Planning

How to Prepare Your Home for Vacation (2024 Checklist)

February 11, 2024

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READING TIME, 6 MINUTES

Ah, the thrill of an upcoming vacation! Dreamy sunsets, thrilling new landscapes, and the promise of memories yet to be made.

But wait! Have you thought about what’s going on in your home while you’re away? The last thing you want is to come home to find your kitchen flooded or a window broken and your valuables missing.

Whether you’re off on a weekend getaway or an extended trip, you’ll want to ensure your nest is in tip-top shape so you won’t have to worry about anything while you’re gone.

The following checklist will help you prepare your home for vacation and keep your home safe in 2024.

Ready? Adventure and peace of mind await. 🌟🏠🌄

How to Prepare Your Home for Vacation

Use the steps below to prepare your home for your next vacation, and you’ll sleep better while you’re gone. Then download this free checklist to use as you prepare for your trip.

1.  Prepare Your Home for Vacation by Securing Your House

According to ADT, most burglaries happen in the middle of the day in summer when people are likely to be on vacation. Thirty percent occur through an unlocked door or window, according to StaySafe.org, so it’s critical to batten down the hatches!

If you have an alarm system, make sure it’s turned on. (A few fake security cameras will at least help deter the non-professionals.) Be sure to notify the security company you’ll be gone so they can be extra vigilant if they notice an alarm is set off.

If you don’t have a home security system, make sure all windows and exterior doors are locked. Check the batteries in your smoke detectors, especially if you're taking an extended vacation.

Put a security bar or dowel on the track of sliding doors, and be sure all garage doors are locked. Hide anything of value or put it in a safe deposit box.

And leave a spare house key with someone you trust, not under the flowerpot by the front door or anyplace else that would be obvious.

Lastly, let your neighbors know your travel dates. Tell them if you’re expecting anyone, when you’re expecting them, and what kind of car they’ll be driving. If anyone else shows up, or there's any other type of suspicious activity, ask them to call the local police. Also, give them your contact information so they can notify you in case of an emergency.

2.  Unplug Appliances

Unplug all non-essential appliances such as your TV, computer, and toaster to save energy (and money) and lower the risk of an electrical fire. Also, unplug anything connected to an extension cord.

And unless you know if there’s a surge protector in your power strips, unplug those as well. You don't want to ruin your electronics in case there are power surges while you're gone.

You can also turn off the breaker for a circuit you know won’t be used while you’re away (like your bedroom) if you're going to be on a long trip.

3.  Adjust Thermostats

Adjusting your thermostats is the easiest way to save on your energy bill while you're gone. Set your air conditioner higher during summer and your heating system lower in winter.

Of course, how much you adjust your thermostat depends on your location. If you live in a mild climate, turn it off altogether. But leaving your home without any air conditioning in Florida in the summer is not a great idea, nor is leaving your home without any heat in a cold climate like Minnesota in winter.

If you expect the weather to fluctuate while you’re gone, install a smart thermostat so you can use your phone to adjust the temperature while you’re away.

4.  Stop Mail, Newspapers, and Package Delivery

It's a good idea to put your mail on hold and cancel any newspapers or deliveries while you're away, especially if you'll be gone for an extended period of time. A build-up of mail, papers, or packages is a telltale sign there's no one home.

You can ask the post office to hold your mail for up to 30 days. If you’ll be gone longer, use a mail forwarding service. There are a number of these available. We use Traveling Mailbox and have been totally satisfied with them. They can even deposit a check if you’re away from home.

Another option is to have a trusted neighbor or family member pick up your mail and parcels.

And while we're talking about fooling the bad guys, wait to post your awesome vacation photos on social media until you get home. No use publicizing that you're away.

The best idea is to go paperless. You can get your bank and credit card statements, utility bills, insurance statements, Medicare and Social Security information, and other correspondence sent directly to your email inbox, which you can check while you’re gone.

If you want to go paperless, set it up now while you’re still at home. This way, you’ll feel confident your mail will come through properly while you’re on vacation.

5.  Set Up Online Bill Payment

In today’s digital age, managing your finances while on vacation is a breeze. It offers convenience plus peace of mind while you’re away.

  • Set up online accounts
    Create accounts with your utility companies, bank, and credit card companies. Go online or give them a call to learn your options.
  • Pay your bills automatically
    You can set up auto-pay with the companies mentioned above so that they take the money automatically from your bank account. This ensures you won’t incur any late fees or missed due dates. It does mean, however, that you must be sure you have enough money in your account when the bill is due to be paid.
  • Schedule reminders
    Set reminders on your phone for the bills that you can’t set to auto-pay. You can go online to your bank to create a payment by check, or use a program like Quicken or Mint.com, connect them to your bank, and use them to trigger a bill payment. The advantage of using a program like this is that you can generate a summary of where you spent your money when it’s tax time.

As always, use strong, unique passwords to protect your accounts. And two-factor authentication is helpful for added security.

As with going paperless above, you want to set all this up a few months before your trip so that you can feel comfortable that you’ll know how to do everything before you’re on vacation.

Expert advice

If you are traveling outside the US, be careful! Two-factor authentication often requires the company to send a text message with a code, so be sure you can receive that message on your phone if you’re roaming or using another carrier while you're outside the US.

6. Clean Your House and Yard

Before you leave, take the time to clean your home thoroughly or schedule the house cleaner to come just before you return. This will eliminate any potential attractants for pests and make your return home more pleasant. And, like piled-up mail, an overgrown lawn is a welcome sign to burglars.

  • Take out the trash.
  • Clean out the garbage disposal.
  • Check that the washing machine is empty. You don’t want to come back to moldy clothes!
  • Trim your lawn and bushes if you’ll be away for a few weeks. If your trip lasts longer than that, hire a lawn care service.
  • Secure outdoor furniture.
  • Wrap pipes to protect against freezing.

7.  Empty Your Refrigerator

Emptying your fridge of perishable items is an important step in preparing your home for vacation. This will not only prevent spoilage but is also one of the easiest ways to save energy.

This is also a perfect time to go through your freezer and toss anything that has been in there too long.

8.  Set Up Automatic Lights

Woman using her phone to adjust lighting at home while on vacationAutomating a few lights to come on and off at different times throughout the day and night gives the appearance that someone is home. This will deter potential burglars.

You can plug lamps into a simple mechanical timer so that they go on and off at certain pre-set times. If you want something for more than a few lamps, you can find programmable light timers for both indoor lights and outdoor lights. Check your local home supply store for suggestions. Set timers for different times each day to mimic your usual schedule.

You can even set up your home as a smart home with a doorbell that lets you see who’s there and talk with them. There are smart locks that alert you when a door has been opened and lets you open and close doors from afar. And there are devices that regulate temperature and lighting.

If you're in the Apple ecosystem, you can learn about their Home app and accessories for a smart home.

If you’re in the Google ecosystem, check out their smart home automation.

9.  Arrange for House and/or Pet Sitters

Consider hiring a house sitter to keep watch while you're away, or ask a friend to stay. This ensures your home stays in tip-top shape, plants stay hydrated, and mail doesn’t pile up. And if you have a pet, a pet sitter gives your furry friend some much-needed company.

There’s also the added perk of a little extra security with someone popping in every now and then or staying while you’re away.

Start by checking with trusted friends or using reputable online platforms in your area. And provide detailed guidelines of what you expect.

Once you find a house or pet sitter, fill out this handy free guide to leave with them so they know what they can expect and what your expectations are of them. This will eliminate any confusion about what needs to be done.

10.  Turn Off Water

Flooded kitchen floorAccording to the insurance company Chubb, internal water leaks are the number one cause of property damage. Repairs are expensive!

Refrigerator

GE Appliances recommends that you shut off the water supply to the refrigerator and icemaker to avoid a plumbing leak. You want to avoid coming back to a flooded kitchen.

Washing machine

Did you know the leading cause of water damage to your home comes from burst washing machine hoses? So, turn off the water to the washing machine.

Water heater

Don't turn off the hot water tank if you’re only on a short trip. It doesn’t use much energy and can be difficult to turn back on. Instead, set the water heater to vacation mode. If you don’t have vacation mode, manually change the temperature to 5-60 degrees.

If you're leaving for an extended time, consult your user’s manual about whether to drain it and shut it off before you go, and if you do shut it off, be sure to follow the instructions exactly when turning it back on. Safety first!

Another option, if you don’t need hot water to run your heater, many plumbers recommend turning off the main water supply at the shut-off valve. After you do this, flush the toilets and turn off the water at the toilet base to keep out mold. Then, turn on each faucet until it runs dry.

Check with your plumber if you need help deciding which way to go. It can avoid costly repairs.

Outside sprinkler system

Turn your outside sprinkler system off if you don’t need to water while you’re away.

11.  Prepare Your Car

According to AAA, what you need to do depends on your location and how long you’ll be away. But in general:

  • Park your car inside if possible. If not, wash and wax it to protect it from the elements while you’re gone, or better yet, use a high-quality, weatherproof car cover.
  • Fill up the gas tank. This will help prevent moisture from accumulating and keep the seals from drying out. Change the oil if it’s time. This keeps the contaminants in old oil from damaging your engine. And top off any other fluid levels that need it.
  • Use a Battery Tender to trickle-charge your battery while you’re gone or disconnect the battery. You don’t want to come home to a dead battery. Arrgghh!!!
  • Put the car up on blocks or jack stands. Another option is to be sure the tires are inflated to their recommended PSI to avoid flat spots. And pull up the wiper blades so they don’t stick to the window.
  • Block pests. Clean the inside of your car of food or anything else that might attract pests, and be sure all windows are tightly closed. Put steel wool in the exhaust pipe and air intake to keep pests from entering. You can also place mothballs or dryer sheets around to deter the little evil creatures from moving in.
  • Keep things from sticking together. Pull up the wiper blades so they don’t stick to the window. Place the car in park (first gear or reverse if you have a manual transmission) and release the parking brake so it doesn’t fuse with the rotors.

Conclusion

There’s nothing like setting off for some well-deserved R&R. But remember, while you’re sipping that tropical drink, your home is having its own staycation. So make sure it doesn’t turn into a scene from a home-alone disaster movie.

By ticking off these 11 easy steps to prepare your home for vacation, you’ll not only spare yourself the “Did I turn off the toaster?” panic mid-flight, but you’ll also ensure that you’ll return to a home that’s as clean and comfy as when you left it.

So, here’s to adventures, both at home and away. Pack those bags, secure that abode, and let the good times roll (without any unexpected homecoming surprises)! Safe travels and even safer returns. 🌍✈️🏠

P.S. Worried if you left your stove on? Take a photo before you leave. Worried that you forgot to close the windows? Take a photo.

Take a photo of whatever you might be concerned about. This way, you can put your anxieties to rest and enjoy your trip from the moment you leave the house.

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