Travel Experts Share Their Post-Trip Recovery Tips

Remember to allot yourself that extra day of PTO.

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you need a vacation… from your vacation. Trips, as marvelous and eye-opening as they can be, can also be taxing on the body, and the physical exhaustion coupled with the post-vacay blues always makes for a rough return to normal life. But there are a number of ways to make that transition a bit easier, like allotting yourself an extra day of PTO, resisting the urge to nap, and—as much as we might not want to—unpacking as soon as you get home.

We spoke to seasoned travelers about pressing the reset button after a long journey. Take their advice and the only thing weighing on your mind will be the cherished memory of trips passed.

“The best post-travel routine actually starts before you get home! Those daily rituals that help you feel your best—take them with you if you can. I find that having my morning matcha at the hotel or a cup of bone broth instead of airport food helps me stay balanced, especially when I’m not fully in control of my schedule. You’ll enjoy your trip without letting the wheels fall off entirely, and it’ll pay off on the other end.

Movement is also really important post-travel. I find it helps me get my sleep cycle and digestion back in sync after being off my routine. Try to get back to your regular workout schedule as soon as possible—your body will thank you.” — Lisa Odenweller, CEO and Founder, Kroma Wellness

“If I’ve been traveling internationally or for a longer period of time, I like to give myself at least one day to recover before I have to go back to work. During that day, I’ll unpack and catch up on anything I need to do to prepare for my work week, like shopping for groceries.” – Kori Perten, Senior Editor, Thrillist

​“For me, a trip ends a lot like how it started: with packing. As soon as I get home, I unpack and repack for the next trip. I have a double set of necessities I like to keep in my carry on, including travel-sized toiletries and makeup, so it's a matter of restocking to prepare for my next trip. That way, I don't have to worry about forgetting things, and it takes a lot of decision-making out of the whole process. I have a special place for travel items at home, including my passport, electronic adapters, and other specialty items like a travel-sized hair dryer or small umbrella to grab as needed.” – Juliana Broste, Travel Video Journalist, TravelingJules

“As someone who has traveled for more than 20 years and to more than 40 countries, I know a thing or two about readjusting and recovery. Although my techniques have changed over the years, my most recent habits include flying on overnight flights as much as I can [for] international travel; drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated before, during, and after my flight; and usually trying to give myself at least 12 hours to reset before I return to work or any other 'normal life' responsibility. If I can achieve the trifecta, then I'm good to go!” – Nicole Cueto, Advisor and Travel Expert, FORA

“It’s so tempting to sink straight into bed after a long-haul flight, especially if you don’t sleep well on planes. This can be a huge mistake. Your body will stick to its old rhythm, and you’ll end up lying awake all night and feeling fatigued the next day. If you really have to snooze, keep it short—a two-hour nap is enough of a boost without destroying your chances of a good night’s sleep.

Get some sunlight. Our bodies are designed to respond to daylight—we want to be awake when the sun’s out and asleep when it’s dark. No matter how tired you feel during the day, do your best to get out into the sun for a stroll to fight jet lag. When it’s finally bedtime, you might find that you don’t fall asleep right away—even if you’ve been on the verge of dropping off all day. If that’s the case, try to make your sleep area as relaxing as possible. Keep hold of the earplugs and eye mask from your amenity kit and put your electronics away. Give yourself a 30- to 60-minute wind-down period with no electronics, turn on the fan for a bit of white noise, and draw the curtains so it’s pitch dark.” – Laura Lindsay, Global Travel Trends Expert, Skyscanner

“If I'm adjusting to a significant time change, I'll sometimes use a free app called Timeshifter, which creates a sleep routine leading up to the return from a trip to help combat jet lag. It worked well when I returned home on a direct 15-hour flight from Sydney to Vancouver last year.” – Bianca Bujan, Travel Writer and Editor, Bits of Bee

“Because the body can only adjust to one to two hours of time change per day, it’s best to start acclimating to the post-travel time zone at least a few days before. So traveling from east to west, try to stay up later at night and get up a little later in the days prior to travel. The opposite is true when traveling west to east—get up earlier and go to bed earlier. Even with these strategies, recognize that when traveling east to west, you are likely to be up early and less alert later in the day for the first few days, so it’s best not to schedule any taxing activities later in the day. If [you’re] working, plan to go in early and leave early. When traveling from the west, avoid scheduling appointments in the morning as the brain will still be asleep.” – Dr. Gene Delaune, Senior Consultant, Allianz Travel Insurance

“After I get back from a trip, whether it’s an overnight or a two-week long adventure, I immediately do laundry. I’m lucky enough to have a washer and dryer in my apartment now, but even before then, I would always empty out my suitcase into the hamper and truck it over to the laundromat as soon as humanly possible. Sitting in a plane all day can make a person feel like human garbage, so having clothes that don’t smell like airplane is an easy way to feel refreshed and ready to re-enter home-mode.” – Meredith Heil, Editorial Director, Thrillist

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Jessica Sulima is a staff writer on the Travel team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram