When your getting ready to go on vacation, we often are so excited to go and are thinking of all that we are going to do and see that we overlook to do a checklist to prepare our home before leaving. However, don’t let the prospect of a well-deserved vacation having you turn a blind eye to the hazards of leaving your home without any protection.
When you are out of town and enjoying yourself, its great to not have to think or be concerned about what you might find when your return home. Therefore, in order to minimize the amount of potential “surprises” waiting for you when you get home I am going to give you my suggestions on what you can and should do to vacation proof your home before you leave because as the ol saying goes ” an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.
Here are my top suggestions as well as tips that should be on your to do list before leaving so that you can come home to a secure and clean house:
Put your Mail on Hold – This is probably the simplest yet most overlooked thing to do. All you need to do is go to the United States Post Office at USPS.COM ( for those in the U.S. of course) and just let them know when you would like the mail to stop and when you want it to restart. Its as simple as that. They will do this from anywhere between 3 days to 30 so if you are going past that amount of time you may want to think of getting a PO Box and have your mail forwarded to there or use the USPS forwarding service
Clean out Refrigerator and take out the garbage- Who likes to come back to a home and open up the refrigerator and the first thing they get is that smell of old food? It only has to happen to you once for you to not forget again. Just when you are about to leave don’t forget to wipe off the counter tops and unload the dishwasher and make sure there is no food in the drain that will go bad and attract bugs. Also take out that last garbage bag or two and ask you neighbor if you can put it in their garbage bin because you don’t want yours to be out by the street the whole time you are away.
Home Exterior – If you are going to be gone for, I would say, at least 2 weeks you should Keep your lawn and exterior well maintained. You can do this by having a lawn service come by or hire a kid to come and mow the lawn or if its winter to shovel the snow out of the driveway so it gives the appearance of someone being at the house.
Don’t post on Social Media – I know its tempting to let everyone know where you are when on vacation and show them all the amazing things you are seeing and doing. This may seem harmless while you are posting, but you need to keep in mind that there are other out there who look for just those people that do that so they know exactly where you are when you will be back in order to take advantage, so try to stop sending up posts until you get home.
Store Valuables – As an old Vietnam Vet used to tell me: “there are no degrees in careful”. If you have a safety deposit box, it would be a good idea to place your most valuable items such as jewelry or family heirlooms in here just in case an unfortunate incident should happen while you are away. If you don’t have a safety deposit box there are some ways to “hide” them at home. A couple of ways that I have heard, but I have not done myself, are by wrapping them up in a non descript bag or aluminum foil and putting it in the freezer or in your kids room behind some of those toys.
Turn up the Thermostat – There is no sense in keeping the house cool when there is no one at home. But by the same token, I don’t think its not a good idea to turn the thermostat completely off either. I would recommend that you set it at about 85 degrees Fahrenheit while you are away. This way when that electric bill comes in the number is not so surprising. If you are leaving in the winter, then that is a little different. I would say to set the temperature to about 50 in order to keep any pipes from breaking.
Extra Tip: While your at it unplug small appliances, computers and unused televisions. This will also minimize the chances of any damage if their is a power surge.
Take care of Pets – Another obvious one here , but make sure you have a reliable friend or neighbor take care of your pets. If its a dog, I would recommend that you have it stay at your friend or neighbors house. I have known people who just have people come by the house to let the dog out for a few minutes a couple of times a day to take care of business and then leave it alone in the house the rest of the time. I think this is unfair to the dog and I would suggest having the dog stay with the care taker. For other pets such as cats, fish etc. it may not be as imperative but still might be worth doing in case anything should happen to them, it will be noticed sooner.
If you don’t have someone that you think you can rely on, then take a look at a service such as rover.com to have them looked after. Just make sure they have a way of getting ahold of you while you are away.
Get Timers for your Lights – This is a inexpensive way of deterring criminals. Go to your local hardware store or even Amazon and pick up a Smart Digital Light Timer for your lights. This way you can have them go on and off at certain times and this will give the appearance that someone is home. If your house is dark all the time you are away, its not going to take a lot for someone to figure out that your not a home!
Alarm and Video – If you don’t have a security system set up at your house with companies such as ADT, then you should go out a get a system with alarms and video that you can see from your cell phone. There are a lot of great options out there such as the Netgear Arlo Pro 2. You should however consider your needs and your budget to see what system will work best for you. Also don’t forget to lock all doors, windows and fence. Locking your fence are sometimes overlooked and one of the easiest ways someone can get to look around your backyard without causing much alarm.
Tell a Friend – Perhaps you forgot to turn something off in the house, or you notice something peculiar happening at that house via your online security system. Now they don’t necessarily need to have a day by day accounting of what and where you will be but at the same time It always valuable for a friend or relative who lives nearby have your number should should something unexpected come up or if they notice something unusual and want to let you know about it!
Hidden Key – We all know one so lets get that out of the way first.. But if WE know that .. guess what.. so do the intruders. So what should be done about it? If you keep it in the typical and traditional places for example, like under a door mat, then get it out of there and put it someplace that only you would know to look. Since you are going on vacation I would take it away altogether and just put it in that new place when you get back home. You also may want to think about putting in a keyless lock so you don’t even have to be considered about this not only while you are away but also when you are home.
By following these tips and strategies for of preparing your home as well as your family for you vacation, you can be confident that when you get home all will be in order and the only thing you and your family will talk about was how great a time you had and where you are going to go next!