It’s that time of year when folks leave town for long wintery holiday vacations. While the family trip may be a success, sometimes you can come home to find a mess to deal with or even worse - a catastrophe. I’ve listed all of the things I do before leaving town to make sure I can rest easy while I’m away!
I’m not going to dive into the tips for preparing for travel like calling the bank, or preparing an itinerary for your trip. (But I do have a post on what I pack and how to travel sustainably.) I’m going to focus on the tasks to do at home, or rather, for your home.
I’m going to start with the tasks to do earliest, then make my way to the ones to do just before heading out the door. They’re pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll just explain anyway! You can also download the checklist, here.
Recruit house watchers
Wether its a neighbor, a house sitter, or a friend you recruited, have someone keep their peepers on your house periodically. You’re bound to still get a solicitation for pizza delivery on your doorstep, so find a nice person that will grab those for you. Even if we have a house sitter, I like to tell our neighbors when we’re away. I give them our phone numbers and let them know who they can expect to see checking on the house so they can spot something fishy.
Arrange for pets
This goes without saying. Make sure those critters are well fed, watered, and loved while you’re away.
Get all the bills taken care of before leaving. You don’t want anything to go overdue, especially the electrical/gas so your heating doesn’t go out in the dead of winter.
Tune up the alarm
Make sure your alarm will take care of the house in an emergency. Ensure the batteries are recharged, and depending on your alarm company, let them know you’re leaving. You can change who they notify during an emergency, but some require it in writing, so plan ahead! If you don’t have an alarm, I highly recommend the alarm system we have which isn’t hardwired and can be easily set up in an afternoon.
Put a hold on the mail
Avoid making your home good prey for thieves by preventing mail from piling up outside and signaling you’re away. You can easily put your mail on hold with USPS online. Don’t forget about newspapers, too. Beware that other delivery services will still deliver packages, so avoid placing orders in advance of your departure, or see item number one.
Set up lights on timers
Confuse those burglars by making it look like you’re at home in the evening. You can use a simple old-school timer or get a fancier one that can be multi-programmed and even controlled while you’re away.
Freeze a hearty meal
Prepare some grub before you leave so you can enjoy a hearty meal when you get home.
Hide that spare key
If you have a spare key under a front door mat, consider tucking it somewhere less conspicuous. The popular fake rock is always a good option - as long as you sufficiently hide the rock, too.
Mow the lawn
Cut the grass a little lower than usual if you’ll be away long enough that the lawn could look overgrown before you come back. We don’t want a disheveled yard to be a signal to criminals that you’re away, and we don’t want neighbors thinking you’re some sort of lazy mower.
Water indoor plants
If I had a dollar for every house plant I killed while I was on vacation because I forgot to water them, I’d be a millionaire!
There’s nothing like coming home to a freshly clean and tidy house. Plus, a deep clean should keep the critters away.
Empty the fridge of perishables
Be like Joey. Eat everything that can go bad, or compost the excess grub if you can’t expand your stomach like Joey.
Seal boxes of food and dry goods
I’d vote to just eat everything, but if you already overate when cleaning out the fridge, you can just seal up dry food. A basic chip clip will do, or decant things in jars if you want a pantry that looks like Pinterest.
Run the dishwasher
Leaving food to cake onto the dishes for a whole vacation makes me cringe.
Wash bedding and make bed
The best thing about coming home is crawling into a super fresh, super well-tucked bed. Just try to name something better.
Wipe washing machine dry
Make sure no damp clothes are left in the washing machine, and then dry out the drum and gasket so it doesn’t get mildew-y while you’re away.
Change the thermostat settings so energy isn’t wasted heating/cooling an empty house. Of course, keep it comfortable for pets and house-sitters. If you’re in a chilly place, make sure not to drop the temperature so low that pipes could freeze.
Save energy and money by unplugging electronics and appliances. Plus, this can avoid electrical fires.
Deep clean garbage disposal
Make sure food isn’t sitting stagnant in the garbage disposal. I like to toss in a couple of ice cubes and some lemon juice to clean the blades. Then, some baking soda and vinegar will make a nice fizzy cleaner for the sides. Be sure to clean that rubber strainer between the sink and disposal, too!
Put hot water heater in vacation mode
There’s a lot of debate about what to do with water heaters out there. My vote to save energy and money is to put it in vacation mode (or the lowest temperature setting). Some say to turn off the water supply and turn the heater off completely but this can cause pipes to freeze and burst, or damage the heater. If you turn off the electric heater completely, make sure to fill it with water first (if you turned off the water, too) before turning on the power to the heater. Doing this in the wrong order could mean you ruin the heating element if it isn’t submerged in water.
Turn off water supply
Cutting off the main water supply is recommended to prevent leaks and flooding. However, there’s some debate on this, depending on your appliances and how they respond. Of course, leave the water on if you need to irrigate the garden or if house-sitters need water for say, the toilet.
Close blinds & lock windows
Prevent lookie-loos by drawing the curtains. While you’re there, make sure the windows are all locked up.
Check garage for creatures and lock up
When I was a kid, my beloved cat went missing around Christmas-time. I was devastated and sure he was dead, but he showed up three weeks later. Some detective work clued us in that he had been locked in someone’s garage while they were out on vacation. It breaks my heart, so please check for critters before you lock up!
Take out trash
Don’t come home to a smelly dump.
Download the checklist to print it off and mark of the to-do items then enjoy your travels!
Once you hit the road, here are my tips for traveling minimally and sustainably, plus all my tips and tricks for being on the road: