Tips for Coming Home After a Family Vacation

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There are lots of tips out there for leaving on vacation and helping kids with the transition. But I find that coming home is sometimes even more difficult! Everyone is a bit out of sorts, probably a little tired, and accustomed to lots of sensory input and fun. Especially when my kids were all tiny, I really needed some tips for coming home after a family vacation.

Here are the things that help us ease the transition and have a smooth return home – I hope they help you, too!

Prep Before Leaving

It makes such a difference for me mentally if I can come home to a clean and organized home. When possible, we try to hire cleaners to come while we are gone, but that is, of course, a big privilege and we’ve had lots of times when we’ve cleaned ourselves before leaving.

Part of that prep usually includes some simple but nourishing food we can eat any time of day and that will last while we’re gone. This is especially helpful so we’re not just subsisting on whatever treats we brought home with us from our trip. We usually freeze some milk (pour some out before to leave room for expansion) and bread, or have some granola on hand. We also love using the in-home option for our grocery delivery to have some fresh food waiting for us. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but even a hot meal from the freezer helps us feel so much more settled than just scrounging for cracker crumbs from the cupboard.

Build In Buffer Time

It’s so tempting to squeeze every last second out of travel…and sometimes we do for shorter trips. But if at all possible/reasonable with cost, we try to build in some buffer time, even if it’s just a half day. It makes such a difference to be able to get home, start some laundry, take showers, eat dinner, and go to bed normally instead of rolling in when everyone is already exhausted and cranky.

Make Space for Play

This goes along with the buffer time, but often when we return from travel, my kids are so excited to be back with their toys and space while I just want to start tidying and get to bed. When we can build in space to enjoy being back at home instead of feeling frazzled, it starts everything on a better note.

Establish Clear Routines But Know They Will Take Time

This sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Mostly, we try to communicate rhythms and routines clearly right away. Especially if we’ve been traveling for a while, kids forget – and so do adults! It’s helpful to have a chat about when laundry day is, instrument practice, clearing dishes after meals (especially if we’ve been eating in more restaurants than we do at home), and other roles and responsibilities.

That said, we try to give everyone grace. It’s hard to get back to routines! It’s hard to do tasks after an extended break, especially if they’re ones that require sustained mental energy (like academic or creative work). So while we establish expectations, we leave room and time for settling into those rhythms.

Jump Back Into the New Time Zone

It’s so easy when jet lagged to just take a liiiitle snooze midday…but often that little snooze means the entire night is thrown off! We try to jump back into our time zone as quickly as possible to help our bodies physically reacclimate more easily. (Here are more tips on overcoming jet lag with kiddos.)

Expect to Provide Play Guidance

I find that after a trip when there’s tons of stimuli and built in entertainment, as well as lots of attention, my kids sometimes need a little guidance to come back to self-directed play. I sometimes start out playing with them and allow them to continue on their own, or give them options for what they’d like to do. Especially for something like quiet time, we might start with a smaller amount of time as we work back up.

Embrace Simple Traditions

There’s nothing that helps us feel like we’re resettled into a routine like enjoying a simple tradition together. These do NOT have to be fancy to be fun – even something like sitting at a table (or even on the floor!) to have dinner together helps us feel at home. We just had our first Friday pizza & movie night in our new home and something about that felt so special, like we really live here now. The same is true for a trip – coming home to something fun and connective is a great way to enjoy and settle into the beauties of home life. (Here are some other simple regular traditions in our family.)

Have a Recap Night

Sometimes in all the hustle and bustle of returning home, it’s easy to feel like the trip was a blur and barely even happened. Once everyone is resettled, it’s so nice to look back on the adventures via photos and videos and remember the special time together.

Know It Will Get Back to “Normal”

I’ve definitely felt like we’ve ruined everything by taking a trip – nap schedules, chores commitment, instrument practice grit. That’s when I remind myself that things WILL return to “normal” (as normal as it gets at our house, and until we’re out of our current phase ;)) – it just takes time. Nothing is ruined, and practice and consistency WILL help!

Anything you’d add? What is helpful for you and your kiddos when coming back from traveling as a family?



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