Avoiding the Vacation Hangover


As Kelsey said last week, we recently spent a week in the Okoboji area. This is our 10th summer as a couple, and we've spent time there together every year. It's an awesome in-state getaway for us and we're truly blessed to have a place to stay when we are there. Maybe we're just naive and the only ones who never thought of this before, but for vacation we've started to plan not only the week we are away from home, but the week before we leave and the week after we get back. Now that we're responsible for more than ourselves on vacation (Rooney packs more than the two of us combined), we've tried to really think through our time off and how to get the most out of it.


Confession: Last year we learned that vacation with a newborn is not really a vacation. It was more like a tornado picked us and all our baby junk up and set us down four hours away in a familiar/enjoyable location, except we still had to be rookie parents who had no idea what happened to vacation as we knew it.

It wasn't that we didn't love being parents, it was that for eight years prior, Okoboji had been our place of escape, adventure, relaxation and bliss. Last year, it all changed with a newborn. I was frustrated not being able to relax the way that we had in the past. This year was completely different for a number of reasons that I will get to in a moment. Another important thing we changed this year from last year was our own mental thinking, taking a family approach to the vacation vs. the selfish agenda we've always had in the past. (Rooney is not the only one who has grown a lot in the past year.)

A few weeks before we left, we came to the realization that we should think about vacation in three stages: pre-party, party, and the hangover...

Before Vacation: Pre-Party

The vacation pre-party is the time we spend getting ready for the party. Taking care of everything we need to so that we don't have to think about them when we're on vacation. (This doesn't include budgeting for the vacation, which happens much earlier.)

  • What needs to be done at home before we leave? Packing, cleaning out the fridge/cupboards, laundry, washing dishes, mowing the lawn, etc.
  • What do we need to purchase before the trip? Sunscreen, new swimwear, snacks, music for a killer road trip playlist, etc.
  • What can we buy when we get there? Bottled water, perishable food, etc. There is a nice Walmart where we were heading, so we were good to go.
  • What's on the agenda the week before we leave? I'd advise clearing your calendar of extracurricular activities if at all possible. It takes time to pack and run errands before leaving. As bloggers, we worked ahead on post to make sure we would have enough scheduled while we were gone (we have spotty Internet at the house we stay, plus we were on vacation and wanted a break from blogging).
  • Do we need to spend extra time at work before we leave? To make sure we were squared away at work, we worked a little extra the week prior. Kelsey even worked on Wednesday (her typical day off) to avoid using a full week of vacation time.
  • Anything neighbors need to know? If you trust your neighbors, can you ask them to keep an eye on things for you?

Asking these questions before we left really helped us prepare for vacation this year. We felt really good about what we were leaving behind. One thing we forgot was to let our neighbors know that we had a few packages coming that would arrive while we were gone. In the past we've helped our neighbors by taking in packages to avoid making their house a target since that's a pretty obvious sign that they were away from the house. We realized this a few days before returning home but were glad that two packages we were expecting were still on our doorstep when we got back.

Vacation: Party, party, party!

Inside joke: We were at a wedding in early June and the DJ who looked like Santa Claus and refused to take requests because he had "quite the lineup already," either played songs from 2013 or songs from 1996 and there was no in-between. He had hit a stretch of slow songs (none of which we even recognized), and three songs in he gets on the mic and proclaims that "after the next slow one, we're gonna party, party, party!" After rolling our eyes and giggling, the phrase "party, party, party" stuck with the family through vacation. And for the record, the DJ never made it to party, party, party mode. But I digress...

These are some questions we think about before going on vacation, and they are directly related to what we hope to do while on vacation:

  • Will you work at all on vacation? We don't, other than on extra projects (or blogging if we feel like it). I finished writing an ebook that should be available soon (stay tuned, or sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know the details), and I spent some early mornings editing it as well. Kelsey brought her laptop with but it was never opened.
  • What do you want to do individually? Make a list of everything you hope to do. You could even rank them in priority order if that helps. This way you are sure to make the most of your time and have a reference point when you are having a tough time deciding what to do (this happens to us all the time; Kelsey's mom came up with this idea this year).
  • What do you want to do as a family? We like to keep the agenda loose, but had a few things we wanted to do as a family. Visiting Arnold's Park was the big one this year so Rooney could experience amusement park rides.
  • Plan it all out before or be flexible while there? We've done both types of vacations and they are each useful in their own way, depending on your goals of the trip. When we visited Washington, D.C. over Thanksgiving 2011 (I still can't believe Kelsey walked all over that city 24 weeks pregnant) we had a detailed agenda, but when we are in Okoboji it's very flexible. I like both types, but it's a good idea to talk it out before you go.

My only regret from this year was that Kelsey and I didn't plan out a date night on our vacation. We have one every week while we're at home but neglected it on vacation.

After Vacation: The Hangover

Thank goodness we had some foresight this year to think about the week after our vacation.

  • What will need to be done when you get home? Mow the lawn, stock the fridge/cupboards, unpack and put everything away, laundry.
  • What will you feel like doing the week following vacation? This was a major breakthrough for us this year. We padded our food money this month knowing that we might want to eat out a few more times the week after vacation. We got really used to not cooking while on vacation so this really helped us ease back into reality.
  • How will you get back to normal? Do you like to spend every last minute away from home then roll into work the next day, groggy eyed from driving home all night? We choose to come home on Saturday and give ourselves one full day of recuperation after a week-long vacation.
  • What's on the agenda the week after? We try not to plan too much the week post-vacation either. We know that we're going to want to relax in the free time we do have, so we try not to plan too much. We already had blog posts already scheduled for Monday and Tuesday of the week following our vacation so we'd have time to spend on getting back into the swing of things and not having to worry about our blog being quiet.

The only thing semi-stressful we had going on the week after vacation was hosting our life group on Tuesday night. We do a service project a few times a year where we make sandwiches and cookies for the homeless, and we agreed to buy the supplies and host the group the Tuesday after we got back. It didn't end up being that big of a deal, but it did cause some last minute scrambling as it was the first time we were in charge of buying the supplies (luckily Kelsey was able to get them over her lunch break).

I can't stress enough how far a little planning will help in maximizing your vacation time. Doing the prep work and thinking through our time away this year really made for smooth transitions. The reward is well worth the effort. However, I will say that every trip or vacation is different, so starting with your goals and asking the questions above will help chart your course.

Do you have any big vacations/trips coming up in the second half of 2013?