Keeping the home fires burning - frequent business travel
February 19, 2011 6:27 PM   Subscribe

I travel frequently for work (at least one week/month domestic, plus regular international trips of up to 10 days and other short haul domestic trips, which often results in being away every second week). I am well set up for what I need on the road, but would welcome tips and hacks for preparing my home for while I am away and having it set up for my return.

I am slowly working out all the things I need to get done before I leave - make sure the garbage is emptied, giving the plants a good soak. And some things to ease my transition home - like having long life milk so I can have a coffee without going to the shops. I talk myself to attending social functions when I'm home, even when tired, as I otherwise don't manage to catch up with people often.

I am gradually discovering other things - like I need to flush the kitchen drain well before I go or it smells when I get home.

I would also like to feel settled back home more quickly. I definitely need to work on unpacking my bags faster.

I live by myself, in an apartment (if that information is relevant to your answers).

What else should I add to my to-do lists or keep at home or organise so that that all is in good order when I return and I don't have such a transition period to "being home"?
posted by AnnaRat to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not sure this will help at all, but I can order groceries online. So I do it a day or two before I get home to be delivered the day after I return. That way I have fresh fruit, my favorite cranberry juice, etc, and don't have to forage for food immediately.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 6:35 PM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was travelling a lot I ended up with two full sets of toiletries. So the home ones could just stay where they belonged and the travel ones could stay packed. That way I wasn't scrambling for my toothbrush and hairbrush and whatever the morning after I got back, even if I had arrived home late and was too tired to unpack. I even doubled things I didn't think would matter so much like nail clippers or face scrub, so then I could look after myself away from home as well as at home. So nice not having to catch up on stuff like nail clipping during my breaks. Having double of everything was a more expensive outlay but then it was longer before I had to buy new ones so it worked out.

I also put out clean towels before I left and made sure there was at least one day's clean laundry waiting for me when I got home. Again so getting up that first morning home felt nice rather than a scramble. If I had time I would remake my bed with clean sheets before I left too so the first sleep at home was extra nice, but it didn't always coincide with my laundry schedule.

Finding somewhere convenient and accessible for your suitcase to live at home can be helpful. That way you can leave some things in it when you get home rather than unpack and repack constantly plus it's not cluttering up the place until it's properly unpacked. But that can end up feeling like you live out of the suitcase year around so YMMV.
posted by shelleycat at 6:42 PM on February 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


You mention that unpacking isn't going as quickly as you like. I'm not sure if you're doing this already, but I found it really helpful to have a complete duplicate set of toiletries -- my dopp kit lived in my suitcase full-time, and home was always set up for home (and I wasn't skimping on the stuff that made me happy in either set).

I also found that constant laundry/drycleaning was a real soul-sucker that was much improved by having surplus underwear, pajamas, etc., so it was no big deal if I didn't want to get into it right when I got home, or to feel the pressure to do so right before leaving again. Having at least one extra set of sheets and towels is a pleasure as well, and takes the pressure off on both ends.

Finally, it gave me a lot of peace of mind not to be confronted by overwhelming amounts of mail when I got home, so I just got ruthless with cancelling catalogs and moving to online bill pay wherever possible. That said, it IS nice to come home to some fresh magazines and/or Netflix....
posted by argonauta at 6:48 PM on February 19, 2011


(I think shelleycat and I were separated at birth)
posted by argonauta at 6:51 PM on February 19, 2011


It may be obvious, but do all of the laundry and put it away before you leave. I travel fairly frequently (not as much as you do, though) and I hate coming home to find out I have nothing to wear because I only washed what I needed for the trip.

Do you have any options for grocery delivery?

If you like to cook, maybe you could start cooking and freezing meals when you are home so that when you get back you have some more healthy options than eating junk food because you are tired.
posted by cabingirl at 6:53 PM on February 19, 2011


If you can find someone you trust, and you can afford it, it might be really nice to have a cleaning service come while you're away. I've never been able to swing this, but I love the idea of coming home to a sparkling clean house without the exertion of cleaning it all before I go.
posted by troublesome at 6:56 PM on February 19, 2011


If you can afford it pay someone to do a through cleaning of your apartment every couple of weeks. Seconding having good meals int he freezer. Arrange to meet for coffee, drinks, or meals with friends ahead of time so that when you come home you know you'll be seeing people in a day or two.
posted by mareli at 7:01 PM on February 19, 2011


In addition to the double toiletries (and underwear), one thing I do - without fail - is to unpack immediately once I get home. That way, I can quickly get a pile of laundry together, put everything else back in its place, and have gifts at the ready when friends and family come to visit. Also helps to get the luggage out of the way so that it's not underfoot.

If you're really pressed for time, you can then take that pile of laundry to the local laundromat for fast wash-and-fold / dry cleaning service. Even though I have laundry facilities at home, sometimes on especially busy trips that's a worthwhile treat for myself.

Bills are another thing - I try to put everything I can on automatic billpay and electronic delivery. It makes it easier to handle the remaining mail you do have. And I reserve a day at the first of the month and the middle of the month to deal with the bills - that way they don't get in the way otherwise.
posted by hampanda at 7:10 PM on February 19, 2011


Oh, and if you have do your own expense reports, try as mightily as you can to complete them (or at the very least organize all your receipts etc) during your flight home. It's so much harder to do when any amount of time has passed, and I really hated when that activity intruded on my home time.
posted by argonauta at 7:21 PM on February 19, 2011


when I travelled, I would leave my home in the same state as the hotel that I would arrive in - this means my home is spotless, tidy, everything put away. It is unpleasant to be returning to a messy apartment with an unmade bed.

Fridge had food that keeps a little longer. I would water the plants before I leave. In time I created a document with a packing list of things frequently brought-with, so there was no scrambling on the night before the flight to pack. I would focus on preparing my home for my return, so it would be an oasis after all the hustle and bustle of hurried visits, late nights, perhaps late flights and then... aaaah, finally home.

Depending on length of travel, I would also have most/all of the fixings for a favorite dish that I would like to have on arrival, so that I wouldn't have to dig through the fridge for cheese and crackers, I would have something nicer and more 'homey'.

And yes, as others mentioned upthread, first order of the day is to unpack and put away the suitcase, even if it will come out of the closet later that weekend for yet another trip.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:46 PM on February 19, 2011


I don't know how long your business trips are, but when I travel for more than a couple days, I send my laundry out at the hotel. It usually comes back folded (and sometimes vacuum packed) which makes packing my suitcase a breeze. Also, when I get back home, I can put everything straight in the closet. It's expensive, but so worth it.
posted by bluefly at 1:47 AM on February 20, 2011


I always change my sheets before I leave. It's a great feeling to come back to a new set of sheets.
posted by bq at 2:02 AM on February 20, 2011


I was told, in all seriousness one time in Africa, that every roadwarrior needs a good wife. So luckily my husband takes care of various routine things around the house. :)

But for other things -

Might be a good excuse to hire a regular cleaner. I don't have one but several colleagues do.

Unpacking: I leave almost everything in my suitcase between trips other than my clothes. I pack all my clothes in an Eagle Creek cube. Voila, I arrive home, take out the cube for laundry, and unpacking is done.

This means, as others have mentioned, duplicates of toiletries etc and checklists for everything else. I pack the exact same thing (with some variation in clothes) for every trip which helps to minimize the risk of forgetting something.

I pack generic brown envelopes to hold all my receipts so that I can easily find and scan then when I get home (I find expensify does not work for me as I need to drop everything onto one PDF and expensify can't do this).

Every household bill is on autopay.

Go out the evening you arrive home (unless you arrive at midnight or later) for a quick walk, meal or coffee to get back into your own environment.

Develop a good 'at home' exercise routine. I go running at my local park when I am at home, it's something to look forward to when I'm away.
posted by wingless_angel at 3:39 AM on February 20, 2011


Seconding the two sets of toiletries and unpacking at once. If you spend the first half-hour home getting things "back to normal" and then take a nice shower, turn on the radio or TV, and catch up on the mail, the stress of traveling goes away quickly.

I also always unpack as soon as I get into a hotel room, again because it mitigates the feeling of living out a suitcase.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 9:28 AM on February 20, 2011


Thanks for all the suggestions, much appreciated. I do have two sets of toiletries, but probably need two sets of some other things.

Shelleycat, I have recleared a shelf in my wardrobe that I used to use for my suitcase. I don't remember why I stopped using it, but I feel better already!

Grocery delivery is definitely worth looking into, I know it is available in my area.

Any further suggestions are welcomed, I am leaving today on an international, followed by a week back, and then a domestic travel week, so I will see if I can put some more of it into practice.
posted by AnnaRat at 8:22 PM on February 21, 2011


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