7 Pre-Vacation Life Hacks, and The One Thing You Should Never Do

Posted on
May 7, 2015

I’m currently in the panicked state of getting ready for an upcoming trip, knowing that no matter how many times I go over my packing list, I will inevitably forget something until I’m headed towards the airport. There’s no avoiding it.

In the meantime, I’m doing what I can to make things easier before we leave. Cleaning up here and there, paying bills, and making cooking dough.

Yup. Cookie dough.

Because I figure packing and travel are crazy enough on their own, right? So if there’s something I can do to make leaving for and coming home from a trip easier, I’m going to do it. Here are a few life hacks to try before your next big trip – and one thing you should never do, ever.

  1. Re-use Food Containers, and Ditch Them as You Go. Since fresh fruits and veggies are scarce in the airport, and non-existent at 30,000 feet, I like to take some to snack on during my flight.

    That’s right – we get WHIPPED cream cheese. Cuz we’re fancy.

    But some of the more fragile produce (like berries) won’t survive in a plastic bag, and I don’t want to lug around my Tupperware for two weeks. So I reuse recyclable food containers (you know, the ones we all stockpile in the cabinet) and then I toss them as I go, clearing up space in my bag. And as for the veggies that I don’t take with me …

  2. Make a Freezer Stock Bag. I originally got this idea via this Smitten Kitchen post, and I have to say – it’s brilliant. No matter how well I plan, I’ve found that before any trip I always have a small quantity of leftover fresh produce in my fridge. Rather than toss it (since it won’t last for the two or three weeks that we’ll be on the road) I’ve started collecting it in a gallon-sized bag in my freezer. Half an onion, a bunch of basil, spinach, some wilted celery – it all goes in. When we get home, the hubby will toss it into a pot with some water and make some fantastic veggie stock (or you can add some animal bones of your choosing).
  3. Freeze a Meal For When You Get Home. Or At Least Some Cookie Dough.

    One day, I will have my act together enough to actually freeze a meal, so we can eat easily have dinner at home our first night back (rather than attempting to grocery shop and cook while jet-lagged, which basically results in me buying a bunch of cereal and then forgetting the milk). And while an entire meal hasn’t happened yet, homemade cookies have. I’ve tried this numerous times with some of my favorite recipes, and it always works – you just have to freeze them properly and adjust the cooking time. Detailed instructions on how to freeze cookie dough here. Plus, cookies count as a meal, right? Just don’t forget the milk.
  4. Change the Sheets. Either the morning that we leave (if it’s not an early flight), or the night before, I wash and change the linens on our bed. It seems like a weird thing to do right before a trip, but trust me, there is absolutely nothing better than coming home and curling up in your own bed, between crisp, clean sheets. Plus, it takes the guesswork out of when you may have last washed them.
  5. Do the Laundry. Why wait until the last minute? A week or so before we split town, I do the washing. ALL of it. This means that I not only have a full closet of clothes to choose from when I’m packing my suitcase, but I also won’t come home to piles and piles of laundry (on top of a suitcase full of dirty clothes).
  6. Make a To-Do List for When You Get Back. I know this sounds totally counter-intuitive – a to-do list? Seriously? But it’s a great way to actually unwind before a trip. In the days before I leave, I’m usually in a frenzy, trying to get stuff done – even things that don’t necessarily need to be completed before I go.

    Inevitably, there will be some stuff I can’t get to, so I simply write them down for when I get home. It’s also a great way to “download” all of those to-do items out of your head, so you can forget about them for a while and enjoy your trip.
  7. Freshen Up The Garbage Disposal. I always take out the trash before a trip, but often neglect to clean out my garbage disposal – which isn’t fun to come home to. Now, a few hours before leaving, I either pour boiling water down the sink while running the disposal, or toss down some vinegar and baking soda followed by hot water. It takes two seconds, and I don’t have to play “What’s that smell?” when I get home (a game that has, frankly, no winners).

And the one thing you should NEVER do …

I was talking to a coworker of my husband’s a few years back at their holiday party. He told me how one year, before they left on winter vacation, he decided that a great way to save energy would be to shut off the electrical breaker to the house.

I wrinkled my brow.

“That sounds like a bad idea,” I said, “but I can’t think of why.”

“Refrigerator,” he replied simply.

“Oh, god.”

About four days into his trip, it occurred to him that shutting off the power to the house also meant shutting off a fridge that was full of food. It all rotted, leaked and overflowed onto their kitchen floor. The fridge had to be replaced, and the clean-up was the stuff of nightmares.

Bottom line: Turn off computers and lower the heat, but NEVER shut off power to your house entirely before leaving for a trip.

Leave a Comment

  • kristibug

    But shut off the water! Or at least turn off the water to the toilets… pin hole leaks, slab leaks, and other leaks are the things of nightmares. I still don’t do it.. but a lot of people always tell me to. 🙂

    • We always turn off the water as we are leaving! We’ve had more than one toilet decide to flood (when we were home thankfully ) so I would hate to think of it doing that for the duration of a trip!

  • Laura Perez

    Oh God, I can’t imagine the whole mess when he came back home.
    But I’m glad I’m not the only one who washes the sheets before leaving for a trip. I can’t think of a better thing that coming back home tired, sleep deprived and just jump in to my bed.

  • Great tips. Regarding the sheets, though, if you arrive home after a dirty adventure trip, it is nice to know you are not messing up clean sheets. Our area lost power for 5 days one summer (that derecho storm) and one neighbor’s house reeked because of the disposal. I now clear my disposal probably every night, to make sure.

  • Suzan B

    These are fantastic. Also, take out the garbage before you leave and run the dishwasher. Yes, it seems simple. Yes, I’ve forgotten on many occasions. I try to have frozen stuff ready but don’t always have time/remember. But I always have my favorite drink (kombucha in my case) so I have something yummy to soften the jet lag.

  • My husband has this bizarre obsession with making sure everything is JUST SO…..all blinds must be closed (because that doesn’t tell potential thieves that you’re out of town), every scrap of paper on our kitchen task desk must be throw away and the desk must be spotless, all cabinets in the kitchen must be opened so “the pipes don’t freeze”, rooms should be vacuumed. It’s endless. If I would let him, I’m sure he would be shutting off the power!

  • Geeky Explorer ✈

    Great original post :). Loved the idea of a freezer stock bag, because I hate to throw away food and I always need to do A LOT of it before going into a flight. Poor veggies…
    And I never shut out the electricity – learned that the hard way, just like your story – but I ALWAYS shut the water off!

  • Making cookie dough is ALWAYS top priority on my list.

  • Rebel Heart Travel

    I actually “LOL-ed” at the fridge part. Such a terrible way to come home!

More from The Blog

On Instagram @theeverywhereist

  • Take note: if you ask your husband if you can move to NYC roughly four dozen times, he will start to cave a little.
  • Incredible reading by the love of my life to a packed room at NeueHouse Madison Square. So proud of you, @randderuiter, and the amazing emcee work by @michaeliconking.
  • Re-posting this photo that @wilreynolds took of us and his youngest near the beach outside of Lisbon. We're back home now, and I can't decide what I miss more: this little guy and his brother, or Portugal. Actually, scratch that. I know.
  • This place looks like a damn fairy tale.
  • Lunch with a view of the water, and some of the best seafood of my life.
  • The entire drive from Sintra to Lisbon looks like this. It's just miles of blue sky and rocky beaches.
  • No filter. This is just what Sintra looks like.
  • This street artist does amazing collages of animals from hunks of discarded plastic he collects (part of an effort to raise awareness about some of the most vulnerable victims of pollution). They're all over Lisbon, but we managed to get a close up view of this one.
  • Thousand watt smile on the little dude, and I am done.
  • Those eyes though.

All Over The Place

Buy my book and I promise I'll never ask you for anything again.