carrier with trying to fit two weeks worth of mail into the 3×5 space. I also schedule the pick for at least two days after I get home so I can get my bearings and not stress about making it to the post office before they close for the day. If you are able to get your mail more easily than I am, schedule your drop off for 2 days after anyway! By that time, your bags will be mostly unpacked and you’ll be ready to tackle the junk mail and magazines coming your way.
You may get delayed. If you select to pick up your held mail you may want to give yourself some breathing room with an extra day.
I would love to hear more suggestions and sage advice from folks who travel more frequently than I do, especially from people who travel with kids!