Making Vacation Work

Vacations are important. Our brains and bodies need down time to rest and create. To make your vacation “work” for you, here are a few suggestions.


  • Use a good packing list.
  • “Eat down” your perishables before you leave. Take advantage of this emptiness to clean your fridge, and make a list of what you will need to buy as soon as you get back.
  • Plan for your mail/newspapers to be held or picked up, plants to be watered, and pets to be cared for.
  • Investigate and reserve childcare at your destination, if appropriate.
  • Make reservations for restaurants and activities that are in high demand. [Nothing is more frustrating than finding out that everything good has been booked for months.]
  • Thoroughly investigate your lodging so you won’t be disappointed when you arrive (e.g. call to see which room you will be in, confirm all services are up and running, ask what is provided vs. what you need to bring, etc.)
  • Manage expectations at work. Will you be reachable? How often and via which method? Whom should clients/staff contact if needed?
  • Pay any bills that will come due while you are away.
  • Reconfirm all reservations.
  • Empty trash cans (you don’t want to return to a smelly house.)
  • Go through and pick up before you leave. You will find re-entry easier if your space is cleared and ready to go.


  • Try and do something the first day/night that will start the vacation off on a high note (eat a favorite restaurant, participate in a favorite activity, etc.) A bad start can be difficult to recover from.
  • Have a family meeting early on to discuss the plan for the week. Try and accommodate every family member’s desires at least once.
  • Designate spaces for items in your temporary lodging:
  1. A pop-up hamper to hold the dirty clothes
  2. Places for clothes, sunscreen, room keys, wet towels/bathing suits, games, toiletries, etc.
  3. A “kitchen” area (snacks, coffee, soda, etc.)
  • Remember that you don’t have to have constant togetherness. It’s okay for the family to split up one day if some want to golf and others want to shop.
  • If you have to meet work commitments while you are away, establish boundaries and communicate them to the family (e.g. “I have a conference call on Wednesday at 4:00, so let’s plan our activities around this.”)


  • If you are flying or spending a long time in a car, now’s the time to open your email inbox and delete, delete, delete.
  • Unpack and get items to their “final destination” as quickly as possible. Resist the urge to pile items up to be put away later. Take the laundry to the laundry room, hang the beach chairs up in the garage, return games to the shelf in the playroom, take empty suitcases up to the attic, etc.
  • Be brutal with the mail. Quickly sort it, pitching all the catalogs and extraneous reading material. Open the bills, throw away any advertising/outer envelopes, and move the rest to a “to pay” folder. Put any mail requiring an action or response into a separate folder and schedule a time during the upcoming week to take care of it.
  • Move all the photographs to a folder on your computer, and label it with the year and location of the vacation. Even better, schedule a time to upload them and make a photo book of the memories.
  • Keep telling the stories of your trip. Vacations “endorphins” often stick with us longer than those of physical possessions because we can relive the stories over and over. Even the “bad” moments from a vacation often become something to laugh about in later years.

(you can read more about returning from a trip here.)

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Vacations are often seen as a mixed blessing. While they can be a fun change of pace, they definitely require a bit of extra work. Good planning can alleviate a bit of the stress, and help you get the most out of your well-deserved break.

What do you always prioritize on vacation?

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