Before COVID, US residents took an average of 1.9 billion trips for leisure per year. If you’ve traveled, you probably already know that taking a vacation requires a lot of planning. Between booking flights and hotels or deciding which roads to take and sights to see, there are a lot of moving parts to a great vacation plan. But as you coordinate your travel plans, don’t forget to think about the home you’re leaving behind. Here are 20 steps to take before leaving for your vacation.
1. Notify your credit card company. If you’re going to make credit card purchases during your trip, you may want to notify your credit card company. Unusual purchases made in novel locations are sometimes interpreted as fraudulent charges and your credit card company may suspend your card to be on the safe side. Avoid the in-store embarrassment of having your card declined by calling your credit card company ahead of time.
2. Hold your mail. You can contact your post office to order a mail hold or you can ask your neighbor to pick up your mail for you. Quick tip #2.1: if you have a mailslot in your garage door, remove the basket behind it, so the mail will not back up against the mailslot opening. You can put a cardboard box on the garage floor* underneath the mailslot, so the mail will be neatly collected and waiting for your return. *If applicable in your situation, be mindful of the water that can get inside the garage.
3. Maintain your lawn. If you will be gone for more than two weeks, be sure to have someone maintain your lawn. It can be difficult to mow your lawn if it has been left to grow for more than two weeks. Plus, the neighbors might complain.
4. Move outdoor furniture indoors. Move high-value outdoor items that could be stolen to your basement, garage, or shed. This includes grills and lawn decorations.
5. Park your car in the garage. This can help prevent weather damage and burglary.
6. Clean your kitchen. Remove anything from your refrigerator that could spoil while you’re away and empty the garbage and recycling.
7. Wash your dishes. Specks of food left on dirty dishes can evolve into a biology experiment fast. Don’t come home to a kitchen that smells like a dumpster. Wash all your dirty dishes before you leave for vacation.
8. Clean your garbage disposal. Run your garbage disposal with baking soda and vinegar or sliced lemon to clean out any foul smells that could worsen while you’re away.
9. Buy frozen breakfast food. If you’ve cleaned out your fridge, there may be nothing edible for you to eat when you return from vacation. Restock your freezer with your favorite frozen breakfast foods so that you don’t have to rush to the store the day you get back. Frozen wraps or waffles are great for breakfast the first morning back after vacation.
10. Choose a fresh scent. Buy some plug-ins or potpourri so you have a new, fresh scent to come home to. If you will be gone for more than three weeks, don’t use plug-ins. They could dry up and become a fire hazard if left plugged in.
11. Put baking soda in your toilets. Stagnant water can give off a strange smell, but if you put baking soda in your toilet bowl, you won’t come home to a musty bathroom.
12. Wash your laundry. Those dirty socks are going to smell a million times worse after you return home. Don’t come home to a bedroom that smells like a gym locker. Wash, dry, and put away your laundry.
13. Make your bed. Getting into your own bed made with clean sheets can be one of the best feelings after a long day of travel.
14. Turn off your alarm clock. You don’t want your alarm clock buzzing for hours while you’re away, especially if you have pets or neighbors who might hear it.
15. Set a light timer. You can buy a simple timer at most home improvement stores. Plug the timer into an electric socket and then plug a lamp into the timer. It will turn on whenever you set it to. This can help thwart burglars as it gives the appearance that you’re home.
16. Adjust your thermostat. Raise the temperature a few degrees higher in the summer or lower in the winter to save on gas and electricity. Just make sure the temperature isn’t too extreme for household pets or plants.
17. Lower your water heater temperature. Newer water heaters have a vacation mode that drops the temperature while you’re away. Even if yours doesn’t have this, you can still turn the temperature down to save energy.
18. Turn off your water valves. Your house can flood if there is a malfunction with your dishwasher, refrigerator, washing machine, or plumbing. If you’re gone for a few days, such a flood can be catastrophic. Turning off your water valves or installing a smart water valve with an automated valve and moisture sensor, can help reduce the likelihood of a house flood if there’s a malfunction with an appliance or utility.
19. Secure your spare key. Give your spare key to a relative, friend or neighbor—even if they aren’t going to be house-sitting. If you return home and don’t have your key, you can get the spare from them. Don’t leave one under a doormat or in a plastic rock. That’s where thieves will check first.
20. Shut your windows. Lower the storm windows and close and latch all basement and first floor windows. Burglars can cut out the screen or break the storm window to slide an unlatched window open, so double-check that everything is locked.
Bonus Tip: Consider investing in smart home products to help ease the worry of leaving home. From smoke detection to security cameras, smart technology provides peace of mind you’re still in control of your home even when far away.
Vacations should be fun and relaxing. The last thing you want is to be miles from home when you realize you left your blinds open and forgot to hold your mail delivery. Nor do you want to come home to a smelly house and a fridge full of rotten food after a long day of traveling. By following these steps, you can remain relaxed on your vacation and settle back in with ease when you return.