The holidays can be a busy and stressful time for most of us—even if we’re staying home to celebrate. But add vacation preparation into the mix with gift buying and entertaining, and there’s a possibility something could get missed.
If you’re leaving town and your place will be unoccupied while you’re away, find time amidst all the merrymaking to check off the following items from your “To Do” list. If you take these steps to safeguard your sanctuary, you’ll be guaranteed a warm welcome with no unpleasant surprises upon your return.
1. Check the Alarm
Your home alarm system is not an effective deterrent if it doesn’t work. First thing on your list should be to check that the batteries are charged. Then let your alarm company know you’ll be gone. Depending on the company, you may have to let them know who to notify in an emergency if you’ll be unreachable. If you don’t have an alarm (or even if you do), try to recruit a trusted friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your place.
2. Shut Off the Water Supply
This is vital to prevent leaks and flooding. No one wants to come home to a plumbing emergency or flooded home. Experts recommend that you turn off the water at the mains even for short trips. For winter vacations, go a step further and drain all the water from the pipes as well to prevent them from bursting if the temperature plummets.
3. Adjust the Thermostat
Lower your electricity bill by lowering the thermostat a bit so you’re not wasting energy keeping an empty house toasty. If there’s a chance the weather could turn cold, you don’t want to turn the heating off completely and risk those pipes freezing. If your locale is warmer, leaving the A/C on but turned up a few degrees higher than normal will prevent mold and humidity.
4. Lower the Water Heater
Just as there’s no need to heat an unoccupied house, there’s no need to keep a plentiful supply of hot water either when no one’s using it. Many newer water heaters have a preprogrammed vacation mode that will keep the water around 50°F so it won’t freeze and cause a flood. If your water heater is older and doesn’t have vacation mode, turn it down manually to its lowest setting to save energy and money.
5. Hold the Mail
If circulars and envelopes are spilling from your mailbox and newspapers are scattered around outside while you’re gone, you may as well make a big sign saying, “nobody’s home.” In the absence of a friend or helpful neighbor who can come by every couple of days to gather your mail, the best idea is to put delivery on hold. You can do this easily online with USPS. To avoid packages being left outside, don’t place orders with other delivery services right before you leave.
6. Put Lights on Timers
If you buy a timer with multiple on/off and random settings, you’ll be better able to fool any potential burglar who may be eyeing up your place. Lights turning on and off in various rooms at random times mimic real homelife better than just having one switch go on and off at set times every day. If you live in an area that has a higher frequency of break-ins, you might even consider getting an additional alarm that barks like a dog when anyone approaches the house.
7. Clean Your Home
This one may not be on your list of essential items to do before leaving on vacation, but it’s a really good idea if you can find the time. Vacuuming and wiping down surfaces helps you avoid a home invasion by creepy crawlies and rodents. Cleaning out the fridge of perishable food, running the dishwasher, and emptying the garbage and recycling right before you leave means you can come home to a sweet-smelling kitchen with no putrefying trash to lure critters.
8. Disinfect Your Garbage Disposal
While this is part of cleaning your home, sanitizing the garbage disposal deserves its own section. Mushy cereal, apple cores, and who knows what else, could be lurking down there. If you’ll be gone for more than a couple of days, prevent odors by flushing out your disposal with white vinegar and water and letting it run for a minute or so.
Whether you’re heading home to see family or hitting the slopes or beaches, you can now close your suitcase, turn off the lights, and head out the door in good conscience. You’ve done everything you needed to do to keep your home safe and secure until you get back. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy all the fun of the season.