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  • Oriana Skylar Mastro

Vacation's over! How to get settled back in fast

2021 is coming to an end, and so is my time in Hawaii. I was gone for 35 days completing my annual military duty. My family came along too, which is the best.

But it also means that we are rolling into our home after many weeks away, and need to be ready to get right back into the swing of things. After years of lessons learned, we no longer fly in the night before we have to return to work – we give ourselves a day. But still, so much has to be done in that one day. If you don’t get it done, you’ll be ‘getting settled’ for weeks. To help out, here is my returning home routine after a long trip.

Pay the setup costs and put it all together. Sit down and do some brainstorming about how your life is different when you are away. (This is better to do at the beginning of a trip vs when you are dreading going back!) What do you need to be home for that you need to pause for the duration of your trip? Here are my categories.

Mail and packages. When we are gone for a while, we often ask the post office to hold our mail (which means we have to go get it when we return home). This time we had someone get our mail, but I still have a list of the packages that arrived while we were away.

  • Go through mail. Do any action items immediately that take less than 10 minutes (paying bills, putting away magazines, etc)

  • Go through packages, make sure everything is there that you expect, process any needed returns

  • If something was supposed to arrive, but hasn’t, contact the POC or company

Subscriptions and delivery services. If you are like me, you get tons of stuff through the mail. I have a few subscriptions set up that I need to reinstate when I get home. I also order some groceries to arrive our first day back so we have basics (beer!) in the fridge.

  • Amazon: subscribe and save, book box, craft box (subscriptions for the kids)

  • Meal kits/groceries

Appointments and meetings. If you put the gym on pause, now’s the time to undo that. Make a list of the weekly appointments or classes/activities you (or the family) participate in and set those back up for the return. For me, that’s the cleaning lady, my piano lessons, Chinese lessons, and weekly babysitter.

  • Set back up weekly appointments

Helpers. If there was anyone helping out while you were gone, make sure to bring them something to thank them (and pay them if that’s the arrangement).

  • Pay dog sitter

  • Bring friends who were watching the house presents

Next, there is the recovery from the trip itself. You want to make sure you get the most out of the experience. For example, did you get all the points/mileages relevant for your flights and hotels? If I know I’ll be returning (like to Hawaii for my military duty), I make performance notes about the trip activities themselves – places I want to return to, places that may not be worth it. I also make notes as part of my packing plans about what we used and what we didn’t for the next trip.

If it’s a work trip, then I may need to submit a reimbursement request or follow up with people I’ve met. And the photos. Hundreds and hundreds to go through. This is usually a great activity for a long plane ride.

  • Submit any reimbursement requests

  • Check airlines miles processed

  • Upload business cards into contacts (send any follow up emails)

  • Organize photos and order favorites

  • Scrapbook the trip

  • Make sure you have a complete record of people you met with/tours you did

And last, but certainly, not least is unpacking and getting the house ready. I know. You’re tired. But avoiding cleaning stuff properly before you put it away is a recipe for disaster. I always make sure to wipe our suitcases and scrub down strollers, car seats, and any other items that got major play like sunglasses and electronics. Besides impressive amounts of laundry, this may mean some errands like dry cleaning, or taking stuff to a tailor if you bought anything while away.

  • Unpack

  • Put away travel gear

  • Dry cleaning

  • Clean off the stroller, car seats, electronics, glasses

Produce reminders. This list can get more unwieldy the longer you are gone so I like to produce reminders in Evernote for the various categories. Also, it helps remind me of when I last cleaned the stroller…

Performance notes. Here is where I put any lessons learned. Like you won't remember anything you did so keep track of people you met and the itinerary while you are there. Also, there may be some things someone else – spouse, assistant, child – can help with. I note that here so I can remember to ask for help next time as well.

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