Before You Leave

Here are some items to take care of before you start your trip.

  • Make sure that someone knows your travel plans, and can deal with emergencies (do they have a key?) in your absence.

  • Hold your mail. You can fill out a form here: https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/

  • Hold your newspaper delivery – newspapers sitting in your driveway or doorstep are a sure sign that no one is home.

  • Inform your credit card and bank card issuers of your travel dates & locations; strange charges from locations out of your normal pattern are a trigger to their fraud department and they may block your card from being used.

  • Check the dates on your passport and ATM card to make sure they don’t expire while you are away. We suggest your passport be valid for at least 6 months after your trip ends.

  • Make arrangements for your pets.

  • Adjust your thermostat settings – you don’t want to air condition or heat space you aren’t using. But you don’t want to come back to frozen pipes or a hot, humid house. We suggest setting 50-60 degrees in the Winter or 80-85 degrees in the Summer.

  • Clean your toilets and anything else prone to “growing” stuff when you’re not around. We like to leave a little bleach in the bowl after cleaning to keep it fresh while we’re gone.

  • Check your refrigerator & other storage locations for food that could spoil.

  • Run a lemon, lime or some dishwasher detergent through your garbage disposal to clean and freshen it before you go.

  • Empty all trash cans, spray some Lysol in the cans, and put trash bags out at the curb for pickup. Do not put your cans out as no one will be there to bring them back up.

  • Turn off taps, on washing machines and anything else that could leak or freeze while unattended.

    * If you can, shut off the water coming into the house (and turn off the power to the hot water heater, water softener, iron filter, etc.). A bust pipe or water heater while you’re gone could be devastating.

  • Schedule the payment of any bills that might come due during your trip. If you have a pre-paid cell phone, be sure it is paid up and you have minutes available.

  • Confirm accommodation reservations, especially any with smaller B&Bs, etc. 

  • Inspect all your doors and windows to ensure that they are secure; garage doors can be “locked” by inserting a large bolt through one of the tracks in which the door rides (there are usually holes for this; if not, drill one). If you use an alarm service, notify them of your plans, and let them know who to contact for emergencies.

  • If you live in a snowy area, consider how untouched snow makes it obvious that you’re not home! Make arrangements with a neighbor to create tire and footprints into the house or shovel/plow.

  • Unplug things (don’t just turn them off); your gadgets will be safer and more rested, and why pay for electricity to keep remote controls functional while you’re away? That said, leaving a couple of lights on when you’re away gives your house an “occupied” look; use energy-saving bulbs, ideally on a timer.

  • Water your plants.

  • Clean the gutters – a vacation is never a good time for a leak.

And finally…

Don’t tell the world you’re going to be away, with your house unattended — even if you’ll just be out for the afternoon — on answering machines, voicemail, e-mail auto-responders, or social media status updates (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare).

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