1 | Preserve food and stop grocery shopping
It can be frustrating and annoying to return home from holiday travel to a refrigerator full of expired yogurt, stale bread, rotten meat, and moldy cheese. In the days leading up to your departure, think about freezing what you can so that it’ll be fresh upon your return. It’s also a good idea to properly seal any opened boxes or bags in your pantry as well as move some items into Zip-Loc bags or resealable containers. If there are unopened items that you can’t save, consider giving them to friends or neighbors.
On a similar note, stop grocery shopping this week! Unless you’ll only be out of town for a few days, anything fresh that you buy will go bad by the time you return. If you must shop, only buy exactly what you can eat between now and your departure. I grocery shopped yesterday, and I literally only bought a couple of tomatoes and some bread. I’ve been planning all month for our trip by freezing meals for this week ahead of time. That way, I can focus on prepping for Christmas this week because I’m not cooking–just thawing and reheating frozen meals–no grocery shopping required.
2 | Email final travel plans to hosts
A lot of etiquette has been lost on modern society, and I think it’s a shame! In our world of last-minute texting, there’s little appreciation for thoughtful preparation and consideration. When you’re traveling to someone’s home, even if it’s your own family’s (as we are this Christmas), it’s polite to send your hosts travel plans ahead of time. Though my mom and dad are thrilled to have Riley and I at home for the holidays, they are very busy at this time of year. Sending them our flight and travel itinerary allows them time to organize their schedule in order to pick us up/drop us off at the airport as well as track our flights for delays or changes.
Additionally, if there’s anything you’re planning on doing while you’re visiting, it’s considerate to include that. For example, I’d like to have a family birthday dinner for Riley on the night before his birthday since he and I are going out downtown alone on his actual birthday. I’ll include that information in my email so that my family can plan on being available then.
Consideration is never too formal. It doesn’t matter that I’m traveling to my parents’ house; they deserve the same respect and “heads up” as anyone else. Having house guests requires preparation and effort, so it is my conviction that a little preparation and effort on my part is necessary as well.
3 | Find a house-sitter or make other preparations
While you’re gone, there are things that will need to be taken care of. For example, your mail and packages cannot pile up for an entire week, your pets can’t survive alone, and your plants can’t go unwatered. Depending on where you live and the type of home you live in (apartment, single family home, etc.), this will look differently for you. For me, our apartment complex will hold our packages and mail for us for the duration of our trip, so we just have to think about our plant and Charley.
That’s not meant to be plural–we have just one plant. (And I desperately want to keep it alive! I do not have a green thumb!) If we had neighbors who we knew and trusted, we’d ask one of them to come over and water our little plant. Since we don’t, we’ll take it to my mother-in-law’s and she’ll water it while we’re gone! Thank God for awesome MILs!
Another thing to think about is setting automatic lights to turn on and off during your trip, especially if you live in a single family home. Again, in that case, it’d be wise to find a house-sitter you trust who could visit your home daily while you’re away and take care of mail, packages, plants, and lights.
Finally, unless you’re taking your pet(s) with you on your trip, you’ll need to find a safe place to keep them with someone you trust while you’re gone. I used Rover to find a petsitter when I moved to Austin, and I used it again to find one here in Denton (not sponsored, but a referral link–we both get $20 if you sign up). I don’t like the idea of boarding Charley in a place where he’s crated all day, so I have loved my experience with using Rover to find trusted, rated petsitters. This trip, Riley’s mom has offered to watch our boy, so he’ll be with her! I’m already gathering all of his items in a bag (including his Christmas gift!). You can never be too prepared!
4 | Deep clean your house
I am an obsessive clean-everything-before-you-leave homekeeper. Because, honestly, when I get home from any number of days away, I do not want to open my front door to dirty dishes, crumbs on the floor, laundry in the hamper, or trash in the trashcans. Yuck! I want the bed to be made, everything to be tidied, and our home to be clean and welcoming.
Because of this, I always (always) deep clean my home before a vacation. We depart early next week, so I spent hours on Monday deep cleaning every single thing in our home (Instagram post about this here). On Tuesday, I spent time doing laundry, folding it, and putting it away. Later this week, likely on Saturday or Sunday, I’ll run the vacuum one more time, throw in another load of laundry, and wipe down the kitchen and bathroom again. Then, on the morning before we depart, I’ll take out all the trash.
That way, when we get back home late after our trip, the bed will be made, we’ll have fresh clothes for the week, our bathroom and kitchen will be sparkling clean, the floors will be shiny, and everything will be neat and tidy. Especially for me, as an introvert who loves recharging at home, this is a must.
5 | Make a thorough packing list and pack ahead of time
Quick tip: Only pack after you’ve done your laundry first! That way, you can truly get the whole thing done in one shot instead of waiting for clothes to come out of the dryer!
There are some trips, though not many, where I’ll simply open up my suitcase and pack. However, now that I live across the country from my family and many of my friends, my trips are generally longer and more complicated, with more events and plans. Because of this, I always make a thorough packing list before I start packing. If you’re not a list-maker, the very thought of this may send you into a tailspin! But I promise that having a list to work off of will actually speed up the process significantly.
If I were going away for four days, here’s an example of what my list might look like:
THURSDAY- travel day
- Airport outfit (leggings, tunic, scarf, boots)
- + large bag with all electronics, chargers, and purse items
FRIDAY- time with family, dinner out
- Casual outfit (jeans, cotton top)
- Dressy outfit (dress, tights, heels)
SATURDAY- hike, dinner with family
- Athletic outfit (sports bra, stretch pants, t-shirt, tennis shoes)
- Casual outfit (cotton top)
SUNDAY- church, travel day
- Dressy outfit (skirt, bouse)
- Airport outfit (yoga pants, t-shirt, sweatshirt)
- + large bag with all electronics, chargers, and purse items
- + snacks for long layover
- Shower stuff
- Blow dryer, flat iron, curling iron
- Hair brush
For the sake of simplicity, I didn’t write any brand names on this list. On an actual packing list, I’d write things like “Under Armor stretch pants” or “Old Navy blue tunic” so that I can quickly and easily identify what I want to pack. Additionally, I don’t write items down twice. Like, on Saturday, I didn’t write “jeans” as a part of my casual outfit because I already wrote them down for Friday, and I plan on wearing the same pair.
Once I’ve already “packed in my head,” packing in a suitcase is quick and painless. I take a permanent marker and my list, and go down it, packing items and crossing them off. At the end, I double check my list and zip my suitcase! It only takes me about 45 minutes for a week-long trip! Because I usually do this at least a few days before my trip, there are often items that I have to wait to pack since I use them everyday. For this, I fold a piece of computer paper in half, set it on my suitcase, and write (in large letters!) whatever still needs to be packed. Then, on the morning of my trip, all I have to do is throw in a few items (like my sunglasses or flat iron) and go!
This method has saved me time and time again. I highly recommend it! It takes the guesswork and headache out of packing–first, you make a list of everything you’ll need for your trip, then, you use that list to put those items in a suitcase. It doesn’t get easier than that!
Oh, and one more thing: If you’re going to a place where you can wash your clothes, like your family’s house or a beach house with a washer and dryer, there is NO reason to pack a different outfit for every day. Pack four or five mix-and-match type outfits and do your laundry halfway through the week! (This works especially well if you’re like me and wear mostly neutral colors!)
Phew, I didn’t intend for this to become a post-inside-a-post, but I am passionate about saving time and effort by doing things intentionally and efficiently!
6 | Wrap gifts and pack or ship them
If you’re celebrating Christmas in a place other than your own home, you’ll probably bringing gifts along. There are a few ways to make this as painless as possible!
First, you could order your gifts online (that’s what I do–more here!) and have them shipped to your destination. Then, upon arrival, you can either buy some wrapping paper or “borrow” some from your hosts. Pretty simple!
Another idea is to purchase your gifts, wrap them, and then ship them to your destination. If you plan on using this method, you probably should’ve mailed them out last week! (#mostunhelpfulbloggerever) But, you can still pay extra to get them to your destination faster if taking them with you on the plane or in the car isn’t an option!
Finally, you could purchase and wrap your gifts with travel in mind, pack them in an extra suitcase, and transport them to your Christmas destination. This works especially well if you have travel in mind from the beginning of shopping so that you can purchase gifts that aren’t too heavy, large, or fragile.
For the past few years, I’ve done a combination of the first and third ideas–I order everything online, ship large or fragile gifts directly to Maryland, and pack the rest of them, already wrapped, in a suitcase. This has worked well for me and the spare suitcase is helpful for transporting any received gifts or holiday shopping loot back home!
7 | Set yourself up for success when you return
Like deep cleaning your home, there are things you can do to set yourself up for success after you return home from your trip, when you’ll likely be tired from traveling. What this means will be different for each person and family, but the question to ask yourself is What will I not want to do when I get home that I can do now? or What can I do now that future me will thank past me for? It can certainly take a few days to “recover” from traveling and get back into the rhythm of daily life!
Some ways to set yourself up for home-return success are: making and freezing a few meals for the first days at home, stocking your pantry/freezer with quick and easy meals, creating a meal plan and grocery list for the week when you get home (you won’t remember what items you do/don’t have!), choosing outfits for a few days and setting them out (I would imagine that this would be especially helpful if you have kids), keep your pet at the petsitter for an extra day so picking him up isn’t on your mental to-do list when you first get home, have an empty laundry machine for your trip clothing, lay out fresh bath towels, leave out (neatly!) any storage bins where travel items are stored for easy unpacking, set out any nighttime meds or vitamins in a plastic bag on your nightstand with a bottle of water, lay out pajamas, make yourself a to-do-immediately-upon-return list, set your thermostat to turn on heat on the day you return, come home a few days before you have to get back to work, etc.
As I mentioned, success looks differently for each individual and family. For us, we’re coming home several days before Riley has to go back to work so that we can continue to rest and enjoy our Christmas vacation and get back into our rhythm before jumping into real life. I’m already working on a meal plan/grocery list for that week (more on my meal planning here) so that I don’t have to think through that right when we arrive home. I always like to lay out fresh towels, pajamas, and vitamins, especially since we usually get back around midnight or later (we like to take the latest flights for the maximum amount of time in Maryland)! It seems trivial, but whenever I open my door after a trip to find a tidy house, a clean towel, and a fresh pair of pajamas waiting for me, I feel so relaxed. I can take a quick shower, brush my teeth, and get in bed at peace, instead of being frazzled from travel. (There’s nothing like home, is there?)
There you have it–seven things you can do now to prep for Christmas travel! I’m doing each of these this week so that I can genuinely enjoy my trip to Maryland and also feel peaceful upon returning home.
// How do you prep for holiday travel? What are your best tips and tricks?