We just got back home today from a several day visit with out of town relatives and I've had a few thoughts to tag on to my "Travel and the Holidays" post...
Do as much house cleaning as possible before you leave. I'm not saying it has to be spotless, but wipe down counter tops, clean the toilet, the bathroom mirrors, vacuum, etc. There's nothing like coming back to a clean (or at least reasonably well picked up) home. While it took a great deal of work and thought for me to clean and organize before we left, it was sooooo worth it!
I mentioned before, do laundry while you're with your host, if you can. Our family certainly didn't mind (Thank you!), and this was a huge blessing to wash and fold our clothes on the morning of the day we left and even throughout our stay. This made such a huge difference in unpacking once we arrived home. Instead of throwing it all in the washer, I was able to put clean and folded clothes straight into drawers. What a huge blessing!
Make a list of the things you took with you while you're packing. I used this for clothes only, but it helped me to keep track of every ones things. While I did inadvertently leave a few things behind on this trip, the list really helped. I've also made note of the things we're not likely to need next time. Save that list to help you think through your next traveling adventure.
Keep each person's belongings/clothes separated, but limit yourself. For us, limiting ourselves meant that all our clothes had to fit in our larger suitcase. I put each of the kids' clothes in a pillow case. Patrick's clothes fit into the blue pillow case and Erin's were in the green one. This was a huge help in keeping track of everything while we were gone. I put their pillowcases of clothes into the top flap of our suitcase. Daniel got 1/2 the main compartment of the suitcase and I used the other. Every time we took off something that couldn't be re-worn without washing it, we placed it into a plastic grocery bag until we were able to do laundry. If the clothing can be re-worn, fold it promptly and place it in the appropriate person's space. We did this pretty strictly throughout our entire visit and it worked beautifully.
When you get back, even if you're tired (and you most likely will be!), take that first hour home to unload and unpack. Daniel spent about 30 minutes bringing in our belongings from the car and then I started unpacking them as quickly as I could. I unpacked and put into their proper places all the kitchen items and all the kids' books from our "multimedia bag" (a Once Upon a Child bag used for all such travel necessities). Then I moved to the suitcase. I've always struggled with not taking a week to get a suitcase unpacked, but this time I resolved to just get it done and it really wasn't bad! As long as I stuck to one person's belongings at a time - I unpacked all Erin's things first, then Patrick's... then once the clothes were done, I moved to the bathroom items, etc...you get the idea - it was extremely fast to get done.
It seriously took 1-1.5 hours to get all of us in the house, all the luggage in the house, and to get unpacked. I also took inventory of our refrigerator and cupboards and made a quick grocery list that should get us through the end of the month - about a week. Once we were organized, I did my shopping and by dinnertime, we were all settled back into our normal nightly routine at home without any unpacking looming over us. This has been a huge blessing this evening as I am now way past my fatigue threshold to unpack in any kind of organized, coherent manner.