How To Hold On to That Vacation Vibe…Just a Little Longer!

As we head into the final month of the summer, many of us will be heading out for one last vacation before the headlong rush into fall, back to the schedule, routine, and other activities that come with the quickening pace of autumn. While we look forward to the respite and relaxation of time away from work and home, the dread of facing “re-entry” back into our work and home responsibilities can spoil the end of ANY vacation, no matter how wonderful. Staggering through the door, loaded down with dirty clothes, facing an empty refrigerator (or worse, a smelly, full of spoiled food refrigerator,) stacks of mail and overflowing email inboxes, can take the joy out of any respite and relaxation you may have enjoyed!

After many years of returning from vacations only to face the drudgery of getting back into the daily routine and all that needs to happen to get there, I’ve learned to put into place some regular vacation preparations before I leave so that facing re-entry isn’t as painful as it used to be.

While coming home from a great vacation is never really FUN, here are some tips that may help make it less miserable. Try one, try a few, try them all – anything that helps you ease your way back into regular life!


  • Clean up and reasonably organize your physical workspace. Clear off your desktop, file away paperwork, put supplies and equipment away. Walking into an office space cluttered with all the stuff you walked away from is just depressing. Entering a clean and decluttered workspace will help you focus on what you need to catch up on more quickly.
  • Clear your to-do list as much as is realistic. You probably can’t get EVERYTHING done before you leave, but get as much off your plate as possible. Often, the week before we leave for vacation is our most productive week of the entire year!
  • Set up an out-of-office reply for email and voice mail if you use it. If possible, designate a point person in your out-of-office reply for people to contact in your absence if absolutely necessary. Funny thing about most emails that will accumulate in your absence – many of them will be time-sensitive and may not need your reply upon your return since folks will either find someone else to help them, or find the information on their own! If constant texts from work are an issue, try setting up auto-replies through the “Driving Focus” option on your phone.


  • Do the laundry before you leave so you only have what you packed to wash when you get home. If your vacation place has convenient laundry facilities, do laundry the day before you leave so you’re only packing clean clothes.
  • Clean out the fridge from the things that are close to being spoiled, or that will most definitely spoil while you’re away. Nothing worse than coming home to a gross, smelly kitchen!
  • Empty the trash (especially kitchen trash.)
  • Write a grocery list of the essentials that you’ll need for the few days after you get home. Better yet, arrange for a grocery delivery for the day after you get home!
  • Put in a “hold mail” request online for snail mail. In that request, you can ask for your snail mail to be delivered in bulk on a specific date. It’s often a good idea to wait a couple of days after you return to have the held mail delivered so you have a chance to catch up on all the other stuff before you deal with piles of bills and junk mail.


  • Unpack right away. Yes, I know it’s kind of a buzzkill and you’re tired from travel. But this is one of those things you do for your future self at the expense of your present self. Think about how much of a pain unpacking is and how tripping over suitcases, dirty clothes, and souvenirs for days can spoil any kind of remaining good feelings you may have enjoyed while away! Do it now. Your future self will thank you.
  • If possible, don’t schedule any work meetings on your first day back. Facing a day full of meetings immediately on re-entry just makes you dread your return, knowing that you’ll be playing catch-up for days afterward.
  • Consider waiting a day or two after your return before you delete your out-of-office responses from email, voice mail, and texts. It may give you just a little breathing room to catch up before the deluge hits again!
  • Take at least 10 minutes the night before you head back to work to plan out your first day back. Create a 3-item to-do list of the three most important actions you need to take the next day, look at your calendar for the upcoming week, and get a handle on your schedule for tomorrow so you walk into work focused and not frazzled.

And one more suggestion: I know how you value your precious vacation time away from home and work lives, but stretching your vacation out to the very possible last second of your PTO can make re-entry just that much harder. If your flight gets in at midnight on Sunday and you need to be at work (or on full “kid duty”) first thing Monday morning, you’re setting yourself up to scramble to get all that stuff done WHILE you’re trying to catch up on everything else that unavoidably piles up while you’re away. Talk about harshing your vacation mellow! Consider scheduling your arrival home at least one day before you need to jump back into real life. It will give you a chance to regroup, recoup, and slide back into your regular schedule with much less stress and feeling like you’re in control, extending that vacation vibe that you worked so hard to earn!

About Lisa Griffith - Professional business organizer and speaker - Griffith Productivity Solutions

About The Author

Lisa Griffith is a speaker and consultant who provides services, both on-site and virtually, to help busy professionals organize their offices, systems and calendars. In addition to business and home office organizing, productivity and time management coaching, she provides workshops & seminars for business and community groups.