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.

Want to go on vacation without losing your mind? Trust me, you do. This list of must-do items can help make that happen.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?

Additional reading: