Summer Vacation Etiquette – Part 10: Returning Home

Returning Home, with Thanks

Returning home from vacation can be bittersweet.  On the one hand, you’re glad to be home to your familiar surroundings and the comfort of being back in your own space.  On the other hand, there might be a bit of a letdown after the change of scenery and routine you experienced while traveling and visiting other regions of the U.S. or another country.  But, the fact remains that your vacation is over and it’s time to go back to school or work.

Before you do, however, there are a few tasks to which you need to attend.  Unpacking, of course, is one of them.  Laundry, dropping off dry cleaning, distributing the souvenirs you picked up for family and friends, shopping for work and school, getting your clothes and accessories ready for school or the office, and other transitional tasks.  But, there is one more very important and often overlooked undertaking:

Thank you notes.This is an all-important obligation that people tend to put off until they forget.  But, as you mature and become a responsible adult and polished professional, you should pay proper attention to this time-honored gracious and important deed – and very important part of your personal brand.

To understand why this is so important, imagine doing something nice for someone, really putting yourself out and receiving no follow-up written thanks for your trouble.  Then, think of how you would feel if you received a written thank-you in the mail, perhaps along with a small gift as a token of gratitude.

Oh, sure, a quick email is okay but it’s not an appropriate substitute for a handwritten note, and since when do you do something that is just “okay”?

There is nothing more endearing than an expression of gratitude for a kindness performed.  And, while emails are expedient and easier than handwriting a letter/finding a stamp/going to the post office, a handwritten note is always more appreciated – and impressive – than an email or, worse, a text message.

Of course, reciprocating in kind is always the ultimate show of appreciation, but you can’t always accomplish that immediately, so it’s always good form to take the extra step and send a formal, handwritten, thank-you note or letter as soon as possible.  Here are some examples:

  • You’ve stayed at the home of relatives or family friends while visiting at the shore or mountains.  Whether you were alone or with your parents, upon arriving home you should call your hosts and thank them again, and chat for a few minutes.  Then, follow up with a handwritten note, telling them how much you enjoyed your stay and mentioning a special moment that you particularly enjoyed.
  • You stayed at the home of your friend’s parents. Upon arriving home you should send a thoughtful note along with a small, token gift.  Mention something in particular that you enjoyed during your stay and send regards to all the members of the family, including the pets.  The gift may be something inexpensive or even handmade, but you should wait more than one week after arriving home to send it.  Flowers are always nice, or something that you know they will enjoy, such as a certain kind of chocolate or the DVD of a movie you recommended they see and in which they expressed interest.
  • During your travels someone showed you a kindness by treating you to lunch, taking you sightseeing or giving you a sailing lesson.  They deserve a special handwritten note of thanks, with a reference to an especially memorable part of the experience, and perhaps a small, token gift.
  • While on vacation you met a couple who invited you (and perhaps your friends) to their home for dinner, cookout or pool party.  They, too, deserve a handwritten note along with a token, inexpensive but relevant gift.
  • Your neighbors took care of your pets, mail and checked on your house.  Upon returning home, in addition to thanking them in person, you may have included them on your list of people for whom to buy souvenirs and gifts and you should present such to them with your oral thanks.  Accompanying the souvenir (or on its own if you don’t have a souvenir for them), should be a handwritten thank-you, with perhaps a handmade coupon enclosed for a complimentary reciprocal offer, home-cooked dinner or other thoughtful gesture.

Note!  Your handwritten thank-you should be sent immediately.  If you want to include a gift but want to look around for something meaningful, send something along a few weeks later.  Perhaps you noticed their collection of pitchers and know that your neighborhood, school or office craft fair will occur next month; you might look there for an affordable little pitcher and say thank-you while supporting a community effort.

There are many more reasons that one should send a handwritten snail-mail thank-you note upon returning from vacation; before you get caught up in the back-to-school or back-to-work madness be sure to write and mail yours.

Tips on Handwritten Thank-you Notes:

  • Make your thank-you note or letter sincere, warm and friendly.
  • Select quality stationery – personalized is best — that is sophisticated and serious rather than gimmicky and frivolous to indicate your maturity and the respect that you are showing the person or persons to whom you are writing.
  • Write neatly and legibly.  You might find it helpful first to compose your letter in MS Word, or whichever word processing program you use; then, copy it in your handwriting on the stationery.  This will help you organize your thoughts and you will have a copy of what you wrote.
  • Address an envelope that matches the paper you are using.  Your return address goes in the upper left-hand corner, the address to the recipient goes in the middle of the envelope, and the stamp goes in the upper right-hand corner.
  • Mail your thank-you note or letter promptly.

And now, the answers to last week’s Global Etiquette quiz:

(1) China, (2) Asia, (3) Singapore, (4) England (5) Brazil, (6) Uruguay, (7) Canada, (8) Denmark, (9) Australia and (10) Africa

As always, your comments and questions are welcome!

Until next time,


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