Traveling often seems like a series of to-do lists, from the pre-trip planning process (book flight and hotel, call credit card company, stop the mail, pack) to selecting the activities you want to experience once you arrive in your destination. But what about after you get home?
Some of us do nothing but slump exhaustedly on the couch for a day or two after a trip, while others leap immediately back into their daily life as though their trip never even happened. Why not find a happy medium? The following list of what to do after traveling will help you save money, stay healthy and savor the afterglow of your trip for just a little bit longer.
While this is good advice for anyone at any time, it's particularly germane to travelers. As Ed Hewitt notes in 11 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft While Traveling, "Identity theft is a growing problem worldwide -- especially for travelers, who are very vulnerable, forced as they are to use unsecured Internet connections, carry extensive personal documentation with them at all times, and share their credit cards with merchants about whom they know nothing and whom they'll never see again."
Within a day or two of getting home, go online and check your credit card and bank statements for things like double charges, missing refund credits or spending that you didn't authorize. Report any issues to your bank or credit card company immediately.
Many travelers add an international calling, texting and/or data package to their usual plan so that they can use their cell phones affordably during a trip overseas. But once your trip is over, make sure to remove the package from your plan so you're not continuing it to pay for it over the next month and beyond.
If you haven't been keeping up with email during your trip, you'll likely arrive home to a bulging inbox. The longer you wait to deal with it, the more it will pile up, so take a few minutes to zip through the heap, responding to anything urgent and deleting any newsletters or alerts that you'll never have time to read. Don't forget to turn off any "out of office" or "away on vacation" auto messages you turned on before your trip, and to restart any newsletter subscriptions you may have canceled. And if you haven't already called or texted, send a quick note to your family and friends letting them know you've arrived home safely.
Crossing time zones, stressing out over flight delays, over-indulging at restaurants and bars, sleeping fitfully on planes ... these are just a few of the ways that travel can be hard on your body. It's not uncommon to get sick right after a trip, but you can help prevent this by taking care of yourself when you arrive home. Drink lots of water to rehydrate yourself after a long, dry plane ride, and counter all those heavy restaurant meals with fresh fruits, vegetables and salads.
If your body's craving sleep, take a nap rather than forcing yourself to adapt immediately to your new time zone. Many travelers find that an extra "recovery" day after their vacation -- to sleep and catch up with other post-vacation tasks -- is useful in easing themselves mentally and physically back into the real world. (See Do You Really Need a Vacation After Your Vacation?)
Ever waited so long to go through your vacation pictures that you've completely forgotten the name of that gorgeous stone castle or those crumbling ancient ruins? Don't let it happen. Sort and caption your pictures while your memories are still fresh; same goes for producing photo albums, scrapbooks or other similar mementos. If you fall behind by a trip or two, you may never catch up again.
If you belong to a frequent flier or hotel loyalty program, log on a few days after your trip to make sure you've received the miles or points you're entitled to. Hold onto your hotel receipts and/or boarding passes until you're sure your account has been properly credited.
If something went awry during your trip and you need to make a claim on your travel or health insurance policy, don't put it off; there are often time limits in the fine print of your policy, and if you wait too long you may be ineligible for coverage. Gather all the necessary documents and file your claim as soon as you can.
A good trip often leaves travelers feeling inspired. Maybe the week you spent watching endangered wildlife in the Amazon left you with a newfound passion for conservation -- or you were touched by the plight of street children in India and came home wanting to find some way to help them from afar.
It's all too easy to get swept back into the flurry of your daily life and forget about the moments that moved you most in your travels. Before those memories fade, make a donation, seek out a volunteer program or find some other way to turn your inspiration into action.
While crafting your itinerary, did you read hotel reviews on TripAdvisor, compare restaurant ratings on Yelp or check out the experiences of fellow IndependentTraveler.com readers in our trip reviews section? If you've benefited from the wisdom of other travelers in the past, consider paying it forward by writing about the highs and lows of your own journey. For best results, do it within a week or two of your trip, while you can still remember the name of that restaurant with the awesome martinis.
A recent survey found that while travel makes us happier, it doesn't take long after a trip -- usually just a couple of weeks -- for us to return to our normal levels of contentment (or lack thereof). Luckily, it's not just travel that makes us happier; so does the process of planning a trip. If you're looking to fend off the post-vacation blues, it's never too early to start dreaming about that next journey.
--written by Sarah Schlichter
Editor's Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc.