25 essential steps to take before you start an extended vacation

Check off these 25 checklist steps — they will ensure you have a smooth vacation and an undamaged home on your return.

American Airlines A319 landing at Philadelphia International Airport. Copyright © 2018 NSL Photography. All Rights Reserved.Before you leave home for vacation, create a departure checklist. Then check off each step as you complete it to make your journey easier and keep your home safe while you’re away. You want to return home to savor the wonderful memories you made while traveling, not deal with a home disaster.

Particularly if you’re traveling for an extended time, two weeks or longer, you’ll definitely want to check off these 25 essential steps before you depart.

Notify those that need to know that you will be away, while also taking simple steps to increase your security at home and away.

Alert your credit card companies:
According to Experian, a multinational consumer credit reporting company, credit card companies generally don’t need you to warn them about domestic travel in the U.S. Some don’t require international travel notice either; however, some do. So, unless you’re sure of your credit card company’s policy, alert them.

Get an international cellular plan:
If you’re traveling internationally, unless you’re absolutely certain that you won’t use your cellphone during your trip, get an international cellular plan or be prepared to pay an exorbitant amount if you use your cellphone despite your plan not to do so.

Empty your wallet of unnecessary contents:
Remove credit cards, IDs, membership cards, etc., from your wallet that you won’t need for your journey. If they’re at home, they can’t be lost or stolen.

Notify your home security system call center:
For those who have a home security system that alerts necessary parties through a central station, let them know your departure and return dates before you travel.

Notify the police or management office:
If you live in a house, it may be wise to let the local police know you’ll be traveling. If you live in an apartment, tell the management office you’ll be away.

Don’t forget the obvious things at your home that might telegraph that you’re away…

Close and lock all your windows:
It goes without saying that you should close and lock your home’s windows and doors.

Put a hold on your mail and newspapers:
Put a hold on your mail or have a family member or friend collect it for you on a regular basis. Put a vacation hold on your newspaper deliveries. You don’t want them piling up at your door, telling criminals that you’re on vacation.

Make sure family and/or a nearby friend have the keys to enter your home:
You never know when an emergency might occur in your home while you’re away. Make sure you give your home keys and alarm codes, if you have an alarm, to a family member if they live nearby and/or to a nearby friend.

Have someone oversee the grounds of your home:
Ask a family member, friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you’re away. Have them regularly check for mail, packages and newspapers left outside and bring them in if there.

Arrange to have your houseplants watered and your lawn mowed. Set your thermostat to an appropriate temperature.

Arrange for someone to water your plants:
You don’t want to come home to dead plants. Arrange to have someone water them while you’re away.

If you’re vacationing in summer, have your lawn cut:
If you’re traveling during the spring through fall when grass grows, make sure you’ve arranged to have your lawn (if any) mowed, especially if you’re away for an extended time. Like newspapers left at your door, an unkempt lawn tells criminals you’re away from home.

Leave your thermostat at an appropriate temperature:
Your heater/air conditioner thermostat should be set appropriately while you’re away. In winter, that’s essential to ensure your pipes won’t freeze.

Give your itinerary to family and friends, check local weather forecasts at your destinations and confirm your reservations.

Give your itinerary to family and friends:
In case of emergency, at least one family member and friend not traveling with you should have your travel itinerary and all emergency phone numbers to contact you. Hopefully an emergency won’t happen, but if it does, you’ll be glad you left them with your itinerary and phone numbers.

Be sure of the expected weather at your destination(s) and for your travels to and from it:
You need to know what to wear at your destination(s). Check the local weather forecasts. They may be predicting unusual weather. You’ll also want to know what the weather will be for your departure and return home.

Check/confirm your reservations:
At least a week prior to your vacation, check and confirm your reservations to ensure they’re still set and flight times haven’t changed.

Pay your bills, clean out your fridge and bring in your outdoor gear to prevent theft.

Pay your bills:
While you’re traveling, you don’t want to have to worry about paying bills or incurring late fees and interest because your bills aren’t paid on time. Either schedule your payments or pay them in advance, before you leave on vacation. Don’t forget to have enough money in your bank account to cover the bills you’ve paid and scheduled in addition to what you’ll need on your trip.

Either eat or throw out your perishable food:
Too many forget to empty their fridge and return home to a kitchen stench and/or a fridge that needs days to air out. Ugly bugs on the loose could result, too. Don’t forget to empty your trash, clean the sink and run the dishwasher, if you have one.

Bring in outdoor furniture, pool equipment, etc.:
Don’t leave anything outside of your home that can be stolen. Stow it away.

Put lights on timers, new batteries in smoke alarms, set your shades and curtains as they are normally set and disconnect electronic devices.

Put your lights on timers:
Put your indoor lights on timers to go on and off to simulate how they would be seen from outside, if you were home. Indoor lights always off at night for days would reveal to criminals that you’re not home. Put your outdoor lights on sun sensors so they will go on and off at the right time all year whether or not you’re home.

Make sure smoke alarm batteries are fresh:
Insert fresh batteries in your smoke alarms to prevent them from chirping loudly while you’re away, alerting criminals that you’re not home.

Leave curtains and shades as normal:
Set your curtains and shades as you normally would have them so you don’t tip off criminals that you’re on vacation.

Disconnect your electronic devices before you leave:
Even if your electronic devices are plugged into surge protectors, it’s still better to disconnect them while you’re away from home. If they’re not plugged in, they can’t fall victim to power surges.

Consider a doorbell monitoring system:
For peace of mind, consider installing a doorbell monitoring system so you can see who is at your door and keep video proof, if necessary.

Resist tipping off web trolls that you’re on vacation by not posting vacation information until you’re back and take a photo of your stove and oven to confirm they’re off.

Don’t tip off web trolls:
Don’t announce that you’re about to leave on a trip, or for that matter reveal that you’re away via social media. Criminals are constantly monitoring social media for clues that people are away from home, so they know what homes to burglarize.

Take a photo of your stove and oven before you leave:
Nothing is worse than having an uncertain feeling about whether your cook-top and oven were left on when you start on your vacation, so just before you leave, photograph them so you’re certain they’re off.

If you follow these commonsense steps, you’ll significantly increase the odds that you’ll have a great trip and return to a secure, undamaged home.

(Image: American Airlines A319 landing at Philadelphia International Airport. Copyright © 2018 NSL Photography. All Rights Reserved.)