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22July

Going on a vacation is exciting and fun, but before you leave for your trip, you will want to ensure that your home is prepared for you to be away. Some of these items may seem like overkill, but they can save you a lot of stress and money.

Below you will find a thorough checklist of things you should prepare in your home before you go on vacation. Keep in mind all the items below are to help keep burglars away and your home safe while you are out having fun. Completing the items isn’t a foolproof system, but it will help deter crime and prevent damage to your home.

Hold Mail & Newspapers

Do you still get newspapers delivered to your house? If so, that is a tell-tale way to inform everyone you haven’t been home for a while. Nothing worse than advertising that you are on vacation.  That is an open invitation for thieves to take advantage of your situation.

The same goes for your mail so you will want to call the postal office and place a hold on your mail. This is especially true if you don’t have a locking mailbox and people passing by could easily see you haven’t picked up mail in a while.

Front Porch

Nowadays door-to-door salespeople leave all sorts of flyers and marketing material on your front door when you are not home. In some housing tracks, it’s not uncommon to have 4-5 different marketing flyers left around your front porch area. Nothing advertises that you aren’t home more than these marketing materials cluttering your front porch area while you are on vacation.

It’s a good idea to make arrangements with a neighbor or a good friend that can come by a few times per week and ensure these items get picked up.

Set Thermostat

Since you will be gone, you will have to change your thermostat settings until you get back. Some people turn their HVAC systems off completely while others don’t want it to get too cold or hot, so they set it accordingly.

Set Water Heater to Vacation Mode

Did you know your water heater has a vacation setting? No worries, most people don’t either, but most water heaters have a “vacation mode” setting, which is usually the lowest temperature setting to keep your water heater at while you are away. If for some reason your brand of water heater doesn’t have a “vacation” setting then just set yours to the lowest setting while you are away.

Smoke Detectors

When is the last time you checked your smoke detectors to ensure they are working properly or changed their batteries? It is recommended that you handle this before departing on your trip. If something were to go wrong, there is a good chance a neighbor would hear something and alert emergency services.

Garbage Disposal

Something that can be easily overlooked is your garbage disposal. Often when you leave your home for several days, the disposal has small chunks of food and debris from your sink in it. This can start to smell after a few days so you will want to treat your garbage disposal before leaving on vacation. To help with this potential problem ensure you run hot water down your sink with some bleach or vinegar.

Motion Activated Flood Lights

If you don’t already have motion-activated floodlights, you should invest in them. If you buy the LED ones, they may cost you a little more upfront but will save on energy cost in the long run. Plus the LED bulbs last for a long time.

Ensure you have a few of these type of lights around your house. If someone tries to walk up to your house at night, the lights will turn on and light up the area. Thieves usually run away, not knowing if someone was home and turned on the light or not.

Empty Dishwasher and Leave Cracked

Don’t leave dirty dishes in your dishwasher for several reasons. One, nobody wants to come home to dirty dishes which may stink up your house while you are gone. Secondly, you want to empty the dishwasher and leave it cracked open a little. This will allow for any standing water to quickly evaporate while you are gone.

Move Hidden Spare Key

Many homeowners have a spare key hidden in their yard somewhere. If you are going on vacation, it is a good idea to pick up your hideaway key and put it in a safe place until you return. Please don’t make it easy for people to break into your home, remove the key.

Unplug Kitchen Appliances

Any appliances or electrical device that is plugged in draws electricity and costs you money. It is recommended that you unplug all your kitchen appliances and other household items to save money and remove additional risks. Things that are worth unplugging are toasters, televisions, computers, microwaves, blenders, radios, alarm clocks, and related items.

Turn Off Water

Will your house need water while you are away? This is a tricky one because your landscaping and pool may need water while you are gone. If this is the case, you can turn off the water from each fixture in your house like toilets, sinks, etc. If you don’t have to worry about landscaping, you may consider turning off the water supply altogether.

Why turn off the water? You don’t want a water leak to occur when you are not home. Catching a water leak an hour or so after the leak starts won’t be nearly as costly as a water leak that has gone on for days.

Set Lights to Timer

An excellent security tip is to use a timer to turn on and off interior lights in your house while you are away. If you have a smart home, this can quickly be done. If your home doesn’t, don’t worry, you can pick up a timer switch and any home improvement store.

Check Pool Pump

Ensure your pool pump is in good working order and on the proper schedule before you leave for vacation. Your pool pump should run approximately eight hours per day. This will ensure your pool stays clean and debris free while you are gone. A few other things to check are the pool water levels and the PH balance.

Clean out Fridge

If you know you are going to be on vacation for a while, and there are specific foods that will expire before you get back, remove them now. There is nothing worse than coming back to a stinky refrigerator full of rotten food.

Vehicles

If you have a car or two, it’s vital to secure them and position them, so it looks like people are home. Your home is less likely to experience a break in if there is a car parked in the front driveway. If you have two cars, you may want to secure one in the garage and park the other one in the driveway.

House Plants

The night before you leave ensure that you give your plants a heavy dose of watering. If you have someone that will be checking on your house, you can add watering plants to their list. If not plants can usually survive a week without water, but it depends on the specific plant. Other methods involve placing a jug of water and using string to ensure the plants get moisture.

Cut the Lawn

If you do your yard work, you will want to ensure you cut your grass and any other weekly yard maintenance before you leave for vacation. This is especially true for vacations that a longer than one-week in duration.

Garbage Cans

Who will take out your garbage cans and bring them back in for you? This is an excellent chore for a neighbor’s teenager to do. It’s important that the trash cans not only go out, but they are put back promptly after trash pick-up.

Spray for Bugs

It’s always a good idea to spray for bugs before you leave. Nobody wants to come back from a vacation with an ant invasion or other insects taking up residence in your house.

Alarm System

If you have an alarm system you will want to notify the alarm company the dates you will be gone. This will help with their response if an alarm goes off while you are away.  Also, you may have to provide the alarm company alternate phone numbers if you will be unreachable.

Roof and Gutters

It is a good idea to check and clean out your gutters before you leave on vacation. If there is a rainstorm and your gutters are clogged, this could cause flood damage.  A simple cleaning now can save you from a big headache down the road.

Lock Your Pet Door

Most people forget to lock their pet door when they leave. It’s not hard for a burglar to squeeze through a pet door to gain access to your home. In some cases, even if the pet door is small, an intruder may be able to reach the lock or use a device to reach and unlock your door.

Windows

You will want to check every window in your home to ensure that it is properly locked. It is also a good idea to close the curtains or blinds so people cannot see in your house. If you have a two-story ensure those windows are locked as well; however, you could leave a blind or two open, so it looks like someone is home.

Toilets

Have you ever flushed a toilet that hadn’t been flushed for a long time? There is usually some odor that smells like rotten eggs. To help prevent this you can add a splash of bleach to the toilet water. If you are gone for a long duration, you may consider wrapping your toilet to prevent evaporation.

Pantry

Your pantry can be a festival for bugs if you don’t store things correctly. Any opened bags or boxes of food must get sealed in a plastic bag to prevent insects from invading. Also, if you have any food about to expire, you may want to throw it away now rather than letting it sit in your pantry only to have to throw it away when you return.

Contact Details

You will want to let one of your neighbors know you are taking off for a while. This way if there is a problem with your house they can contact you and let you know. If you are on a vacation where you will not have access to a phone for a while, then you will want to provide that neighbor with contact information for essential home services. This might include a plumber, gardener, or anything related to ensure your home has what it needs.

Billy Henley
Billy Henley is the Vice President of Operations for BHI Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning. Before becoming vice president, he worked six years in the field as a service technician and has over ten years of experience working in the industry. Billy often shares his knowledge about plumbing and HVAC issues on industry publications.