Vacations are overwhelming. Is it just me or in the days leading up to the vacation every one in your house or at work is working your last nerve and you have 348023948 things to do? Then you go on vacation and leave behind work and your life and you soak up bliss for two weeks. Then, you come home to the reality of a disheveled house, piles of laundry, work, no food, and then its almost like you need a vacation all over again.
As we prepare to leave home for two weeks to spend the holidays with our extended family, the To-Do list seems to be never ending. There is so much to think about, so much to do, so much to buy, so much to pack, so much to clean. When you have kids, its worse! Here is a list of five things you should think about before traveling, but normally don’t. When we leave for a Christmas vacation or a Summer Vacation, I always have the same routine if we leave our house for more than a weekend.
Three Days Before your Trip
Tell a friend or a neighbor that you trust that you will be going out of town for a few days and to keep an eye out for your house. Pick up any packages, take the trash can back, or move the paper from your drive way.
Hold Your Mail You can do this up to 30 days in advance or as early as 3AM EST on the requested day that you want your mail stopped. This is only for the United States Postal Service. Fed Ex or UPS will leave the package on your door step if the instructions say to leave it if there is no answer at the door. Which is why you need to tell someone you trust you’re leaving, so they can pick it up for you.
Clean the house Dust, Vacuum, and Clean the bathrooms, do it all. I know what you’re thinking, why would I clean my house before going on vacation? My kids are going to mess it up again anyway, the house is going to be a mess while I pack every one in the family, then we’re going to come home unpack and the house will be disgusting again in 3.5 seconds. But then I ask you another question – Is it easier to roll a stagnant boulder from Point A to Point B or is it easier to move a boulder already in motion with tiny taps here and there from Point A to Point B? The second option right? If you have an already clean house, then the days leading up to the flight or road trip all you’ll have to do is pick up toys and make sure everything is in the right spot! It will also make packing easier because you’ll know exactly where the toy, shoe, or piece of clothing is because you already put it away. When you come home to a clean house after your trip, you will thank me, I promise!
Clean out the fridge If you’re not going to eat it in 3 days, toss it. If you are, save it. Put any meats in the freezer. Put aside some travel snacks for the road or airplane friendly snacks because it’s really unnecessary to spend $12 on a fruit and cheese plate in the terminal.
Two Days Before your Trip
Change the sheets Do you love the smell of airplane? I sure don’t. Does any one? When you get off your germ infested flight and you finally get home, what is one thing you do? Shower, right? I loathe the smell of plane, the recycled air and diesel fuel – just thinking about it makes me sick. Change your sheets and the kid’s sheets a few days before your trip, that way you’ll come home to relatively (only two sleeps!) fresh sheets and a clean place to sleep because God knows, when you travel with kids, parent’s don’t sleep.
Do the laundry I’m talking about ALL the laundry – all the clothes, sleeping buddies, all the sheets, blankets, all the towels, hand towels – EVERYTHING. When you come home, your towels will be fresh and your bed will be fresh. If all the clothes are clean, you’ll have maximum outfit choice for every one in your family. When packing, no one (AHEM, husband.) will question where any item of clothing is because it is ALL CLEAN. Also, you can bring your baby’s favorite blanket and the stuffed animal your toddler sleeps with out in public (because let’s be honest, do you really wash those things as often as you should? Cuz I sure don’t. whoops).
Set outfits side – outfits to pack AND travel clothes All the clothes are clean! This is prime time to check the weather and set clothes aside. Don’t forget to pack an outfit for the occasion and the shoes to go along with it. Last trip we had two baptisms and a dinner to go to, so a few outfits were pretty dressy. On a tropical vacation, I brought only beach clothes and casual clothes, I didn’t think to pack an outfit for a nice dinner, so I ended up having to buy one (PS – clothes in Hawaii are expensive. Well, everything in Hawaii is expensive). I usually pack dresses because it’s the most convenient. If I leave for a two-week trip, I bring 4 pairs of pants and several shirts that can be interchanged. I try and pack as light as possible because whenever we go on a trip we accumulate a lot of stuff.
The Day Before your Trip
Pack Put your stuff in suitcases. I usually put toiletries in their bags but put them in the bags the day of the trip since we use them before we leave. Pack the snacks. Pack airplane/car toys. Pack as much as you can, and set everything in one location. Ours is by the wall by the door. Your already set your clothes aside, so putting everything in your suitcase is the easy part!
Grocery Shop I don’t know if it’s poor planning on our part or the airlines part – but we always get stuck with a flight back home the night before a school/work night and late at night. The flights are always the cheapest! When you come home to a house with no food and you’re starving, it makes for a sad family. I also prefer something healthy, since on vacation we normally eat/drink everything in sight at all hours of the day/night. I’m not saying do a crazy shopping trip, but stocking the house with a few days of healthy essentials will tide you and your family over as the craziness of the after-vacation dies down. I make sure to shop for things with the “Best By:” date several days after we get back. Here’s an example of a quick list:
Frozen Meals (I like Amy’s frozen foods)
Organic Milk (call me crazy, but it stays fresh much longer than regular milk. Maybe that’s why it’s so expensive!)
Night Before your Trip
Pick up around the House Depending on what time you leave the next day, you can push this to tomorrow if needed.
Unplug unnecessary things Lamps, Coffee Makers, Rice Cookers, Toasters, Blenders, Humidifiers… whatever. If they don’t NEED to be on while you’re gone, unplug it. Not only will it reduce the risk of an electrical shortage, you’ll save money on your next electric bill too!
Day of your Trip
Pack last minute things Toiletries, glasses, and phone chargers – anything that is needed on a daily basis must go in the bag!
Prep your House
Make your bed. This is a personal preference. But there is something so inviting about coming home to a beautifully made bed after a long day of traveling.
Adjust your thermostat. No one will be at home, so save some money. In the winter, lower your thermostat. In the summer, put it up. Everyone has their own preference. Our magic number is 7. In the winter, we lower it 7 and when we leave for the summer we put our house up 7 degrees.
Take out all the trash. No one wants to come home to a smelly house
Open all the doors inside your house to keep the air flowing.
Lock all the windows.
Close all the blinds but not all the way. Crack them just a tad to let the sun shine in.
Make sure all the doors are locked.
If you are leaving IN THE WINTERTIME, leave your faucets at a drip to keep the water flowing. You don’t want to come home after a vacation to a busted pipe and a flooded home. Nope. Nope. Nope.
LEAVE and have fun on your trip! Make sure you have everything and travel safe!
You have spent three days preparing your house and your family for your trip and even longer anticipating it. I hope this To Do list will make the transition after the trip a little easier. Happy travels!