How to Go On Vacation without Losing Your Mind

How to Go On Vacation without Losing Your Mind - picture of hats, passports, and other travel documents on table

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It’s 8:00 a.m. as I write this, and I’m running on fumes after getting only 5 hours of sleep. Our flight home from Jamaica was supposed to land in Indianapolis at 11:05 p.m. last night, but it was delayed, so we didn’t get home until almost 1:00 a.m. Grrreeeaaatttt…..

I scrambled to get my kids out the door this morning before turning my attention to the 5 suitcases of dirty laundry and other stuff we brought back home with us. But once I got the first load in, I breathed a sigh of relief. Why? Because the house is clean, my work is mostly caught up, and I left for vacation with my life in order.

People ask me all the time how I go on vacation so often without losing my mind. Because, let’s be honest, travel – especially with kids – can be just as stressful and complicated as it is relaxing and carefree. Not only do you have to plan your trip, but you also have to plan for everything that needs to happen in your life when you’re gone.

How to Go On Vacation without Losing Your Mind

Here are some of the steps I take before vacation that lead to a much smoother transition once we return home:

Make a Permanent Vacation List

Never ask me for advice on how to pack lightly – I simply can’t do it. However, I’m pretty darn good at making sure we get from Point A to Point B with all of our stuff in tow. We do it by making (and saving) a list of items that we always need to bring with us. Included are normal things like the camera, some batteries, towels, socks, t-shirts, and underwear. Kid-specific stuff we bring includes Dolly and Franny (my kid’s dolls they have had since they were babies), their sound machines, extra sunscreen, and snacks. Whatever it is you need to bring along, make a really good list and save it on your computer for next time. Then you can simply add and subtract items as needed and print the list before each trip you take.

Pay Bills Before You Go

I use a monthly zero-sum budget and this vacation was rather tricky because we left on the first day of the month. This meant that my first-of-the-month bills had to be paid before I left. No biggie at all, but it did take some planning. Basically, I transferred all of the money we need for April to our account during the last days of March then set up the bills I needed to pay through online bill pay. I saved the remainder of our bills, including the ones we hadn’t received yet, to be paid when we returned. Then, the night before we left, I paid the two credit cards we’re currently using off completely. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I hate going on vacation with bills or anything else hanging over my head.

Clean Your House Before Vacation

There is nothing I despise more than returning home to a dirty or disheveled house. A few years ago, I realized I could forgo that situation altogether by cleaning my house thoroughly a few days before we left. This time our monthly cleaning lady just happened to be scheduled for the 27th of March, which was perfect. All I had to do was touch up her excellent work the night before we left in order to return to a completely clean, shiny house. Loved it.

Create a Vacation Budget

Nothing sucks more than overspending on vacation, which is why it is crucial that you budget and plan for any expense you can possibly imagine. Most of you know that we pay for the vast majority of our trips with credit card rewards, but there are still some things we need to pay out of pocket. Depending on where we are going, that could include taxis, airport transportation, food, tips, museums, or attractions. I make a unique budget for each trip we go on that includes all of the items we may need to pay for – and it has never failed me so far. And trust me, one way to go on vacation without losing your mind is to return home knowing that you didn’t blow a bunch of money you didn’t plan for. For the trip we just returned home from, we actually underspent by $135 according to my budget. That is the only kind of vacation “surprise” I like.

Leave Comprehensive Notes at Work or Work Ahead

When I worked in a 9-5 job, I used to leave really in-depth notes for the people I worked with whenever we would lave on vacation. My goal at the time was to avoid having them e-mail me or call me while I was on vacation, but I believe it also helped keep my co-workers up-to-date on what was going on with my customers and ongoing tasks.

Now that I’m self-employed and don’t have any vacation days, I typically work ahead a few weeks before any trip we take. That usually means working 50-hour weeks for 1-2 weeks, but it’s a small price to pay to have unlimited vacation all year long. I also automate some tasks. For example, I write several blog posts and schedule them ahead of time and set up all of my social media to take care of itself. Sometimes I also hire someone else to answer my emails and the daily onslaught of inquiries I get. Honestly, working online makes it easy to take vacation if you know how to work it right. If you have a blog, you can always hire a virtual assistant to take care of some of your writing while you are gone. And as long as you are traveling somewhere with an internet connection, you can always take a few minutes to catch up on work for an hour or so each day.

Go On Vacation without Losing Your Mind

If you want to go on vacation without losing your mind, you need a plan.  Yours might be different than mine, and that’s okay. The point is, the more you can plan ahead, the better off you’ll be. And if you’ve ever returned home from vacation to a pile of bills and a house that is out of control, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Personally, I prefer to return home to a home that is in perfect order. I like my bills to be up-to-date and my workflow to be somewhat manageable on my first day back. The only hassle I end up dealing with every stinkin’ time is the huge mountain of laundry I bring back with me. I’ll let you know when I solve that problem, okay?

How do you get your home and financial house in order before you go on vacation? Have you ever returned home to a huge mess in your personal or financial life?

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  1. Those are good points Holly. I always pay my bills before leaving. I pay electronically, but you can’t always count on good or secure wifi when you travel. I also keep a set of makeup, moisturizer, toiletries etc. that never leave my carry on, that way l only have to pack clothes. My favorite is to clean the house before leaving, l used to put it off and there is nothing worse than coming home to a dirty house. It feels so much better when it’s clean, and makes a nice transition from the vacation , meaning l am not in a foul mood 🙂

  2. I do many of the same things as you do – I clean the house before I leave as it makes coming home more bearable, and I also write ahead so that I have posts to publish while away. I also started to write an extra post or two for the first days back from vacation. This helps me to slowly adjust back into real life without having to work 100%.

  3. Great post, Holly!! I am the exact same way as you when we travel. We actually just got back from Boca Raton, FL for a few days and it was great!! Came back to a clean house, all the bills paid and my work was (mostly) caught up (except the blog…I need to work on working ahead).

    I do agree about travel being just as stressful as it can be relaxing, especially with kids. We were nuts and drove to Boca from Charlotte, which is 10 1/2 hours not including stops. The girls did fantastic on the way there, but the way back was a completely different story. It ended up taking us 14 hours to get home and my youngest had a fever the entire time. I’ve never been so happy to be home, haha!!

    Glad you had fun!! 🙂

  4. Great tips! Paying bills and getting the house in order before I go out of town is a must since I don’t want to come home any unpleasant surprises.

  5. I often feel like I need a vacation from my vacation…I need to plan better. With bills, they’re mostly automated which frees up time and stress. As for the messy house…it probably doesn’t bother as much as it would bother you =)

  6. Never leave home with a dirty house! It seems 8x as bad when you get home. It was wonderful this past trip because Tonya and Megan (who stayed a couple of nights while we were away) cleaned my house before they left. I also try to do at least a load of laundry sometime during the trip if at all possible. Even if it’s $4, it’s worth it not to have everything be dirty once we get back. The budget thing is the key though. We have a daily limit for food and activities. If we go over one day, we cut back the next. It makes everything much easier because we know how much we can spend and then we are done. I always try to be very generous with the numbers because I don’t want to feel like we missed something really great because of cheapness. It doesn’t happen much, but I felt fine spending $100 on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk rides because we had some wiggle room in the budget.

  7. I definitely plan to work ahead before I go out of town for FinCon in September that way I won’t be missing any income, but I also won’t be stressed about working while I’m there. Can’t wait!

  8. Budgeting for your vacation in advance is paramount. Many people I know take their vacations on credit and then stress out about paying it when they return home. People should never take a vacation on credit.

  9. Love the detail here, Holly. We have a lot of the same habits (like our permanent vacation list). But we usually don’t clean house before we go: we’ll give that a shot this year.

  10. I have a tip for the laundry, but it is not 100% full proof. I try to do my laundry before going home. I realize this won’t always work, but I find it does most of the time. If I stay with friends or family, it’s simple. The night before I leave I do my laundry (or a couple of times depending on how long I’ve been gone). If I’m staying at a place (hotel/hostel) and they have coin-op laundry machines I do it before I leave there too. Yes, it costs a few bucks but not having to do laundry when I get home is a huge bonus.

    I also follow your step of making sure my house is clean before I leave. It’s easy to lose that “relaxing” feeling quickly if you come home to a messy house.

  11. It’s very interesting and inspiring topic on How to Go On Vacation without Losing Your Mind. I’m sure many will be glad to read this article. Thanks for sharing it. Fantastic post!

  12. Cleaning your house before you go is seriously the best tip ever. We always make sure that it is super clean so that we don’t have to do it when we are tired after a trip.

  13. One benefit of using most of our vacation time to visit DH’s family is that we can do laundry before we go home.

  14. Funny you post this, I am at the airport as I type this and all set to go on vacation! I made sure my house was clean before leaving, but ended up bringing a few medical bills to address while I’m on VaCa. All my other bills are paid, but I will actually have some free time to look over my medical stuff as opposed to being on my normal schedule and super busy. Not very excited to do this, but glad to have the time!

  15. Good points, cleaning your house before going on vacation is a big one. Last thing you want is to come home from vacation and realizing that you need to clean the house. That’s not a good feeling to have. 🙂

  16. I also try to plan what to eat for a meal or two after the return. That way we don’t have to stop for a restaurant meal or take out when we get home. Maybe it’s just frozen homemade soup or the makings for chili mac, but it does help the budget.

    1. Another great tip. It sucks to return home and have nothing fresh to eat! We had scrambled eggs and toast our first night home, lol. Lucky I had bread really.

  17. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    Seeing as I’m on our final day of spring break (hubby’s job covered a trip to Miami for business and let us tag along so virtually free!) my answer is leave the kids at home!!! I kid, they have been mostly good, except for the “I wants” of every stupid trinket and souvenir. However, I have been alone with them for the most part and they are exhausting! Not to mention they both keep sneaking into our king sized bed during the night and sleeping sideways!
    Hope your trip was glorious!

  18. catherine says:

    I don’t like leaving the morning with a dirty house so a vacation is a must!

  19. One less hustle is that I pay my bills in automation, so the only things I have to do whenever I am about to go for vacation are cleaning the house and listing all what I am gonna do and have in vacation.

  20. Great post! A lot of my friends leave everything to the last minute before they leave on a trip, and I just can´t function that way. I have to have all my ducks in a row before I go, so there´s nothing to worry about while I´m away. And I definitely LOVE coming home to a clean house! 🙂

  21. MarieMakesCents says:

    The only chores I want to think about when I get home is stocking up the fridge and getting the laundry done. That means I’m stress cleaning before heading out on vacation and maybe freezing a few easy meals/lunches for our return, but upon getting home I get to keep what relaxation I earned for just a little bit longer. Worth it.

  22. Another simple tip – check the flights with the airline right before leaving home. We went to NYC for a week over spring break only to find out the return flight had been changed but we weren\’t notified. So we showed up at the airport about 4 hours earlier than needed and then got delayed because of checkin problems

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