The Guide to Preparing Your Home Before Going on Vacation

Published on August 2, 2021 under How-To

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Vacations are a fun and relaxing way to escape the doldrums of everyday life. To help you enjoy your vacation as much as possible, without thinking too much about home, this checklist will help you prepare your home before you go. As you read through the list, you will see that some items can be done long before you are dashing around finishing off all the little jobs you meant to do before you go, and some on the list are definitely last to complete. This checklist is divided into four parts:

  1. Inform appropriate authorities
  2. Making your home look occupied
  3. Preparing the inside
  4. Preparing the outside

Inform Appropriate Authorities

  • Inform your credit card company if you will be out of state
  • Notify your home security company if your home is monitored. Ask them for any specific advice they give to vacationers
  • If your local police or sheriff's department has a vacation patrol service, inform them
  • If you live in a community with a neighborhood patrol plan, inform the head of admin
  • Leave emergency contact details with a friend or neighbor, and inform your law enforcement agency
  • If you normally keep a spare key outside, take it in
  • If you are expecting a FedEx or UPS delivery, ask for the item to be held at the depot for personal collection

Making Your Home Look Occupied

Thieves are more likely to ignore a home that looks occupied.

  • Stop newspaper and mail deliveries. If people deliver freebie papers or hang notices on front doors where you live, ask a friend or neighbor to check and remove them
  • Ask your neighbor to park in your driveway occasionally, so it looks like you have visitors
  • If you have a 'smart home system,' check it all out, so you know everything you have installed is functioning as it should
  • If you do not have a smart home system, put some lights (and a radio if you want) on timers, so it looks and sounds like someone is home in the evening. Many shop-bought timers can be programmed, so lights come on at different times, rather than always at the same time each day
  • Install motion detectors for outside lighting, or just check that your detectors are working properly

Preparing the Inside

  • If you haven't already done so, photograph everything. If there is a catastrophe while you are away, you want to be able to report everything lost or damaged to your insurance company. Your insurance agent will be able to advise you on what pics to take, what to emphasize, etc
  • If you are leaving important documents at home, file them in a fire-resistant container, and put them out of the way
  • Check your smoke detectors, just in case of fire
  • Clean out the refrigerator of anything which may rot or smell. Either eat it, take it with you, freeze it or toss it
  • Add some dishes of ice to the fridge. Full refrigerators use less electricity than empty ones
  • Check the oven to make sure it is clean and there is no food left in it
  • Check the washing machine and dryer, so you don't leave unwashed or damp clothes inside
  • Decide what to do with houseplants, so they will be healthy on your return
  • Unplug unnecessary appliances and electronic devices, so they won't use electricity and won't risk overheating
  • Set the thermostat to a temperature that will reduce electricity use
  • Either turn off your water at the main inlet and turn off your water heater, or lower the temperature setting on the water heater, so it doesn't heat the water unnecessarily
  • If you leave the water inlet to your home on, turn off the feeds to the dishwasher, washing machine, and all sinks and toilets just to avoid a flood if a pipe fails
  • If you will be away on a long vacation, consider covering your toilet bowls to prevent odors
  • Take out the trash
  • Move valuables out of view
  • Run your waste disposal unit just before you leave to make sure there is no food in it. Add baking soda and vinegar or some other materials to prevent any bad odors
  • If you have an open fire, close the flue to prevent birds, bats, or insects from getting in
  • Clean your home, so when you return, it looks and feels welcoming
  • Double-check all doors and windows are closed and locked
  • Leave curtains and blinds as you normally do. (You may want to check with your insurance company and take their advice on this topic.)

Preparing the Outside

  • Mow lawns, trim shrubbery, pull weeds, etc
  • Sweep the driveway, etc. if there are leaves, pieces of paper that have blown on, etc
  • If you have a neighbor or friend who will check on things for you, ask them to notice if any detritus has appeared, and to remove it
  • Check outside lights and motion detectors are working correctly

Make your vacation worry-free by following this list. In addition, you may want to ask your local law enforcement office and your insurance agent if they can suggest anything that is specific to your neighborhood. Good luck, and happy vacation!

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