12 Things You Must Do Before Leaving Your Home on Vacation
Considering a trip away from home? Be sure to address these 12 must-do items before heading out the door.
Program Your Thermostat
Note that this tip doesn’t suggest turning off the thermostat altogether. You should keep your home’s temperature stable while you’re away, whether in summer or winter, in order to prevent condensation, frozen pipes or other potentially damaging effects. (The exception is if you’ll be gone long enough to winterize your home, a strategy that will be described in a moment.)
If you’re interested in trimming your heating and cooling expenses throughout the year, start by reading this Family Handyman article, Use Less A/C and Cut your Electric Bill.
Suspend Your Mail Service
The same policy goes for newspapers and other delivery services. You won’t be there to enjoy them, and a stack of uncollected mail or newspapers is a sure sign to criminals that your home is unoccupied. If you want to boost the security of your mailbox permanently, check out Safe Home Security Tips.
Do The Dishes
Give everything a good wash, and you’ll be much better off. If you dirty any dishes right before you leave for vacation and don’t have time to clean them, just give them a good rinse. Of course, if you have a dishwasher, just set it to run right before you go out the door.
Should you forget to run the dishwasher, and come home to an appliance full of month-old dirty dishes, you’ll want to have this article bookmarked and ready to go: How to Fix a Smelly Dishwasher.
Take Out all Garbage and Recycling
Empty the trash and recycling. If you have a bunch of bananas or apples sitting on the counter, move them to the fridge or throw them away. Get rid of anything that might decompose and become bait for bugs and vermin.
Of course this is a pretty great time to get some cleaning done as well, and if you do it well walking into a clean home after a long trip away can make your homecoming all the more enjoyable.
This is also a good task to hire out to a young neighbor, who might be looking for ways to supplement their allowance.
Secure Your Home Against Criminals
Double-check the locks on your windows and doors, and put away any easily pawned lawn items such as lawnmowers. Close the blinds or draw the curtains, and put valuables out of sight. Or better yet, hide them entirely while you are on vacation! See 20 Secret Hiding Places from Family Handyman for some great inspiration.
Social Media Settings
This can be more complicated than just not broadcasting your location. Some technology is a little too “helpful” for our own good. Turn off location tags on apps like Instagram and don’t check in to places far removed from home. If you set up auto-reply on your email, don’t say that you’ll be out of town; a message saying that you’re unavailable is good enough.
But even if you have someone coming over once or twice a day to feed and monitor your pets, you still have to deal with the boredom factor. Bored pets have to occupy themselves somehow and countless pet owners have come home after a trip to find items damaged or destroyed when a beloved pet simply didn’t know what to do with themselves. Technology is improving matters. Gadgets like the ones covered in this article allow pets to play and exercise even when you aren’t home with them.
Outdoor plants may or may not need care, depending on their hardiness and the amount of rainfall you receive. Plant monitoring devices are available to track the moisture levels of their soil, and can send notifications by text or email when they need to be watered. There are also options to build your own self-watering planter, or to set up slow-release watering containers for indoor plants. Regardless, your plants will be well cared for while you are on vacation.
Timed Lights and Motion Sensors
Motion detectors are usually installed on outdoor lights. They trigger only when they sense movement, connecting the light to the circuit and illuminating the area around your home. Also available at home supply stores, motion detectors are easy to install and useful as both a security feature and for when you come home late at night.
With remote monitoring, you can breathe easy knowing that your home is being watched and looked over, even when you’re not there. So take it easy, enjoy your trip and think about all the great projects you can start when you get back home.
Winterize Your Home
But if you are leaving for a very long trip, or if you have a seasonal property, a complete winterization may make more sense. With steps like blowing out water in drain traps and loading the toilet with antifreeze, a complete winterization is more of a project. But it’s cheap insurance against the thousands of dollars in damage a burst water pipe can cause.
For a complete walk through of the winterization process, see Prevent Water Damage While You Are Away.