A post-travel plan

Here is a simple plan for what to do after you return home from vacation or a business trip:

  1. Walk straight to your washing machine.
  2. Take dirty clothes out of suitcase, put them into the washing machine, and start the laundry.
  3. Put clothes that need to go to the dry cleaners into designated dry cleaning bag.
  4. Carry suitcase to closet and put away shoes, belts, and other items that didn’t need to be washed but belong in closet.
  5. Repeat step #4, but with items that belong in the bathroom.
  6. Look at self in mirror and give yourself a thumb’s up for being unpacked only five minutes after returning home.
  7. Put suitcase away in closet.

Okay, I’ll admit, this list is a little silly. I think the point of the post is clear, though: Unpack your suitcase immediately after you return from a trip so that it won’t sit around cluttering up your space.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

29 Comments for “A post-travel plan”

  1. posted by Gail on

    I always plan a trip to the landromat BEFORE returning home. I wash all the clothes up at once, pack them up in the suitcase and then take them home and return them to their proper place. No muss, no fuss — after returning home!

  2. posted by Linda on

    It’s not a bad idea to clean the suitcase as well – especially if you’re concerned about bringing bedbugs home from hotels. They’re being reported even from clean, high-profile hotels as well these days.

  3. posted by Mer on

    I started doing this last year and it makes all the difference. Makes “re-entry” into life much easier.

  4. posted by Karen on

    I take the bathroom organizing a step further – I keep a toiletry bag always stocked. Even though I don’t travel that often, the convenience of not having to pack my toiletries each time is worth it. I bought some small bottles that fit into a small case, and filled them with my favorite shampoo, lotion, etc. I keep some small tubes of toothpaste, along with a hairbrush, toothbrush, contact case, etc. that are only used when I travel. Every time I go on a trip, I think of something else that would be handy in my case – I now keep a spoon for my coffee in there, a fold-up laundry bag, even my travel clock.

    The initial time and money spent putting it together has been worth it, even if I only travel a few times a year. The only thing I add new every time is my contact solution (which spoils if it’s not used) but otherwise, I just check it occasionally to make sure I haven’t run out of anything. Then just put it in the bag when I leave and put it back on my shelf when I get home. No clutter, no fuss.

  5. posted by Rashid on

    1) Drop your suitcase anywhere

    2) Eat a delicious takeout meal

    3) shower and sleep

    4) start doing your laundry the next day when your rested

  6. posted by Josephine on

    I don’t bother with Step 5. Instead, because I travel frequently, I keep a clear cosmetic case with travel-size items (toothpaste, deodorant, etc.) in my luggage permanently. It’s the same bag I show to customs when they monitor size of shampoo and other such items. I never unpack it unless I need to replenish.

  7. posted by Stuart on

    Sometimes I take old clothes (I mean really old clothes that no one wants) in a disposable bag. I wear the clothes, then throw them away at the end of the day. I do a bunch of hiking and camping so this works great for me.

  8. posted by Nick on

    Dealing with getting home at 10pm on a Thursday night after three days of business travel is one of the most annoying contributions to my clutter. If I start doing things, I get a second wind and stay up too late. If I just toss the bag on the floor, the next day is a disaster.

    Since I usually have only one bag and my briefcase or laptop backpack, I’ve gotten into the habit of just putting the entire suitcase on top of the washing machine, and going to bed. That way, the dirty clothes stay out of sight until Saturday when I have the energy to deal with them (and will be going to the cleaners anyway).

  9. posted by Hayden Tompkins on

    I always travel with plastic grocery bags and put my dirty clothes in those. That way, nothing clean is contaminated and it is ridiculously easy to dump it into the hamper.

  10. posted by K on

    Mesh lingerie bags….. several of them…. color coded with ribbons. Two for clean unmentionables (or one for each person sharing the suitcase). One for laundry-dark and one for laundry-light. I toss the whole bag in the wash when I get home and put away the clean stuff. (We travel with two small children so generally we try to stay somewhere with laundry facilities…. a perfect trip is when I return home with all clean clothes!)

  11. posted by adora on

    If you fly often, it might be helpful to just keep those toiletries in the bag.

  12. posted by Jasi on

    Great point! It’s really easy to lose your good vacation mood when you let things pile up. 5 minutes of work can keep you feeling fabs.

  13. posted by Sam on

    Ha ha – this list is exactly what I need – I tend to stagger up to bed very very tired and the suitcase is still there in the morning (a few days later! whoops!)

  14. posted by Josephine on

    I also keep a “laundry bag” in my luggage, and while I’m away, I throw all the dirty clothes in there. When I get home, all the dirty clothes are already isolated.

  15. posted by elizabeth on

    Rashid, I’m with you. Except that I do do one thing I don’t think anyone’s mentioned: carry a big laundry bag with me and a dry cleaning bag also. If someone else already said this, I’m sorry. I’m fluish and stupid today.

  16. posted by Sophia on

    I’d procrastinate further if i don’t do things right away!

    You got to reverse steps 2 and 3 😛

  17. posted by Phil on

    I put dirty washing to plastic bags as I go, the empty them into the wash when I get home, anything clean goes back on the shelves. 30 seconds after walking in I’m done. My partner, however, still has a bag on the bedroom floor with some stuff from the last trip. Last time the bag stayed there between trips!

  18. posted by The Chatty Housewife on

    I throw the clothing in the laundry hamper and wash them on my regular scheduled laundry day (Monday) but we do make a habit of unpacking as soon as we get home, or if it is too late, first thing in the morning.

    Most of my toiletries stay in their toiletry bag, we travel often enough that I have minis of almost each item. I find this helps a lot.

  19. posted by Minnie on

    I also make myself put away Christmas gifts immediately after my return from the big get-together. One year, I didn’t do it right away, and they sat there for weeks. Or maybe my family needs to get me better gifts…
    Anyway I get your point!

  20. posted by Kate on

    It’s not a silly list. My ‘old’ way of unpacking was silly.

    1) Leave half-unpacked suitcase on floor. For three months.

  21. posted by twosandalz on

    Even 5 minutes of unpacking is tedious after time away. So I make into a game… How Fast Can I Unpack? Can I fully unpack before my turn in the shower? Before the pizza arrives? A bit of peppy music helps too.

  22. posted by emme on

    Wow, great idea for getting back after your 2 or 3 hour flight on vacation. After flying 23 hours between India and the West Coast, I think I’ll sleep before worrying about my suitcase messing up the joint.

  23. posted by Sophia on

    well it depends if one manages to sleep on the plane and also if it’s time to sleep. sleeping in the day just prolongs jet lag!

    i did start unpacking immediately after flying 30 hours (transit included). mainly to fish out souveniors. but i dumped the to-wash clothes in the clothes hamper as well. i didn’t exactly complete before i…went out in a bid to not sleep.

  24. posted by Joan on

    Great ideas! I follow the same rules if I am coming back from a business trip or traveling with my husband. However, add the three kids and a long vacation to the mix and the clothes are to the ceiling and it takes more than one day (sand from the beach vacation alone takes time…) to deal with everything.

    So, early on in our family days we decided to always come home on a Saturday. Sunday is decompression, laundry, open mail, take the dog for a long walk, grocery shopping day.

    Might not work for everyone, but it makes me a happier mom!

  25. posted by Maggie on

    When we were on a long trip I had one suitcase that was dedicated to dirty laundry. It kept the clean clothes from smelling funky and made it easy to find when it came time to do laundry. I’m sure the security people at the airport would regret opening that bag to search, lol.

  26. posted by Rebecca on

    What techniques are there for managing all those souveniors, ticket stub and business card scraps, and digital photos? I find that that crap weighs heavier in my mind than dirty clothes. I still have scraps and hundreds of photos from an epic trip in 2003, and the thought of organizing them is overwhelming!

  27. posted by Tina Cassler on

    This is not silly at all! We’ve done the same thing for years!

  28. posted by SkiptheBS on

    Wash clothes immediately, wash duffel(s). I strongly recommend duffels and minimalist travel: if you haven’t read Leo Baubauta’s Zen Habits, you are missing out on great info of many kinds and a compassionate, insightful writer.

    Put non-washable luggage in a big plastic garbage bag ( landscaping bags are tough and ideal) with plenty of boric acid and/or diatomaceous earth in the bottom. Twist-tie the top tightly and leave it alone for three full weeks, unless weather is good and hot. In hot weather, place it outside in full sun for several days.

    This will kill any bedbugs and other critters. I follow the same procedure these days with non-washable items from garage sales and thrift stores.

    Now go put up your feet and relax.

  29. posted by Caroline on

    I travel for work a lot. I keep a dedicated travel toiletry bag ready to go and don’t touch it unless traveling.

    My dirty clothes are sorted into their respective loads (darks, lights, etc) and washed when the load is full.

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