Creating post-vacation peace for your children

The summer months offer families a time to get away, enjoy a change in scenery, and breathe some fresh air. Whether the days away are filled with sightseeing, hiking, sailing, amusement parks, or lazy days at the beach, the relaxed and refreshed spirit that has been nurtured by a vacation can quickly be quenched by chaos once your key turns in the lock of your front door.

Vacation recovery can be particularly hard for kids. Physically, they may not have gotten enough sleep while they were away, and they may have engaged in more physical activity than is normal for them. Emotionally, they are coming down from that “vacation high” and may experience feelings of sadness and disappointment that The Big Trip has come to an end.

As a parent, you will set the tone for the transition from vacation to routine. Your children will mirror the way you approach the first few days after you arrive home. Here are three suggestions for creating peace and harmony as you and your children navigate the re-entry into the rhythms of real life.

1. Be proactive.

One of the underlying mottos of Simple Mom is “when Mom is doing well, the whole family thrives.” Take the time before you leave for vacation to outline what makes you feel the most at peace when you return from a trip. Then, no matter how frenzied things get before you walk out the door, invest some time in doing the things you know will make yourself feel calm and collected when you return.

For me, this means making sure the trash has been carried out, the beds are made, and the vacuum cleaner has been run. These are non-negotiable tasks for me. What inspires peace within you when you return to your home? Make it a priority to see that these are done.

In addition to setting the scene for an orderly return for yourself, you might also take some time to set up a comforting, welcoming atmosphere that your children will appreciate. If your children are young, make sure that their rooms have been picked up and that a cozy pair of pajamas and a favorite bedtime story are waiting on a neatly made and turned-down bed.

Encourage older children to make up their own lists of what makes them feel good when they arrive home from vacation, and oversee the actions they will need to take to create a tranquil “welcome home” scene for themselves.

2. Be realistic.

Whether you are young or old, spending several days or several weeks out of your usual routine can cause inner turbulence. It is not realistic to expect that you or your children will snap back the routines and patterns of everyday life immediately. Likewise, the suitcases may not be immediately unpacked, nor will the laundry be washed, dried, folded, and put away in an instant.

Determine the number of days for a realistic vacation recuperation time, and block that time off of your family’s calendar. The weekend after returning home from a trip may not be the most appropriate time to host a neighborhood cook-out, and it’s not thoughtful to plan a week’s worth of camp or other activities for your child following a family vacation.

Photo by Sharon Mollerus

3. Be gentle.

Remember, the goal here is to allow the refreshed and relaxed vacation mood to linger as long as possible. A mindful, slowed-down approach to the days following a family vacation will go a long way towards promoting peace in your home. Don’t get so caught up in getting back to the routines of life that you overlook or diminish your child’s need for a time of transition.

Emotions and feelings are not neat and orderly. Stop and listen. Offering a nurturing spirit and a calming touch is more important that folding and putting away clothes. Older children may want to talk about and relive some of their favorite moments from the trip. Uploading and printing out pictures or capturing thoughts in a vacation journal demonstrates to your children that you also want to honor the time you spent together as a family. These are the memories your children will want to hold on to – not how quickly you got the suitcases unpacked and stored away.

For home managers who are generally organized, the disorganization following vacation can be stressful. For the free-spirited home manager, the motivation and desire to get back on track might get lost in the tumult. Take some deep breaths, focus on the big picture, and remind yourself that vacation recovery doesn’t last forever. Eventually life will settle back into its familiar groove. Even in the midst of chaos, you can make a pathway for peace.

Do you find the days following vacation to be a challenge within your family? What are your biggest hurdles to a peaceful recovery? What have you discovered works best to get your family settled in and ready to ease back in to the rhythms of life?

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  1. mary

    Hello Megan,

    Thank you for the most inspiring post! What nice ideas to make the homecoming feel special as well for the whole family.

    As often a not-so-well organized mom I thought of filling the freezer before going with some nice food to allow more time for other things after return. Also making a list of things that should be finished after the hols would make sure those things will not be forgotten in after-holiday chaos, but allows them to be completely forgotten during the holiday 🙂

    I will think about these when going on holiday in a couple of weeks…


  2. Nicole

    I agree with Mary above…I think that leaving the fridge and pantry in a welcoming position for the family is so important before heading out the door. That late night or early morning trip to the store right after returning home is always so tough.

    We just returned from vacation and everyone promptly got sick upon our return. I think the late nights and the change up wore down our immune systems. So, with our next trip, I’m going to be more diligent about bedtimes on the trip and keeping the kids stocked with lots of vitamins.

    Thanks for the thoughtful pointers.

    Nicole´s last blog post…The Giveaway that Got Away

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      Nicole and Mary – I had not thought of that! The first post-vacation grocery run is usually stressful, not to mention coming home to a house with nothing to eat. This is a FANTASTIC suggestion!

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  3. shannon

    We always give a one day grace period after vacations or visitors. That day may involve rest, laundry piles or easy meals. That day has to be without expectations.

    shannon´s last blog post…Five Tips For Inspiring Productivity In The Home

    • Emma @

      One day grace period – I should be so lucky! After we’ve had visitors it took us about a week if not longer to get my son on his routine. It was a long and painful way to “back on track”. I have no ideas for shortcuts and I desperately need some, because every 6 months we have visitors from overseas (grandparents) who stay with us for a month and completely ruin Eric’s routine. Anyone?

      Emma @´s last blog post…Toys That Last – Tiny Love double sided first book

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      I like the idea of labeling it a grace period. I know I need more than one day to recover, but my children are also still little and all of the restoring of order in my home falls to me. It oftentimes feels like the perfect formula for me is Number of Days Away x 2 = Post Trip Grace Period! In all honesty, I could and should probably shave a little time off of that number though. But yes, a grace period is a wonderful way to describe and enjoy that time.

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  4. steadymom

    “Determine the number of days for a realistic vacation recuperation time, and block that time off of your family’s calendar.”

    This is such a great idea. I came to this conclusion on my own, recently, but only after much trial and error! I’m the type that would love to have things back to “normal” immediately, but I’ve found that when I just relax (also the name of my post today!) life evens out more quickly and peacefully.


    steadymom´s last blog post…Just Relax

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      Jamie, believe me – that thought comes after MUCH trial and (lots of) error on my part, too. I am much more open and accepting of the Just Relax philosophy as I get older!

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  5. Amy Reads Good Books

    Excellent post! You know, these tips ring true for the stepkid shuffle as well. We find our girls always need a little time to adjust to coming and going from our house.

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      Oh, I hadn’t thought about that perspective before, but I can definitely see the application there. I think all transitions in life (big and little) require some extra loving attention.

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  6. Naomi

    What a fab post … the thought of preparing your home for post-vacation is something that I’ve always KIND of done, but not like this. Great suggestions (love the beds made, turned down and pjs laid out)!!

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      The turning the beds down and laying out bedtime stories only recently occurred to me. It was very comforting to my order-and-routine-loving four year old!

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  7. Deb Meyers

    This is such a thoughtful post!

    My children are no longer little but when they were we had to travel by air 2-3 times a year. After one too many hectic returns I learned to budget $$ to hire a friend. She dusted, vac and mopped, aired out my home or start the a/c, stocked the fridge with basics. WHAT a difference it made for all of us!

    deb meyers

    It made a huge difference

  8. Christine

    hmmm….I’m going to heed your advice about cleaning the house before I leave. One challenge: my husband is only coming along for half of the trip, since he has to work and we will only be about three hours away at the beach….how do I make sure he keeps the house clean? lol

    Christine´s last blog post…Happy Birthday Mom

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      LOL – I know what you mean. Early in our marriage, I traveled by myself a lot and would always come home to a sinkful of my husband’s dirty dishes. ACK! We had some conversations about that . . .

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  9. Stacie

    We’re about to return home after being away from home ourselves. The timing of this post is great. We planned 2 extra days at the end of our trip to enjoy our home (toys, beds, neighborhood pool, etc.). Even though I don’t want to leave our vacation, I am actually looking forward to being home. Now, with this post too, I think it will be even less stressful.

    Stacie´s last blog post…The Distractible Mommy

  10. Chele

    Megan, I completely agree with everything you said. We have the same problem but it doesn’t last long! I do all the chores to have the house cleaned up so I don’t have to worry about it when I get home. The laundry isn’t a big deal for me. I have 4 kids so laundry is being done everyday… it doesn’t stress me out. What stresses me out is the kids being tired and worn out from the vacation. I usually make the first day home the day to just sit and watch movies…quiet time. Then by day 2 they seem to be much better!!

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      My oldest is SO routine-oriented, and sometimes that is a good thing, but when it comes to upsets in her routine – watch out! It’s actually because of her personality and temperament that I have had to learn how to have a “coming down” time after even an overnight trip.

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  11. Jennifer

    I wish I had read this when all of my kids were little. I have learned these things the hard way over the years though. Wink. One of the biggest for me is to leave the house clean so it is a blessing to come back home. I have one friend whose hubby pays to have a cleaning service come in every time they leave on vacation. What a blessing to his wife to know if she didn’t get it all done it WILL be done before she gets back home. They surprised us one year when they knew we were going to be gone on a long vacation and gifted us with the cleaning service while we were gone. Loved that!

    Jennifer´s last blog post…Quite an honor.

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      As I responded to Deb above, I think this is a fantastic idea. What a blessing both physically and emotionally to have that part of your life all spic-and-span upon return!

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  12. laura @ peacoat

    these are such good tips. transition time for everyone is so necessary.

    i always TRY to clean the house before i leave on a trip, but i admit that this task falls by the wayside for more important things…like getting my nails done or some such.

    if i was thinking about it as less of a chore and more as a comfort when i get home, maybe i could get motivated. thanks, megan!

    laura @ peacoat´s last blog post…wet in wal-mart

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      For me, it started with getting the trash carried out and just grew from there. I always noticed when I came home to vacuum tracks on the carpets, I almost instantly felt at peace. It’s definitely a comfort/peace thing for me.

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  13. shannon

    I’m not a mom – or even a parent, but I love this idea of a gentle reintroduction back into real-life. So many of my vacations come with a sense of dread knowing that there will be practical headaches upon my return.

    shannon´s last blog post…Bacon Infused Bourbon

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      When you leave your home unprepared for your return, it’s a like a double-whammy of dread: not only do you dread the return to work, you also dread an untidy nest! I treasure that comforting welcome home so much that it’s worth all of the effort I put in before I leave.

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  14. Elizabeth

    We’ve just returned from multiple trips in the last month, and your tips are spot on! I tried (unsuccessfully, I might add) to get things back to normal as soon as we were home, but the kids needed time to recuperate. Without it, it just makes life miserable. By relaxing myself and giving lots of grace to all of us it made our re-entry into real life much more enjoyable for all of us. With a little planning ahead it was actually fun to return home!

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      It’s a delicate balance, right? I think on some level we are ready for our routines again, and therefore want to try to get there as quickly as possible. But on the other hand, we are used to not being in routine and so too abrupt of adjustment causes further upset. As with all things – balance is key.

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  15. Danielle

    I never thought about this! It is true we as adults need to recover from a vacation. I guess kids do too!

    Danielle´s last blog post…Super Affiliate Handbook

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      Even though kids usually have more energy than we old folks do, I think they are more sensitive to the rhythms of life, and are more prone to upset when routines are upended. I like the idea of grace for parents and kids!

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

  16. Leigh

    I go a bit overboard with the ‘always leave a clean house’ rule, but what I need to work on is food preparation for vacation return, as well as a quick shopping list my hubby can take to the grocery store while I unpack the kids and begin to settle in.
    Also, as tired as you are, try and unpack the night you get back. Otherwise the lingering luggage and ‘to do’ unpacking chore can be a bummer…

    Leigh´s last blog post…Sleep Time Special

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      Another fantastic tip – make a grocery list BEFORE you leave. Love that! And yes, the unpacking does have to get done eventually, doesn’t it? I personally have a 24 hour rule on the suitcases – I give myself 24 hours from the time we hit the front door to get them at least unpacked and stowed away. The laundry may wait a few days, but after a while, tripping over suitcases is just annoying.

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

      • Rana

        I hate to have luggage hanging around. I try to unpack the night we get home to so I can start laundry in the morning. I love the idea of making the grocery list before you leave. Great idea!

        Rana´s last blog post…Wordless Wednesday!

  17. Erika

    I just enjoyed a wonderful vacation with my tots (ages 1 and 2). I agree with with all of your suggestions and would like to add another. If you can, hire a babysitter for a few hours the day after you come back. I flew solo with my kids, our flight was delayed, and it was after midnight before we got home. We were all tired and cranky the next day, but arriving early in the morning was my occasional college age sitter with plenty of energy. She created a fun distraction for my children while I grocery shopped and did laundry. She was worth her weight in gold!

  18. Gina

    What great advice. I wish I would have had this to read before our vacation in June! It can be tough with little ones but, they always end up having fun, no matter how stressed us parents can be. 🙂

  19. Rana

    Thank you for #2 being realistic. I just thought about it we are going away for the weekend and I have the dog scheduled to see the Vet on Monday morning at 9am. What was I thinking. That is the last thing I want to do coming home from vacation. I’m calling to reschedule.

    Rana´s last blog post…Wordless Wednesday!

  20. Paula @ Organizing Tips

    Great post! I think vaction recory time is so important. If we allow just one day of relaxing, I find it helps so much.

  21. Teresa Clark

    Great post. Thanks!

  22. Lisa

    Loved this post! Wish I would have read it several weeks ago before our vacation 🙂 One little thing we sometimes do when we get home from a trip is to take an evening walk together to sort of “extend” – even for a couple of minutes that feeling of relaxation and togetherness before we get back to our routine. I’ve found it helps my state of mind (even if it’s just me!) to wander the neighborhood for a bit instead of jumping right into opening the mail, checking the messages, etc.

  23. anna

    Thank you , Megan, for an insightful post. I do the things to have the house ready for our return, but had not given enough thought as to how my family might best fare. Thanks to you I’ve made up my mind that we will aim for a peaceful, slow transition back to our normal routine and not rush, rush, rush, to unpack, push the laundry through and such. Wonderful advice. =)
    p.s. it will make it easier on our pets, too!

  24. Amy Sinclair

    This is a fantastic article. Our family frequently goes to Disney World and it’s such a stressful thing to come home and have to get back in the swing of things. Any tips for creating PRE-vacation peace? I’m stressed out even BEFORE I go on vacation!

    • Megan at Simple Kids

      I’m just going to be completely honest, Amy, and say that I get a little, um, tense before vacations, too! I think for myself, if I can make a comprehensive list of what we are packing and set up a schedule for how far out from the day we leave that I’ll start packing, that is a huge step. I’m a big list maker. If it’s not written down, I’ll forget it. Also, blocking off X number of hours (or days, I suppose) on the pre-vacation schedule to clean and prepare the house for leaving might help you to see how much actual packing time you have to work with. But goodness knows this is an area where I need to grow, so perhaps someone else has some good ideas for you!

      Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Be Mindful When Making Summer Plans

      • Sarah

        Once, a week before a big Thanksgiving trip, I was really stressed out just thinking about everything that needed to be done. I asked my husband if he could just get out his computer and enter the many things on my mind… just in a text document or even in a mind-mapping program like FreeMind which we had at the time. I did a “brain dump” and he organized it as he entered it. We ended up able to figure out our trip schedule in better detail, and also got a good set of packing lists out of it. Then we printed it out and checked things off when the time came to DO the packing, and he was able to help so much more than he would have if everything was in my head.

        I would think this could help even if you just did it on your own. 🙂

  25. Michelle

    With 6 children, there’s a lot of packing/unpacking to do when we have to leave the house for any period of time, whether across the states to Grandparent’s home or just to church camp for the week, or even just for us to have a romantic weekend away (and children off to babysitters). To help make as much of the home as “normal” as possible when we return, I do all the packing/unpacking in the living room only. This allows the bedrooms to stay as nice as is possible with 6 children divided between 2 bedrooms. It allows our bedroom to be as restful as possible when we return as well. It makes for me only one room to do heavier duty tidying in after we arrive home again.

  26. Ellen

    Just ended up here from “Sorta Crunchy”. I carry a large cloth laundry bag as we travel, if we’re going by car. It’s our hamper for the week and everything dirty goes in there. When we get home, the bag goes down to the laundry room, ready for being sorted.

    This means I only have to pull clean clothes out of the suitcases. I know that everything is clean and nothing’s been contaminated by a dirty suitcase, etc. I generally have everything unpacked quite quickly because of this.

    If we’re travelling by air, I still bring the bag, then devote one suitcase to dirty items and another to clean.

  27. Maggie

    Ahhh…I feel more relaxed already! We’re going away this weekend for what’s sure to be a fun, but crazy time. I don’t want to wish it away, but I’m almost excited to come home now that I’ve read this post! I, too, must have the trashcans empty, all the laundry clean and put away and things dusted and vacuumed. Why come home to an upside-down house if we don’t have to?

    After I had my daughter last April, I was anxious to get home after my 4 days recovering from an unplanned C-section. My dear husband had the whole house cleaned and the blinds in our bedroom completely opened so that the daylight was just streaming in when we made it upstairs to take the baby on her first tour of the house 🙂 His preparing the house for me in that way was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. I connect that to the pre-vacation-peace-arranging so many of us moms do. It’s just a relief to arrive home and find your home refreshed and ready to hold you again!

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