Life after vacation (or, how to re-enter well)

We returned last week from the vacation of a lifetime. We being my husband and our four daughters. The vacation involved passports and a balcony overlooking the ocean.

And when I say lifetime, I mean it. We had not experienced a family adventure like this before and it will likely not be duplicated anytime soon.

After being gone for days I walked through garage into our kitchen. I was stepping back into my actual life.

The one full of responsibilities and chores and messy relationships. Full of the routines and parts of my life I was able to forget about, or at least avoid, while gone.

I was stepping into a potential place of disappointment.

This reentry point from a vacation can be difficult, where the everydayness of the schedules and tasks feels ordinary, even boring.

Where discontent creeps in and dissatisfaction over the regular can take over. Because the very nature of a vacation is that it’s a break from the routine, so no surprise we (and I’m speaking from first hand experience here) can dread coming home.

vacation reentryAnd yet that’s exactly what I want to avoid, dreading my actual life.

What I wanted to avoid last week when I returned and what I want to avoid in my daily happenings. Rather, I want to live out of an appreciation for what’s right in front of me, even in those predictable, non-sexy details.

I experienced a great escape from my regular humdrum, but I have 51 other weeks this year to fully embrace.

So this time around I was proactive about coming home after the time away. I did some work before we left that made returning a little easier.

Here were a few simple, intentional things I did before and right when we arrived home that helped my reentry to my actual life with anticipation and joy:

I cleaned the house.

More accurately, I splurged and had cleaning people come right before we left.

There is nothing more disheartening when returning to the ordinary, than walking into a disaster of a space.

Standing in my clean kitchen made me just a little happier to be home. Adding a clean house to the long to-do list that needs to get checked off before leaving can feel impossible, but it’s worth the time (or money if you are having someone else do it).

No matter that my home’s a little shabby, I’m happier to be in it when it’s sparkling.

Home after vacationI planned some fun.

I know the things in my everyday life that I enjoy, that feel like a treat and so I planned a few for when I got back.

This time that looked like a hair appointment and a wedding the weekend we returned. I obviously didn’t plan the wedding, but it was a celebration I was looking forward to and set our return date accordingly.

Whether it’s dinner with friends the night you get home, or a little pampering the next day, schedule in the part of your life that you absolutely love as part of your homecoming. It will act as a reminder that your actual life has some components that give you joy and it’s not all drudgery.

I ordered takeout.

After being gone for a while, it is likely your fridge is bare and anything still in it has spoiled. And if your family is anything like mine, they want to eat just the same.

And not to state the obvious, but hungry travelers make for cranky travelers.

So for this vacation I budgeted in takeout (a rare treat for this family of six) for our first meal back at home, so we would have a tasty, easy dinner as we unpacked.

It’s always satisfying to have an answer to the question, “What’s for dinner?” Even more satisfying as you stand amidst the pile of suitcases waiting to be emptied.

I embraced my credit card bill.

Speaking of budgets, we had one on our trip. That is, we didn’t overspend. We knew what we could afford while we were gone and we stuck to it.

Returning from a splurge that your actual life cannot bear, can add stress to any reentry. And this is avoidable stress. You don’t want to dread the credit card bill when it arrives.

Have the vacation your real bank account can handle by creating a budget before you start spending (don’t forget to include those fun extras for reentry.) No vacationers remorse wanted around here.

vacation reentryI did an experiment.

Loving the life I was returning to was obviously a bigger job than simply loading the dishwasher before I left for the airport.

I’ve been intentionally working on contentment for over a year.

Of embracing the ordinary and making small changes that will allow me to recognize and appreciate each day, each moment, for the gift it is.

In fact, I did a nine-month experiment to make my routines more enjoyable and my daily decisions a little more intentional.

Like an athlete who trains for an event, I’ve been working for months on loving my actual life, so when the challenge of reentry time came post-vacation, I was prepared to fully embrace the life I was walking back into.

Whether returning from a night away, or a vacation you’ve been planning for years, it is possible to reenter with a content spirit.

May you open the door to wherever you call home, and be grateful for the life it holds.









Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Jennifer Martin

    Great tips! I get post-vacation blues and try and plan one hometown adventure the week after I return to remember why the place I live is cool too. These can be simple and very frugal like just taking my two toddlers to the big city on a long bus ride or driving in search of a waterfall.

  2. Seana Turner

    This is a topic well worth a post. It can be a rough time… I call it “re-entry.” Walking back into a space that is not only clean, but “ready to go” is huge for me!

  3. Anna

    I love the perspective of approaching your life like an athlete training. That’s a good image. 🙂 I have learned to plan for a better re-entry from traveling, too, whether it is a fun vacation, visiting family, traveling for work related things. I like to come back to a clean house and a plan for food for the first evening and next breakfast (at minimum.) Either fast food, take-out, or something from the freezer that can be ready quickly. When possible, I like to leave a little cushion right after traveling for unpacking and readjusting. THat’s not always possible, though! Having good routines before going helps, because then you can fall back on those routines.

  4. kelli

    Love the ideas! Glad your family had a great and safe trip!!

  5. Erin Brown

    We’re about to leave on a five week roadtrip across Canada and the US. Thanks for the push and reminder to budget and clean my house! We’ve had some unexpected things come up in the past two weeks that have taken extra time and money, so both of those will be really important to our re-entry!

  6. Theresa

    The one tip that is important for me is leaving the house clean so we return to a clean home. If I do this I feel so much better about returning. It is also easier to unpack quickly when the house is clean. I like the idea of thinking ahead about how to overcome the return home disappointment. Knowing you will experience it, makes it easier to conquer. Thanks for the tips. Will be using them this summer.

  7. Sandra

    I would love to hear more about how you have worked on making your daily routines more enjoyable and intentional. Thanks for this post. I’m heading home from vacation tomorrow.

  8. Leah

    Thanks for sharing. Such great ideas here and I love that you encourage us to find the beauty in today. We are returning from a 4 month family sabbatical next week and I’m expecting the transition to hit hard. Trying to make lists of all we miss, how we can be a blessing to our community, and focus on contentment. Hoping to make everyday life feel more like “vacation” than work.

  9. Nikki

    We just got back from a wonderful trip to the beach, and I did similar things before we left. I just didn’t plan for any fun, but I figured we would all be glad to be home. 🙂

  10. Katie Di Filippo

    Yes! I cannot agree more with the need to clean up house before you leave for vacation. Somehow, the time to leave always sneaks up on me and often picking up is neglected and I HATE coming home and having a mess, no matter how small, to have to clean up. Its so hard when I often cook/prepare good for trips so I definitely recommend bringing snacks or food that don’t add clean up to your to do list. It can be hard to do when you want to be healthy and not wasteful with packaging but it’s so worth it to me! And who wants to return to life and start cooking right away?! I’m always hungry when coming home from vacation but I’m no mood to cook. I’m all for a slower reentry period.

Join thousands of readers
& get Tsh’s free weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where she shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)

It's part of Tsh's popular newsletter called Books & Crannies, where she shares thoughts about the intersection of stories & travel, work & play, faith & questions, and more.