In a perfect world, every family vacation would end on a Saturday afternoon, with plenty of time to re-calibrate to the time zone, restock the fridge, process vacation laundry, and of course: locate the lunch pails.
For us, family vacations typically end with a jet-lagged drive home in the dark and a pile of suitcases staring us blankly in the face the next morning as we scramble to relocate lunch pails and get the kids to school on time in their not-too-dirty travel togs.
On the upside, my years of experience in “maximizing” family vacation time have taught me a few tricks. Here are seven you can keep up your own sleeve to help ease your family’s return from its next great escape.
ONE > Buy a carton of milk with “best buy” date after your return and do not open it until after your vacation. If you’ll be too gone for too long for this to work, buy some shelf-stable milk boxes instead and leave them in the fridge for seamless cereal pouring.
TWO > For a quick & easy dinner on your return—at whatever hour that may be, stash frozen pizzas in your freezer or other easy-fix entrées, eg. Trader Joe’s or Bertolli’s frozen pre-sauced pastas.
THREE > As you pack for the trip, be sure to set aside one clean outfit with ALL parts (underwear, socks…AND shoes) for each member of the family to prevent first-morning-back panic and scrambling.
FOUR > Pre-stock your children’s lunch pails with the non-perishables for an imminent return to school. Your first-morning-back mental faculties need not be taxed by bags of chips and apple sauce cups (and spoons!) that can already be waiting and ready in them.
FIVE > Do not under any circumstance leave home with your coffee supply without ensuring there is adequate coffee left behind for the first morning of your return. I did this once when we took the last of a bag of coffee with us to use on the trip. I repeat, I did this once.
SIX > Place a grocery delivery order in advance to have arrive at a convenient time after your return. If you load the shopping app to your smartphone, you can even knock out your grocery shopping while sitting by the pool (one less thing to take care of before leaving home). And if Amazon Fresh serves your area, you can even have a load of groceries waiting to greet you on your front porch at a ridiculously early hour.
SEVEN > Wash (at least) a load of laundry at your destination before your return. If you’ll be staying in a condo or other accommodations with your own washer/dryer, get a jump on it by starting a load in the evening while you visit or watch a movie. It’s a lot easier to unpack clean laundry than sort through mountains of mystery-wear.