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How to Prepare Your Home Before You Leave on Vacation

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Though you cannot prepare your home for every circumstance while you are away on vacation, there’s a lot of easy prep work you can do to mitigate most issues. Before we leave, we focus on home safety and security.

Thanks to Hollywood, we have a paranoia of coming home to our house surrounded by police and firetrucks. Hopefully, that’s a bit over dramatic, but you get the picture.

Plus, we want our house to look lived in, whether we are gone for a weekend or a month. Obviously, it takes a bit more effort for the month than the weekend, but it’s not impossible.

Here we share the home preparedness checklist we run through every time we leave on vacation. You’ll find it useful for long and short trips alike. At the bottom, is a downloadable printable version, or you can bookmark this page in your browser to find it again on your next trip.

Need help organizing everything you need to do for your trip? Check out our Pre-travel Checklist: 24 Things To Help You Get Ready For Your Next Trip.

1. Hold the Mail

Don’t let mail pile up. Besides from your mail potentially being stolen, you don’t want your house to look abandoned while you are away.

In the US, the USPS will hold your mail for free between 3 – 30 days. The UK has a similar service, except the Royal Mail does charge for it (booo). If you’re in another country, check with your local post service to see what’s offered.

2. Stop All Deliveries

Along the same line of thought, stop any subscriptions or delivery services while you are gone. A common one is the newspaper. Having several days of newspapers piled on your driveway is a dead giveaway you’re on vacation.

Also, do you get any regular deliveries, like pet food, water bottles, or meal preps. Be sure to manage your accounts well in advance of your trip.

Finally, don’t order anything that may come while you’re away. If something does take a little longer than expected, you can request a delivery service to hold your package, but this doesn’t always work.

3. Manage the Lawn

In slow growing months you may get away with tidying your lawn just before you go. However, grass grows quickly in the spring and summer. Before you pack your bags, prepare your home by hiring a lawn service or a high school student to keep things under control.

4. Clean Your House

Does having a dirty house stop you from leaving for your trip? No, of course not. However, I personally feel it is one of the most important items in preparing your home before a vacation.

For two-weeks you sat on a beach, tranquilized into relaxation by the crystal blue waters lapping against the shore. Do you really you want your first thoughts as you walk through your front door to be how your home is a mess? Oh, heck no!

Get your home tidy and fresh before you go so you can keep that tranquil peace of mind a little longer.

5. Do Laundry

Don’t just wash the clothes you want to take with you, clean out as much of the hamper as you reasonably can, including towels and bed sheets. I even put a little extra softener, in hopes that the scent lasts until I get back.

6. Clean Out the Fridge

Get rid of anything that might grow legs while you’re away, or maybe already has.

When leaving the fridge plugged in, fill up water jugs to take up any empty space. This will keep the fridge from constantly running.

We also freeze a small cup of water and leave something, like a quarter, sitting on top of the ice. In a power outage, the ice may melt. The quarter tells you whether or not the outage was long enough to spoil your food.     

If you’re leaving for a lengthy time period, it may be worth ditching everything and defrosting the freezer a few days before you leave. When unplugging the fridge, leave the doors open so it airs. 

7. Set Up Lights on Timers

All our outdoor lights use dusk to dawn light bulbs. They have an internal sensor which turns them on when it gets dark. Love them!

As we prepare our home, we set up the main internal lights on seven-day timers. It takes a bit of effort to get set, but it ensures our lights don’t go off and on at the same time every day. Instead, each day has a slightly different time. Plus, our living room lights shut off just as our bedroom lights go on, like when we are home. 

8. Unplug Everything Else

Obviously, there are some things you’ll want to leave plugged in, such as the timed lights you just set up. However, unplug anything that’s not useful while your away.

9. Bring in Outdoor Furniture

Outdoor furniture can become a projectile in major storms. It’s better your outdoor furniture wait patiently in the garage than come barging through your patio window while you’re away. 

10. Get Rid of Hidden Keys

I’m not sure who still leaves keys under the mat? It’s a bad idea on a good day, but it’s a really bad idea while on vacation. Get rid of it and the one in the fake rock, and anywhere else you’ve masterfully hidden it.

11. Tell a Neighbor

Hopefully, you have a neighbor, a friend, or family you can trust nearby. This relationship can be so important when leaving your home for extended periods of time.

Even checking on the property once a week would be a massive help. Ask them to do a quick walk-through. Anything amiss? Did the power go out and reset the alarm? Are there packages you weren’t expecting?

12. Notify the Alarm Company

As you prepare for the security of your home, don’t forget to notify your alarm company of your dates.

If you’re going to be out of the country, you may even want to update who they call in case of an emergency. Even if they can reach you, there’s not a lot you can do from a bazillion miles away. Have them call a trusted neighbor who can then contact you if needed. Don’t forget to set a password they can use when the alarm company calls.

13. Leave Blinds as They Were

Blinds and curtains can be a bit tricky. On one hand, your instinct is to close them up tight so no one can see in. However, general guidance from home security companies is to leave them how you’d normally have them.

14. Remove Valuables from Sight

Just because you may leave a few curtains or blinds open, doesn’t mean you have to show off your goods. Take a walk around your house before you leave, what can you see? Put away anything that may be too tempting to criminals. Laptops, jewelry boxes, and expensive game systems should all be out of sight. 

15. Water Plants

It’s not just your home that needs to be prepared for your absence, don’t forget to prepare your plants too. Do a good watering before you leave. If you’re going to be gone for an extended amount of time, get some self-watering stakes. Not only are they pretty, but they will also keep your plants thriving.

16. Lock Doors and Windows

This one seems kinda obvious, but when you’re rushing around it’s easy to forget you opened that bathroom window and forgot to lock it back up. Check and double check everything.

17. Set the HVAC

What you set it to depends on the time of year and where you live, but don’t just turn off the HVAC. It may be nice today, but you need to prepare your home for the freeze or heat wave that’s coming next week.

In colder months, set the thermostat to freeze control or no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This should help keep your pipes from freezing while you are away.

In the summer months, humidity can be an issue. To mitigate this, set your thermostat to 84 degrees Fahrenheit as you prepare your home for your vacation.

18. Pull the Car into the Garage

Most of us leave at least one car at home while we are away. To protect it from break-ins and the weather, pull the car into the garage.

This is also where that trusted neighbor comes in handy. If you’re away for an extended period of time, ask them to run the car occasionally. Even better if they move the car around a bit, so it’s occasionally parked in different locations, then back in the garage.  

19. Set Up Web Cameras

Our outside cameras stay on all the time, but I’ve never been very comfortable having cameras inside. However, when we leave on vacation, we always set up a few in prominent areas.

Even if your cameras are always set up, check they are working correctly. Also, double-check you can view and access the footage through an online portal.

20. Take Out the Trash

Trust us, this is one you don’t want to forget. While you’re at it, thoroughly rise out the disposal.

When you’re on a long vacation consider having someone roll out your trash bins. This will help with the illusion someone is still at home.

21. Turn Off the Water

Imagine coming home from vacation to a flooded house. This happened to a former co-worker of mine, TWICE!

Learning from her first mistake, we always turn off the water at the main before we leave.

The second time it happened to her, she actually did turn off the water. What she didn’t do was drain the lines. We’ve learned from that too. Now we run the taps dry and flush the toilets before we leave. 

22. Set the Water Heater

Most newer electric water heaters actually have a vacation mode setting. It keeps the unit from freezing without wasting a lot of power.

However, it is recommended to turn off gas heaters, or any gas appliance, as you prepare your home for your trip. If your home may experience freezing temperatures while you’re away, you should also drain the tank. Remember to wait 24 hours after you’ve turned off the gas for the water to cool down before you can drain it.

23. Turn on the Alarm

Finally, everything is done and we are ready to go. Our home is prepared as much as possible for our trip. As we leave and lock the doors, we always double check the alarm is set. 

Bon Voyage!

Prepare Your Home Downloadable Checklist

Download a printable copy of this pre-travel checklist to plan your next trip.

See our Travel Resources Page for more travel planning and packing guides.

Need help organizing everything you need to do for your trip? Check out our Pre-travel Checklist: 24 Things To Help You Get Ready For Your Next Trip.

Travel Resources

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