Our family has just returned home from a fabulous 1 week vacation and I'm really not experiencing any post trip chaos or blues. You know why? Because we always follow two simple rules when it comes to family vacations.
1. The house must be clean before we leave. It doesn't matter if we have to stay up late or get up early to make sure this happens. It is SOOOOOOO worth it. And if your house is simplified and not filled with a lot of piles clutter, this is pretty easy to accomplish. There's nothing better than opening the door to "home sweet home" and not have a mess waiting for you to deal with.
2. We unpack FIRST! We don't check messages, open mail, or flop down in an exhausted heap on the couch. (Even if we ARE feeling like an exhausted heap!) If it's super late we tuck the kids into bed, but then my husband & I stay up to get it all done. It's pretty simple - open a suitcase, & put everything away until it's empty. You can't pick something up and think, "I'll just set it down on my dresser and put it away later...". Once the item is in your hand you MUST put it in it's home. Don't open another suitcase until the first is empty.
We usually can get unpacked from any vacation in about an hour. Last night was even easier because it was mostly just laundry. The kids are actually pretty helpful with this because they race each other to see who can put something away and come back to the suitcase first. It's very important to get the whole family on board with this, otherwise, Mommy will end up with the job alone!
Plus, it will help ease relational stress! ;-) Ever seen "The Suitcase" episode from Everybody Loves Raymond?