20 Tips for Prepping Your Home Before Going on Vacation

Michael Kelly

“Oh, I forgot to clean the lint basket in the dryer. If someone broke into the house and did laundry, it could start a fire.” – Marge Simpson on the worries of traveling.

In 2016, US residents took 1.7 billion trips for leisure. If you will be contributing to this year’s total (and hopefully you will be), 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.

SEE ALSO: Traveling? Are You Covered by Insurance?

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.

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 a sliced lemon to clean out any foul smells that could worsen while you’re away.

9. Buy frozen breakfast food. Whether 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. You’ll probably return from your vacation in the afternoon or evening. 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 improvements 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 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.

READ MORE: Resetting Your Life After a Long Vacation

17 Responses to "20 Tips for Prepping Your Home Before Going on Vacation"

  • Mike | July 7, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    The above advice to shut off the gas to a gas water heater applies similarly to electric and oil-fired water heaters. Water expands when heated, and contracts when cooled. This is happening constantly in your water heater tank, which pushes and pulls a small amount of water from the tank into and out of your plumbing system. Since your plumbing system has a fixed volume, that change in water volume is accommodated by your public or private water supplier’s system. However, if you have shut off your main water valve, this exchange with your water supplier cannot occur. The result will be a pressure buildup within your water heater tank and your plumbing system. That pressure is partially relieved by the water heater temperature and pressure relief valve, which will dribble a small amount of hot water onto your floor as a result. The remaining excess pressure will stress your water pipes, water heater tank, toilet fill valves, and faucets, possibly eventually leading to a leak. If you want to close your main valve while you are on vacation, you can eliminate the hot water expansion/overpressure problem by: (1) turning the water heater thermostat to off, or (2) slightly opening a bath tub faucet in an upper floor to keep the plumbing system depressurized, or (3) having a plumber install an expansion tank in your plumbing system. If you have your own well, your pressure tank acts as an expansion tank as long as the main supply valve is kept open.

  • Anne | July 2, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    If traveling means I'm going to miss my garbage pickup, I put items that will get really smelly (banana peels, meat trays, bones, etc.) in plastic grocery bags and store them in my freezer. A full freezer uses less energy and I just throw them in the garbage when I get back.

  • PEGGY DREXLER | June 28, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    GREAT TIPS!!! Will be using them soon!! Thank you!!!!!

  • Extra Mile Staff | June 25, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Good tip! Thanks for sharing.

  • Extra Mile Staff | June 25, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Good tips!

  • GrannyNanny | June 24, 2018 at 3:39 am

    If there is a storm with lightning while I am away, it could hit the TV if it's plugged in. Before I leave for vacation, I unplug the cable TV and coffeemaker. I also transfer calls from my home phone to my cell phone.

  • Harold Eltzroth | June 24, 2018 at 12:31 am

    Also turn off any ceiling fans that you have on. I also have Computer and desk equipment, TV components on power strips, they all get shut down when we leave. Harold, Retired Firefighter

  • Ml Martin | June 22, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    All great tips. Be sure to give your itinerary to someone you trust in case of emergencies.

  • Jeff | June 22, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    I have seen the floods from burst pipes both in winter and gushing out the door in summer. I shut off the power to my well pump. No worries!

  • Dwight Edwards | June 22, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    It is a good idea to unplug your non-essential electrical items like the toaster, coffee maker, computer, TV and lamps while you are gone to reduce electric usage and potential electrical fire or damage to appliance due to power outage surges while you are away.

  • JCheek | June 22, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    Excellent tips. Quite a few that I never considered.

  • Robert | June 21, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Don't forget to hold your paper delivery. (Yes, there are still many folks who get a daily paper and don't rely on the internet for news.) I had a potentially bad incident where they forgot to hold my papers until I returned and delivered all10 days worth to my street sleeve one day which was a glaring invitation to rob my place. Fortunately it didn't happen...I was lucky...

  • Lawrence Sullivan | June 21, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    Do NOT shut water main off if you do not shut off gas supply to hot water heater. Could cause pressure in tank if away for extended period.

  • Lise Lunser | June 21, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    Never thought of the water valves or lowering water heater. Thanks for those tips!

  • Betty York | June 20, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    Very good advice thank you

  • Penelope. Till /files | June 19, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    Very good tips very help full

  • Cheryl Derrickson | June 19, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    Great tip some I haven’t thought of Thank you!!

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