Have you ever seen old Scooby Doo cartoons?
Right before Scooby Doo and his team from the Mystery Machine Van discover who the villain really is, they are often chased by said villain. And when they are chased, they don’t just run in a straight line. Oh no. They run in and out of bedrooms down a long hall. And it’s always funny because they will run through one door in the hallway and then appear again coming out of a separate door in the same hallway. And it’s funny because we all know its impossible to do that, unless you are a huge Great Dane that runs on it’s hind legs…
Well, packing up at the end of a home exchange is much like being chased by a villain in an episode of Scooby Doo. Your job is to make it out alive, and if your kids emerge alive as well, all the better…
Our final post in the “5 Keys to Maintaining Sanity While Traveling with Kids” series focuses on 5 ways to stay sane on the last day of your homeswap.
First, have the kids clean their rooms, put back toys they have used, and pack their bags. Their newly acquired “treasures” from the trip may cause their luggage to exceed capacity. Hopefully you foresaw this and made sure they started the trip with space in their suitcases.
Our three kids always travel with a checked bag and a carry-on backpack when flying. They always fill them too full with useless items. You should go through their luggage with them before the trip and minimize useless items. They don’t need to pack too many toys because there will be toys at the exchange home (assuming it is a family with kids of similar ages.)
You don’t want the kids messing up the house you are cleaning. Sit them in front of the TV/computer or have them play outside. I don’t care what anyone says, the TV is a great babysitter sometimes!
Perhaps one spouse can clean while the other takes the kids to the park. Once you have them confined in the car make a last inspection of your exchange home for lost items or any other problems.
Alternative Lodging the Night Before You Leave
Consider booking a hotel near the airport for your final night. This gives you extra time and makes the flight departure less stressful. You may be returning a car to the airport for the returning family to pick-up. Surely you will have cleaned it but your kids might have dirtied it on the way to the airport. Double check.
A Distracted Kid is a Happy Kid
Your kids should have books, portable video games, Ipods, and any other easily transported distractions for the flight or drive home. Also, bring snacks. Lots and lots of snacks. And consider a change of clothes.
Once I was flying home to California with my son and we got stuck in Boston and then Chicago for several hours due to bad weather. My son was upset and feeling ill so I grabbed him and headed for the restroom. He threw up on both of us. I was forced to buy clean t-shirts for us to wear at the airport that said “I Love Chicago.” At the time I did not love Chicago. In fact, I wanted to hit Chicago in the head like Al Capone did to that guy that double-crossed him in The Untouchables. But I digress…
Before booking your trans-continental flights consider time zones and jet lag. For example, it’s better to arrive in California at 4pm than 10pm. If we arrive at 4pm the kids may not have slept too much on the plane. They get home around 6pm and will go to bed around 8pm. If they arrive home at midnight they will have slept heavily on the plane and in the car. Since midnight in California is 8 or 9 in the morning in Europe they wake up just as we are getting home.
You need to be patient. No matter what you do, short of anesthesia, the kids will be excited to be back at home and will not make an easy or quick adjustment to your time zone.
John Mensinger is co-founder of HomeExchangeuniversity.com and an experienced home exchanger. His passion is helping others experience the enjoyment (and cost savings!) of home exchange. John can be reached at jm_at_homeexchangeuniversity_dot_com.
Deren S. Monday is co-founder of HomeExchangeUniversity.com and father of two. He is also a remodeling coach teaching others how to make their homes exchange-worthy. Deren can be reached at dsm_at_homeexchangeuniversity_dot_com.