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How to Orchestrate an Easy Return from Vacation

We can get so caught up in planning a vacation, but naturally forget or have little time for the coming home. If I have time (and sometimes that’s a BIG IF), I like to buy some things for my fridge after a long exhausting journey home. Nothing crazy, just enough for one or two meals. No one likes to come home after 10 hours of being in transit just to turn around and buy milk.

Some of my favorites items for an easy return from vacation.

return from vacation

Fresh unopened Milk, yogurt and other dairy products.
Unopened dairy products like eggs and yogurt have a super long life—especially the organic stuff! I don’t know why, I’m not a scientist. Here’s where I must give a big shout out to Parmalat, or whatever shelf stable milk you can find for cereal or morning coffee. This is the stuff that can be stored without refrigeration until it’s opened.

Another item that has a surprisingly long shelf life! After nights spent in a hotel, how great does a homemade hot breakfast sound? If you have sad looking vegetables before you head out of town (like peppers and onions), chop them up and freeze them. You can easily sautee them in a little olive oil or butter and add to your eggs. You can even freeze greens, like spinach or kale. Toss them in a Ziplock and stick them in the freezer. It’s a good way to get veggies into your body after a series of airport McMeals.

Long lasting fruit.
Apples: good. Citrus fruit: good. Bananas and berries: bad.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy bread before I leave, but if I have half a loaf, I will stash it in the freezer prior to leaving. Break it out for toast, or—better yet—French toast!

Coffee and Tea
My whole family knows if mom doesn’t have a proper cup of tea with milk in the morning, no one is happy until she does. And I want that tea (or coffee) in my own house, wearing pjs and not worrying about my neighbors seeing my bedhead as I dash down the street to my local coffee shop.

Frozen Meals
There is a time and a place for frozen dinners, and returning from travel is one of them. A frozen pizza, enchiladas, veggies, chicken nuggets—they don’t sound too exciting before you leave, but you’ll hug yourself for being so thoughtful on your return.

Boxes of macaroni & cheese.
Need I say more? Oh and did you know you can use plain yogurt instead of milk in boxed mac and cheese? It is seriously delicious.

Other staple pantry items.
Cereal, favorite crackers, oatmeal, granola, peanut butter, marinara sauce, dried pasta.

Other simple tasks that make your return easier:

Clean Out the Fridge
Throw the takeout containers away. Get rid of questionable leftovers. Freeze cheeses, meats or veggies that area salvageable and can be used at a later date. Chop fruit and freeze for smoothies. Coming home to a science project is no one’s idea of a good time.

Take Out the Garbage/Recycling/Run the Dishwasher
Unless you like funky garbage smell!

Unplug Kitchen Appliances/Bathroom Stuff
If you go through the ritual of unplugging everything, there will be no question as to whether or not you left the coffeemaker or your hair straightener on.

Put New Sheets on the Bed & Fresh Towels in the Bathroom
After a long day of travel, climbing into a bed with fresh sheets is heavenly. Same goes with clean towels already read to go in the bathroom.

Check the Washer and Dryer
Raise your hand if you’ve come home to mildew-y clothes you forgot in the washing machine! It’s an easy mistake to make, and so so so yucky to discover.

Do you plan ahead for your return from vacation? What do you do before you leave?

We can get so caught up in planning a vacation, but naturally forget or have little time for the coming home. If I have time (and sometimes that’s a BIG IF), I like to buy some things for my fridge after a long exhausting journey home. Nothing crazy, just enough for one or two meals. No one likes to come home after 10 hours of being in transit just to turn around and buy milk. Some of my favorites items for an easy return from vacation.

Photos by Nyana StoicaKrista Stucchio, Tracey Hocking, Jimmy Dean

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. I too throw things in the freezer like half a loaf of bread, some leftover bacon, etc. I always have plenty of coffee and some powdered creamer around the house. Staples like pasta, frozen ground beef and jars of sauce mean I don’t have to run to the store.

    We always take out all the trash before we leave so no stinky smell. Another thing I do is leave the lid up on my drip coffee maker so it doesn’t accumulate mold.

    I sort the accumulated mail over the recycle bin.

    Good to roam, good to be home. Try to make it as hassle free as possible.

  2. Great suggestions and reminders. I just recently started putting clean sheets on the bed before we left for trips. Even when we had to leave for the airport at 4 am, it only took a few more minutes than just making the bed but it was a heavenly welcome home. The dirty sheets are fine in the hamper until we get home.

  3. I keep a “pre-trip home prep” checklist on the desktop of the computer, ready to print out the day before departure.
    On it are the things you mentioned plus,
    *Check microwave (yes, I’ve forgotten an item in there..for a week 🤮)
    *set the a/c or heating temp for vacation
    *unplug the computer back-up hard drive and put in the small fireproof safe.
    *make sure windows are locked
    *set the lights (I leave a light on in the bathroom and in the utility room)
    *make sure the coffee grounds are removed from the coffee maker (that will get nasty and gross after a week)
    *UNPLUG all unnecessary items, like coffee pot, electric kettle, toaster, battery chargers, etc.

  4. I am glad to know I am not the only person who unplugs things before we go away. I am also happy to know we do pretty everything on the list. We are also very lucky to have a wonderful friend who stocked our fridge for us before we got home, our power had been out for 4 days while we were gone.

  5. Awesome tips! I freeze any leftover milk or juices into smaller 12-16 ounce-ish recycled jelly jars, only filling 3/4 of the way to allow for expansion. These defrost quickly overnight in frig or on low in microwave- at least there’s something for coffee, tea, & cereal in the morning! And that last bit leftover in the container doesn’t get wasted!

  6. Love all these tips! My husband and I clean the house and take care of yard work before we leave. In winter, we’ve looked into hiring a snow removal service to shovel our sidewalks and driveway before we arrive home. That’s the last thing we want to do if we’re coming home from a warmer getaway!

  7. Great thoughts, Samantha, as always. Two things to add: 1) turn off the water and, if it might freeze during your absence, drain the pipes; 2) when you’re unplugging all those appliances, be sure NOT to unplug the fridge/freezer! I learned both lessons from experience.

  8. I used to make fun of my wife for putting clean sheets on the bed before we’d leave for a trip, but not any more. It is truly one of life’s little pleasures. She also goes through the house and cleans everything as if company were coming over that night for dinner. I do my share – I am well-trained and take direction well. We clean the bathrooms and mop the floors, vacuum, etc. etc. – everything!. And plan for it becasue it does take time, on top of everything else you’re doing to get ready for your trip. At first I thought it was a little OCD, but not anymore…I’m sold! Coming home to a spotless home is really, REALLY nice!
    One last thing: if you can’t put the garbage out, or if you missed your last pick-up before you leave town, put the garbage in the freezer and leave it there after you return until garbage is collected as usual. Easy to do – and no funky smell – ever!!

    You’re welcome 🙂

  9. I know my situation is a bit different from most. I’m a fulltime RVer and when I pack up to move from one vacation spot to another, I like to stop at a laundromat and have all clean clothes for my next adventure. Then I pick up fresh vegetables and fruits to fill my (very small) refrigerator. Finally, I plan to take one decompression day when I arrive at my new location just to take in the sights and smells and meet my new neighbors. Travel is my life!

  10. We learned the hard way to always check that the toilet is flushed. Once we took our young kids to Greece for 3 weeks, turned the AC off (summer), and made sure everyone had a “potty break” before driving to the airport. Unfortunately, one of the kids did not flush. After 3 weeks at 80+ degrees that was NOT a pleasant surprise.

  11. I clean the house the day before. Everything including the things you mention. Wash all the clothes Im not taking with us. When I get back the only thing dirty is what I brought home. Makes coming home so much nicer.

  12. I read about a trick to check to see if your freezer has thawed. Get an empty prescription container ( you could also use a cup) & put water 2/3 full. Freeze it, making sure it stays upright. Then put a quarter on top of the ice. Put the cap on it and store in your freezer. If you find the quarter in the bottom of the container then you know that your freezer thawed.
    I also gather any perishable groceries and give them to my neighbor. Much better than trashing them when you leave.

  13. I thought I was the only one who cleaned the house and changed the sheets before leaving on a trip! Fresh sheets your first night home are so amazing.

  14. We have a tradition of having easy pasta meals for a couple of days after returning from a vacation.

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