Planning an extended trip away from home is an exciting adventure, but it’s crucial not to overlook the importance of preparing your house before you go. Taking the time to secure your property and ensure its maintenance can give you peace of mind during your absence.
From safeguarding against potential burglaries to preventing water damage, there are several key steps you can take to protect your house while you’re away.
In this article, we will provide you with 10 essential tips that will help you prepare your house for extended travel. By implementing these strategies, you can enjoy your trip worry-free, knowing that your home is well taken care of.
Let’s dive in and discover how to make your house travel-ready!
1. Inform trusted neighbors or friends
When leaving your home for an extended period, informing trusted neighbors or friends is crucial for several reasons:
Enhanced Security: Their presence creates a sense of occupancy, deterring potential burglars or intruders. They can report any suspicious activity, like unfamiliar vehicles parked near your house or someone attempting to enter your property.
Peace of Mind: Knowing someone is looking after your home can significantly reduce anxiety and stress while you’re away. You can relax and enjoy your travels without worrying about your home’s safety.
Practical Assistance: Neighbors can handle minor emergencies like overflowing garbage bins, burst pipes, or package deliveries. Their timely intervention can prevent further damage and inconvenience upon your return.
Strengthening Community Bonds: Sharing your travel plans fosters a sense of community and mutual support. Your neighbors feel valued and appreciated for their assistance, building stronger relationships within your community.
Here’s how to effectively inform your neighbors:
- Choose trustworthy individuals: Select reliable individuals known for their honesty, responsibility, and good judgment.
- Provide detailed information: Share your travel dates, contact information while away, and emergency contact details for someone who can access your property if needed.
- Request specific assistance: Clearly specify your expectations. Ask them to keep an eye on your property and report any unusual occurrences. You can also request specific tasks like watering plants, collecting mail, or clearing snow.
- Offer reciprocation: Express gratitude for their assistance and offer to help them in return when they travel. This fosters a sense of mutual support and strengthens the community bond.
- Consider a neighborhood watch program: If your area has an existing neighborhood watch program, consider joining. This provides an additional layer of security and allows neighbors to keep a watchful eye on each other’s properties.
2. Secure your house
Securing your home is the cornerstone of preparing for extended travel. Taking these steps ensures your property remains safe and protected while you’re away:
Double-check all entry points: Before leaving, meticulously inspect all windows, doors, and potential entry points like garages, basement access, and pet doors. Ensure they are properly locked and don’t leave any vulnerable areas accessible.
Invest in sturdy locks: Consider upgrading your locks, especially for doors and windows. Opt for high-security deadbolts, which offer superior resistance to forced entry compared to standard locks.
Enhance security further: For additional peace of mind, explore various security measures like:
- Monitored alarm system: A professionally installed and monitored alarm system can deter intruders and alert you or emergency services of any break-ins.
- Security cameras: Installing outdoor and indoor security cameras provides visual surveillance, allowing you to remotely monitor your property and deter potential trespassers.
- Motion sensor lights: Equipping your property with motion sensor lights illuminates suspicious activity around your home, deterring criminals and alerting you to potential threats.
- Smart home devices: Integrating smart door locks, lights, and thermostats allows you to remotely control various functions, making your home appear occupied even when you’re away.
3. Unplug electronics and appliances
Unplugging non-essential electronics and appliances before embarking on your extended travel offers several benefits:
Reduced Energy Consumption: Even when turned off, many electronics and appliances still draw a small amount of energy, known as “vampire power.” By unplugging them, you can significantly reduce your energy consumption and save money on your electricity bills.
Enhanced Safety: Leaving electronics plugged in increases the risk of electrical fires. Power surges, faulty wiring, or even lightning strikes can potentially damage devices and start fires. Unplugging them eliminates this risk and ensures your home’s safety while you’re away.
Extended Device Lifespan: Frequent power surges can shorten the lifespan of your electronics. By unplugging them, you minimize their exposure to potential electrical hazards and prolong their functionality.
Which Devices Should You Unplug?
Focus on disconnecting non-essential electronics and appliances that draw power even when not actively used. This includes:
- Televisions: Disconnect TVs from the power outlet and unplug any connected devices like gaming consoles or streaming boxes.
- Computers: Turn off and unplug your computer, monitor, and any peripherals like printers or scanners.
- Chargers: Unplug phone chargers, laptop chargers, and other chargers once devices are fully charged.
- Kitchen Appliances: Disconnect appliances like coffee makers, toasters, blenders, and other countertop appliances not needed during your absence.
- Entertainment Systems: Unplug audio equipment, game consoles, and other entertainment devices not in use.
4. Set up timers for lights
During extended travel, creating the illusion of an occupied home is crucial for deterring potential burglars. Setting up timers for your lights is a simple and effective way to achieve this:
Why Use Light Timers?
- Increased Security: By simulating occupancy through scheduled lighting, you make your home appear less appealing to burglars who seek easy targets.
- Peace of Mind: Knowing your home is illuminated at night can provide you with peace of mind and reduce anxiety while you’re away.
- Enhanced Ambiance: Using timers can create a welcoming and inviting atmosphere upon your return.
- Simple Timers: These affordable devices allow you to program individual lights to turn on and off at specific times.
- Smart Home Technology: Utilize smart bulbs and hubs to create more complex lighting schedules. Smart home systems offer features like:
- Remote control: Adjust your lighting schedule and monitor your home remotely.
- Customization: Create different lighting routines for different days and times.
- Sunrise/sunset simulation: Mimic natural light patterns for a more realistic effect.
5. Turn off the main water supply
Taking a few minutes to turn off the main water supply to your house before extended travel can offer significant benefits:
Reduced Risk of Leaks and Bursts: Water leaks and burst pipes can cause major damage and costly repairs. Turning off the water supply eliminates the risk of such incidents occurring while you’re away.
Peace of Mind: Knowing your home is protected from potential water damage provides valuable peace of mind and allows you to relax and enjoy your travels without worry.
Minimized Damage: If a leak or burst pipe does occur while you’re away, turning off the water supply minimizes the extent of the damage by limiting the duration and amount of water flowing.
Locating the Shut-Off Valve:
The location of your main water shut-off valve can vary depending on your house and plumbing system. Common locations include:
- Near the water meter: Many houses have the water meter located in a box near the curb or on the exterior wall of your house. The shut-off valve will be located near the meter.
- Basement or crawl space: If your house has a basement or crawl space, the shut-off valve may be located there. Look for a pipe coming into your house and follow it to the valve.
- Under a sink: In some homes, the shut-off valve may be located under a sink, particularly in older houses.
6. Adjust thermostat settings
Optimizing your thermostat settings before extended travel is a smart way to save energy and money on your utility bills while ensuring your home remains comfortable upon your return.
- Summer: During warm months, set the thermostat to a higher temperature than you normally would. A good rule of thumb is to raise it 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit above your typical comfort range. Aim for a temperature between 80-85°F.
- Winter: During cold months, lower the thermostat 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit below your typical comfort range. Aim for a temperature between 50-55°F.
Going Beyond Basic Adjustments:
- Programmable Thermostats: Invest in a programmable thermostat if you haven’t already. These devices allow you to schedule different temperature settings for different times of the day. You can set them to automatically adjust based on your daily routine, ensuring your home is comfortable when you need it and energy-efficient when you’re away.
- Smart Home Integration: Consider integrating your thermostat with a smart home system. This allows for remote monitoring and control of your home’s temperature, enabling you to adjust it even while you’re away.
7. Clean out the refrigerator
Prior to your extended travel, tackling the refrigerator is crucial for ensuring a pleasant return and preventing potential problems:
- Discard Perishables: Dispose of all food items with a short shelf life that may spoil during your absence. This includes items like milk, fresh produce, leftovers, and cooked meats.
- Check Expiration Dates: Review all remaining items and discard those with expired dates. Consuming expired food can lead to illnesses, and discarding them avoids potential health risks.
- Store Properly: Properly store remaining food items in airtight containers or wrap them securely to prevent spoilage and maintain their quality.
- Empty and Clean: Completely empty both the refrigerator and freezer compartments. Remove all shelves, drawers, and containers.
- Clean Surfaces: Wash all surfaces with warm, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and dry completely before replacing shelves and drawers.
- Disinfect High-Touch Areas: Pay particular attention to commonly touched areas like door handles, shelves, and drawers. Use a disinfectant solution to thoroughly clean and eliminate bacteria.
8. Arrange for mail and package delivery
Leaving mail and packages unattended while on extended travel can be risky and send a message that your home is unoccupied. To ensure your property’s security and prevent potential issues, consider these options:
- Mail Hold: Contact your local postal service and request a hold on mail delivery for the duration of your absence. This prevents mail from accumulating in your mailbox and reduces the risk of theft.
- Package Delivery Services: Many package delivery services offer options for holding packages at their facilities or rerouting them to alternative locations like a neighbor’s address. Explore these options with the respective delivery companies.
- Trusted Neighbor: If opting for delivery, entrust a trusted neighbor with the responsibility of collecting your mail and packages. Provide them with a key or access code if necessary.
- Family Member: If you have a family member living nearby, they could act as your designated mail and package recipient during your travels.
9. Create a checklist and emergency contact list
Preparing for extended travel involves meticulous planning and ensuring everything is taken care of before you embark on your adventure. Two essential tools can significantly enhance your preparation and provide peace of mind: a comprehensive checklist and an emergency contact list.
The Power of a Checklist:
- Reduces Stress and Oversights: Listing all necessary tasks ensures you don’t forget anything crucial, minimizing stress and potential complications during your travels.
- Provides a Roadmap to Departure: Checking items off the list gives a sense of accomplishment and progress, keeping you focused and on schedule.
- Improves Organization and Efficiency: Having a clear plan helps you allocate time effectively and prioritize tasks, leading to a smoother and stress-free departure.
- Travel Documents: Passports, visas, tickets, and any other essential travel documents.
- House Preparations: Turning off utilities, adjusting thermostat, securing windows and doors, arranging for mail and package handling.
- Pet Care: Booking boarding or pet sitting services, providing detailed instructions for your pet’s care.
- Financial Arrangements: Paying bills, informing banks of your travel dates, setting up automatic payments.
- Backup Planning: Arranging for a spare key holder in case of unforeseen circumstances, leaving detailed instructions for house care.
Creating an Emergency Contact List:
- Identify Key Contacts: Compile a list of trusted individuals who can be reached in case of emergencies, including:
- Family members: Parents, siblings, or close relatives who can act as primary contacts.
- Neighbors: Reliable and trustworthy neighbors who can check on your property or offer assistance.
- Local Service Providers: Contact information for emergency services like police, fire department, ambulance, and plumbers or electricians for urgent repairs.
- Ensure Accessibility: Make sure your emergency contact list is easily accessible and readily available. Consider storing it digitally in your phone or cloud storage, and leaving a physical copy in a secure location at home.
- Provide Clear Instructions: When listing contacts, provide clear instructions on who to contact for specific emergencies and the information they need to know.
10. Empty and clean the toilet bowl
Ensuring a clean and empty toilet bowl before your extended travels is crucial for several reasons:
Preventing Stains and Odors: Leaving water or waste in the bowl for a long time can lead to unpleasant stains and odors, making your return less than ideal.
Maintaining Hygiene: Residual bacteria in the bowl can multiply over time, creating an unhygienic environment upon your return.
Avoiding Potential Plumbing Issues: Leaving a full toilet bowl can cause mineral buildup and potential clogging issues, leading to inconvenient plumbing problems upon your return.
- Commercial Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Apply a toilet bowl cleaner according to the product’s instructions. Let it sit for the recommended time, scrub with a toilet brush, and flush thoroughly.
- Vinegar and Baking Soda: This natural cleaning alternative involves pouring a cup of vinegar into the bowl, followed by a sprinkle of baking soda. Let the mixture fizz and bubble for 15-20 minutes, then scrub with a toilet brush and flush. Repeat if necessary.