Follow these 17 pre-vacation steps at home before you leave. Don’t worry during your travels.
Vacations are supposed to be stress-free. You don’t want to worry about your home while traveling. I’ve got 17 pre-vacation steps for you to take before you start on your vacation. Call it journey commonsense.
Keys, itinerary, and alarm code:
Choose trusted family members and friends to give the keys to your home, and if you have an alarm, its password, and the emergency code. That way, while you’re away, they’ll be able to take care of any problems for you. Give each a letter authorizing them to be in your home if the police are called. If you can, get the letter notarized to add to its authenticity. One of the most important pre-vacation steps is to ensure they have your itinerary and contact information while you’re on vacation, in case they need to contact you.
Use journey commonsense. Simulate that you’re home with lights that go on and off like when you’re still there.
Light timers and sensors:
These pre-vacation steps will make your home look lived-in while you’re away. Put your lights on timers and sensors. I recommend you put your exterior lights on light sensors all year round, so they will automatically adjust to the longer/shorter days. You may want to get the ones that use light and motion sensors. Use timers in your bedroom(s) and other living spaces to approximate when you normally turn lights on and off at home.
I recommend programmable thermostats for every home, Internet-enabled, if possible. They can save you money all year and allow you to keep an eye on the temperature in your home. We also use it to turn our heat or air conditioner back to normal when we’re close to returning home so it’s comfortable for our arrival. While you’re away, change your thermostat setting to save on your energy bill, but don’t turn it too low in winter. You don’t want your pipes to freeze.
Nothing screams louder that you’re away like newspapers and mail overflowing from a mail slot, on steps, or on the lawn in front of your home.
Stop your papers and your mail:
You usually have to do these pre-vacation steps at least a few days before leaving. You don’t want thieves quickly determining you’re on vacation, so if you get newspaper deliveries to your home, schedule stop and restart dates before you leave. Do the same with your mail. Even if you stop your newspapers and mail, have a friend or family member check to ensure they’re stopped. Alternatively, ask them to bring it in, but only if they can do it daily.
If you have a pet, unless you’re taking it with you, don’t wait until the last minute to make arrangements for it. A house/pet sitter is a great alternative to use. It has a major benefit of actually having someone actively living in and taking care of your home while you’re away.
Without a cellphone plan when traveling internationally, you’ll come home to a huge bill from your cell provider.
Cellphone plan for international travel:
Without an international plan, cellphone use, while you’re traveling abroad, is beyond expensive. Smartphones can be a real lifeline when you’re away from home, so if you’re traveling internationally, sign up for the best international cellphone plan that matches your expected use of calls, texts and data usage. Don’t forget that many cellphone apps, not just your web browser, use data.
Arrange for your trash to be put out on the correct day after you leave to ensure you won’t return home to a stinky mess and to thwart thieves who are smart enough to check the trash and see it’s the same as the week before, if it’s outside and available for inspection.
Schedule or pay bills:
Make sure your bills are up to date or scheduled to be paid on time through your entire vacation and a few days thereafter. Be certain that you have enough in your account to pay any bills that you schedule.
After newspapers and mail sitting in front of your door for days, an unkempt lawn is the biggest tell-tale sign for thieves that screams that you’re on vacation.
Lawn, flower beds, outside grounds:
If you’re taking an extended vacation for more than about 10 days, from spring through fall arrange to have your lawn mowed regularly. Flower beds should be kept in good order while you’re on vacation. An unkempt lawn and flower beds are a sure sign that you’re away on a trip for an extended time. Take these pre-vacation steps.
Arrange for your house plants to be watered while you’re vacationing. Don’t put your plants in a single place that can be seen from outside for the convenience of your friend or relative who’s coming in to water them. If a thief can see plants amassed together, it’s a tip-off that you’re away.
Don’t set your shades, blinds, and curtains to a position that tells thieves that you’re away from home for an extended time.
Shades, blinds, curtains:
It is journey commonsense. When you leave, pull down your shades and blinds, plus close your curtains, but only to the same degree that you would do it when you’re home. If you pull down your shades and blinds and close your curtains fully, you’re tipping off thieves that you’re vacationing. Just like with lights on timers, you want to simulate your home life to the extent you can.
Notify credit card companies:
Let your credit card companies know you’ll be traveling before going on vacation. Tell them where you’ll be and when to avoid calling them while traveling to have your charges go through.
If you have a burglar alarm at home connected to a central station that notifies either private security of the local police, notify them of your vacation dates, as it will speed their response to your home if the alarm is activated. Also notify them of who they should contact by phone locally if the alarm is activated.
Don’t return home to a mess that will quickly ruin a great vacation. Clean up your home and throw out perishables from the fridge before you leave.
Clean up your home:
I don’t know anyone who would want to return from a great vacation to confront a messy home. Use these pre-condition tips. Tidy up your home before you leave and don’t forget the kitchen. Pour some vinegar down your garbage disposal and run it before you leave.
Clean out the fridge:
If it’s perishable and might spoil before you return home, clean it out of your refrigerator. You don’t want to come home to a fridge that you have to turn off and air out for hours.
Turn off your water supply if it’s a long trip:
If you’re going to be away from home for more than a week, turn off your water supply to prevent coming home to a mess and possibly mold from a water leak. If you’re traveling for a short time, turn off the water to your ice maker, dishwasher, clothes washer and toilets.
And here are just a few last minute details that will keep you from worrying.
Just before you depart:
Check your windows to make sure they’re closed and locked. Use journey commonsense. Make sure your stove and oven(s) are turned off and take a photo of them off with your cellphone for reassurance an hour of two after you’ve left, when you start to wonder if you turned them off. Check your doors to make sure they’re all shut and locked.
Following journey commonsense will help you protect your home and give you peace of mind while on vacation. You’ll enjoy it, rather than worry that you’ll return to find you’re cleaned out or have a mess.
After many years working in corporate America as a chemical engineer, executive and eventually CFO of a multinational manufacturer, Ned founded a tech consulting company and later restarted NSL Photography, his photography business. Before entering the corporate world, Ned worked as a Public Health Engineer for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. As a well known corporate, travel and wildlife photographer, Ned travels the world writing about travel and photography, as well as running photography workshops, seminars and photowalks. Visit Ned’s Photography Blog and Galleries.