The 13 Stages Of Coming Home From Your Summer Vacation

by Leigh Anderson
Originally Published: 

It’s time to pack up and head home from your annual vacation, a summer’s-end ritual with emotional highs and lows that rival Italian opera. Me, I start grieving the end of vacation days before it actually ends—which means I feel sad before I even need to feel sad. But I comfort myself that our departure from the vacation rental and arrival at home will be smooth and easy. Um, right. Below, the 13 stages of coming home from your family vacation.

1. Optimism

This year, you resolve to pack up your vacation rental in a choreographed ballet, folding freshly laundered clothes into pristine suitcases. Your car will be as neatly packed as a bento box. You will have prepared a delicious cold lunch for the road, so you will not be tempted by fried things sold out of a clown’s mouth.

2. Denial

You have days to go before you leave. Okay, two days. But obviously you need $400 worth of groceries to get through those two days. Better head to the store.

3. Minor Flickers of Anxiety

You vaguely remember that there’s stuff you have to deal with as soon as you get home. You have dim memories of forms and bills you abandoned in a heap as you scrambled out the door. Your kids need stuff for school. You haven’t made a to-do list in weeks. But! Push those ugly thoughts out of your head and eat another s’more.

4. Irritability

Who gains weight in the summer?

5. Denial, Part II

You know that if you want to have a smooth departure, you need to run a load of laundry the day before and then pack everything except the clothes you’re wearing on the drive. But it’s the last day of vacation! You deserve to enjoy it! You sit at the beach and drink another beer.

6. Irritability, Part II

The night before, your husband, who hasn’t started packing his stuff or the kids’ stuff yet, says, “Let’s aim to be on the road by 8 a.m.,” and you say, “Absolutely!” and chuckle mirthlessly.

7. Debate

At 9 a.m. on the day of departure, you stand in front of the fridge in your pajamas wondering, “Is it worth it to pack up a half-full bottle of ketchup? How about one slice of ham? How about 23 eggs? Is that the same hummus we arrived with? Why did I buy $400 worth of groceries two days ago?”

8. Self-Hatred

If you were a better mom you’d have planned this all a little better. Instead it’s 11 a.m. and you’re stuffing tubs of margarine and the same hummus you came with into plastic grocery bags and wedging them around the kids’ feet in the car.

9. Resignation

No one wants the lame lunch of one slice of ham and ketchup you packed. You stop at the clown’s mouth and order a greasy (but delicious, you have to admit) lunch. You throw the packed lunch away.

10. Screaming

By the time you reach the city limits, the traffic is appalling, your older kid is complaining bitterly, and your younger kid is just straight-up screaming. The car picks up speed, your husband swears at the d-bag in the Jeep and you start hurling Goldfish and DVDs at the back seat like you’re fending off furious little Gremlins. A space shuttle has less trouble with re-entry.

11. Everest

This is an absurd amount of laundry; it is an insurmountable pile of laundry; you could sing “the hills are alive with the sound of music” at the top of this mountain of laundry. Why didn’t you do a couple loads before you left?

12. Denial, Part III

There’s nothing to eat. Better go grocery shopping.

13. Optimism

What if you booked next year’s vacation now? Better peruse the vacation listings. Because next year, you’ll be really organized.

This article was originally published on