Yay – summer’s almost here! And that means that summer fun is just around the corner. With kids out of school for the summer, many families try to squeeze in at least one vacation somewhere fun. But while you’re getting your bags packed and crossing off all those last-minute to-do’s, it’s important not to forget about getting your home ready for vacation at the same time.
Taking a few key steps to get things ready is more important than you’d think. So to help you plan for a safe and uneventful return home after your vacation is over, make sure you take these steps before you leave:
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Is Your Home Ready For Vacation? Take These Steps:
1. Notify the right people, NOT the whole world
The people you should tell about your upcoming trip include the following:
- Your neighbors – also alert them to whom, if anyone, will be coming and going while you’re gone, so they don’t call the police on the kid you hired to feed your fish or walk the dog
- The post office – for those of you who live in the U.S., you can put your mail on hold for free, in less than five minutes, from the U.S. Postal Service’s website
- Your security company, if you have a home alarm
- Your credit card companies, so they don’t notice unusual activity on your account that causes them to block it
If you expect any packages while you’re away, it’s also a good idea to have a neighbor watch for them and take them inside. (It’s also an excellent idea to leave a trusted neighbor with a copy of your house key, so they can get into your home in an emergency.)
What you should NOT do is announce your upcoming vacation on social media. It’s not hard in this day and age to figure out where someone lives. And announcing a pending trip to the world is like saying, “Hey, we’ll be gone, so please break into our house while we’re out of town!”
2. Get those maintenance issues dealt with
If you’ve been putting off dealing with that leaky faucet or running toilet, or haven’t gotten around to the fall service on your furnace yet, get these things taken care of BEFORE your trip. Ditto for the wall switch or light fixture that’s been giving off the occasional sparks.
Think about it: If that pipe decides to break or that spark causes a fire, it’s one thing when you’re around to catch it. But if your house is empty because you’re on vacation, the likelihood someone will notice the problem before it’s caused a lot of damage is pretty low. And you don’t want to come home to the aftermath of a flood or fire.
So take care of those regular service checks before you leave, and get those plumbing issues you’ve been putting off dealt with. You’ll be in a much better position to enjoy your trip without having to worry if you’ll still have a house to come home to.
3. Double-check your home’s security
I’ve written elsewhere on making sure your home is a less inviting place for would-be thieves, but before a trip is always a great time to double-check everything. Make sure your door locks are in working order. If not, get them fixed before you leave.
RELATED POST: Tips to Keep Your Home Safe From Burglars
Also ensure that all the windows are securely closed locked before you leave. If you have double locks on your doors, make sure they’re all locked as you head out. Trimming your hedges before a trip is also a good idea, so there are fewer places for would-be intruders to hide.
4. Leave things looking lived-in
Especially if you’ll be gone for a week or more, you should have a plan to make sure your home still looks “lived in” while you’re gone. If you have a smart house, consider turning things on and off remotely at random intervals, just as if there were someone in the home.
Or get several 7-day programmable timers to put on some of your outlets. They’re really not that expensive, and with some creative planning, you can remotely run various appliances and lights on a more random schedule (similar to if you were at home) than if you just had one light set to turn on and off every 24 hours.
Likewise, plan ahead for weather-related seasonal issues. Make sure that the lawn still gets mowed and the snow gets shoveled/plowed, or else it will be super-easy for burglars to tell that no one is around.
5. Put it away
Even if you’ve taken the above precautions, you still shouldn’t leave goodies lying around in plain sight! Keeping your favorite gadgets inside a pot (or somewhere equally creative) will make it that much harder for thieves to locate them.
If you have a home safe, put your valuables in (jewelry, laptops, etc.) before you leave town, and hide the key or take it with you. It’s also wise to take a walk around your home and check out what people can see through your windows. This might give you some tips on things you hadn’t thought about. Like the fact that your home-office desk is right next to a window on the ground floor, where it’s easy for people to see the contents from outside. Just sayin’.
6. Make peeking in harder
It’s also worth considering drawing your drapes or blinds before you leave, so it’s harder for people to see in through your windows. We usually keep ours drawn most of the time in winter (to block the cold) and summer (to block the heat) anyway. But even if you don’t usually have them drawn on (say) your porch doors, going away on a trip is a good time to do so.
7. Pare down your food
And on a totally separate note, put away all those foodstuffs that you might leave out on the counter from day to day. Make sure the bread basket and fruit bowl are empty, or put that last apple in the fridge and the bread in the freezer (you can use it to make croutons when you get home!).
Likewise, be sure that any leftovers in the fridge go one of three places before your trip: your belly, the freezer, or (last resort) the trash/your compost pile. You don’t want to come home to a stinky fridge.
8. Reprogram and unplug to save (within reason)
Assuming you have a programable thermostat, one of the last things you should do before you head out is adjust your home’s energy usage for while you’re away. Just don’t go overboard.
What do I mean by this? Well, for starters, you can unplug appliances that don’t need to stay on and would otherwise drain energy (televisions, microwaves, charging stations, etc.). It’s also a good idea to reset your thermostat. If you have a programmable one, it’s easy-peasy to do this; otherwise, you can manually adjust the dial.
Just don’t take it to extremes. You don’t want to drop your thermostat below 55 degrees F in the winter, or you’ll risk frozen and burst pipes. Likewise, if you run central air in your home during the summer, you probably don’t want to leave it shut up for a week or two with the AC completely off. We usually set the temp on our thermostat as high as 80 degrees F when we’re away in the summer.
9. Leave time for a last-five-minute check
Last thing before you depart on your trip, set aside five minutes for those “last things”:
- Make sure you’ve gotten that last load of laundry out of the washer, and the dryer is off
- Clear the dirty dishes out of the sink, and set the dishwasher on rinse cycle unless it’s empty
- Tidy the countertops as needed
- Double-check the windows and doors to make sure they’re closed/locked
- Empty your kitchen trash can, and put in a clean trash bag
One of the best tips my mama ever taught me for getting your home ready for vacation is how wonderful it is to come home to a nice, clean space.
10. Keep your mouth shut while you’re gone
And I’ll finish this post back where I started: Try not to broadcast your vacation on social media too much while you’re away!
It is so tempting to post lots of pictures of yourself off in some fabulous foreign city or fancy resort, all over social media.
Try to resist the urge. Wait until you get home. Otherwise, you’re constantly announcing to the world that your home is empty and waiting for intruders to enter.
So those are my top 10 tips for getting your home ready for vacation; what are yours? Let us know in the comments!
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