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How to Prepare Your Home For Travel

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With COVID cases declining and vaccination rates rising, many folks are starting to think about traveling again.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been on the road, you may have forgotten some of the things on your get-ready-to-go checklist. Here’s a refresher on things you may want to do to prep your home for your absence.

A few minutes of prep can keep your house in tip top shape while you’re away.
  • Leave a key to your house and a copy of your travel itinerary with a trusted friend or neighbor. Any number of away-from-home dilemmas can be solved if a trustworthy neighbor can get access to your property. For example, if you forget a needed document at home, your neighbor could retrieve it and FedEx it to you at your hotel.
  • Consider putting a hold on your mail. You can do this via the USPS website.
  • Consult with other delivery services such as UPS, FedEx, etc. about holding deliveries. Every time I ~think~ I don’t have packages coming to the house, I realize I forgot I pre-ordered that juicy novel or have a cute pair of shoes on backorder. If you can’t or don’t want contact several delivery companies, that neighbor with the key could collect packages for you.
  • Line up pet sitters or kennels. If you have pets, this is likely already on your list. However, during the pandemic many small business have closed or drastically changed their services or hours. Be sure to check well in advance that your preferred pet care service is still in business and has availability during your travel dates.
  • Line up house sitter if appropriate. Do you have multiple pets, lots of plants that need watering, and loads of packages coming? A house sitter might be easiest solution to these problems. These days there may be nearby college students studying from home who might be grateful for a change of scenery and a small influx of cash.
  • Consider alerting the local police to your departure. Some jurisdictions will perform courtesy police drive-bys for residents who are traveling.
  • Bring in outdoor trash cans, porch furniture or other loose items, pending weather. In addition to checking the weather forecast at your travel destination, you should check what the forecast will be at home while you’re away. If there are any storms predicted, be sure to bring in any loose items that you would normally secure if you were home during a serious weather event.
  • Adjust the heat or air-conditioning settings in your home for energy savings. Depending on where you live, you may be able to turn the air conditioning off (or set it warmer than usual) while your travel. If you live in a colder climate and are traveling during the winter, turn down your heat, but don’t fully turn it off. No one wants to come home to frozen or burst pipes.
  • Hire someone to maintain your outdoor areas. You should continue to keep your lawn mowed or your snow shoveled so that potential thieves are not aware of your departure.
  • Clean your refrigerator of perishable items. No one wants to come home to a fridge full of molding veggies and curdled milk. Be sure to consume or toss anything that might go bad while you’re away.
  • Put a hold on any newspapers or other regular home deliveries.
  • Triple check that your home is locked as you leave. Also check the doors of any cars you’ll be leaving in your driveway. Consider removing garage door openers from any vehicles that might be left outside.
  • Consider putting several lights in your home on timers. A well-lit home is less attractive to intruders.
  • Unplug small appliances. Coffee makers, toasters, alarm clocks, and other small appliances all draw a small amount of energy when they’re plugged in, even if they’re not in use. Unplugging them reduces energy waste and potential fire hazards.
  • Turn down your water heater temperature. This can reduce energy usage while you’re gone.
  • Empty all trash cans of items that might spoil or create odor while you’re away. Also consider emptying your dishwasher and deodorizing your garbage disposal prior your departure.
  • Consider installing a doorbell camera or other home monitoring device.
  • Back up your home computers. This isn’t really related to your departure, but rather something you should be automated or a regular part of your routine.

What else do you do to prep your home for vacation travel? Let us know in the comments.

First published March 17, 2021. Updated September 25, 2021.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

10 thoughts on “How to Prepare Your Home For Travel

  • Turn off the water to washing machine; those hoses can go at any time and a few turns of the valves is much easier than cleaning up a flood. Also put a penny on top of an ice cube in an ice cube tray – that way if the penney appears to have sunken into the ice cube you will know the power went out long enough for the ice cube to melt and food to defrost rendering it unsafe to eat.

  • I turn off the water heater at the breaker box. you’ll need to have a properly labeled breaker box to do this.

    Also, locate the water shutoff to the house. I’ve come home to a flooded kitchen from just a day at work when the waterline to the icemaker in the ‘fridge broke. If that happened over vacation it would be far more than just a mop to clean it up.

    Motion sensor outside lights and a lamp or two on a timer inside are also a good idea.

  • Has an article been done about what to pack during Covid on your trip to WDW? I’d be interested in hearing your recommendations on what else we should put in our suitcases to make our trips safe. Thanks!

  • Also, check your doors and make sure they’re locked properly! My list trip the door to my apartment balcony wasn’t fully shut and locked from the night before and it OPENED during while I was away – I was heating all of Pittsburgh and I have the electrical bill to prove it.

    • That one is on the list!

      Yikes on the open door! My young adult daughter is so paranoid about something like that happening that she takes photos of all her door latches and appliances just prior to departure. If she can look at the photos and verify that her doors/windows are locked and that the oven is off, then she has a much more relaxing time on vacation.

      • I learned this one the hard way: If your fridge makes ice that dispenses through a door, empty the storage bucket and turn off the icemaker. If there’s an extended power outage, or the fridge dies, the ice in the vertical bucket will melt – and the water will flood downward.

  • One item of note, you mention turning off air conditioning while you are away for energy savings, but in some areas, especially those with high humidity during the summer, lack of air flow within your home can lead to mold growth. Leaving your air conditioning on, but allowing your home to hit a higher than normal temperature while away, can still provide the cooling and air circulation to keep mold at bay. Leaving all interior doors open also encourages air movement.

    We leave our washing machine and dishwasher open so that they can dry and not grow mold while they are being unused. I also run and disinfect the garbage disposal. Be sure to turn off the water to the washing machine, as those hoses can burst and flood your home.

    This idea isn’t specifically for preparing your home for travel, but I do like to plan a simple meal or two and leave them in the freezer for our return. This gives me something easy to prepare for dinner, when things could be busy upon our return or even us just feeling jet-lagged. I do find it helpful to start building a grocery list as we use up foods in the fridge, but don’t replace them before a trip. I can leave the list in the car, so that upon our return, I can hit a grocery store or simplify things for the first time I need to go shopping.

    • Thanks for all the great tips, Michelle. I live in the Northeast, so I’ve always been more concerned with pipes freezing than mold developing. You point about running the AC for a different climate is well taken.

      I’m currently working on a post about how to prepare yourself (rather than your home) for travel. This will include some tips on having meals ready for your return home. Stay tuned!


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