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8 ways to re-enter real life after your family's summer vacation

The last thing you want to think about when you're going on vacation is coming back home again.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

The last thing you want to think about when you’re going on vacation is coming back home again. But planning ahead can make for a much smoother, happier transition back to real life — especially when your family is making the big shift from fun-filled summer holiday to the routines of work and school.

These tips will help parents and kids alike avoid the post-holiday blues.

1. Build in a buffer day

It’s tempting to try to squeeze every second you can out of a trip. But diving straight into the daily grind strips away all those happy vacation vibes, and the adjustment can be especially tough for kids. Return one or two days early (Saturday instead of Sunday, for instance) so they can settle in — and you have plenty of time to unpack and catch up.

2. Manage jet lag

Even a couple of hours’ time change can derail kids’ moods and sleeping patterns. If you can, gradually adjust their sleeping schedules in the days before you head home. And choose your flights wisely: opt for an overnight if your children can sleep on planes, but fly during the day if you think they’ll be too amped up to rest. Back home, make sure they get lots of sunshine, and try to eat on a regular reschedule.

3. Come home to a clean house

It’s tough to tidy up when you’re leaving for a trip, but cleaning up beforehand will make your return so much more pleasant. Double extra credit for changing the sheets before you leave.

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4. Plan for dinner

It’s happened to all of us: After spending hours in a car or on a plane, you arrive home tired and hungry—and realize that there’s nothing in the house to eat. Think ahead a little, so you don’t have to make do with dry cereal and stale chips. A nice meal that you froze pre-vacation, takeout from a favorite restaurant, or even some extra food you threw on the grill at the campsite and packed in a cooler can make coming home more special than stressful.

5. Psych up the kids

Talking about the exciting things that await them at home — like friends, toys, and favorite activities —helps soothe the disappointment they’ll feel about vacation coming to an end. At the same time, manage expectations by reminding them that, as fun as it is to stay up all night or eat ice cream for lunch, the regular rules apply back home.

Psych up the kids for all the thing they love about home.Getty Images

6. Bring vacation home

Before the end of the trip, talk about what you’d like to take back with you — whether it’s a souvenir or a ritual. Once you return, make a big deal out of unpacking your treasures and integrating those new habits into family life.

7. Plan another trip

Where do the kids want to go next? You don’t have to make reservations — just letting them fantasize takes the sting out of going home and back to 'real life'.

8. Schedule a slideshow night

Set aside an evening when the family can look at photos and talk about all the memories you made. There’s no better way to make them last.