18 Tips in Preparing Your Home Prior to Travel
“Of course, there are certain things which no one wants to happen while traveling — such as forgetting to leave the oven on prior to leaving on a long trip. I can assure you that that has never happened to me — nor have I ever had my home burn down or flooded out, thankfully — but if you find yourself constantly worrying about leaving things on and forgetting things, you can always use your portable electronic device to take photographs of such things as turning off the water supply, locking your doors, closing your windows and garage doors, and setting timers prior to leaving your home” is what I wrote in this article pertaining to How Things Can Happen and Change While Traveling on Wednesday, July 10, 2019…
18 Tips in Preparing Your Home Prior to Travel
…but trying not to forget anything prior to traveling is far from the only thing you need to do to ensure that your home is waiting for you in the way that you left it.
Here are 18 tips in terms of preparing a home prior to embarking on a trip are collected in the following list for your convenience.
1. Consider Hiring a House Sitter
Having someone you trust watch your home and keep an eye out for any unusual activity will give you peace of mind while you are away — especially for a long period of time. This person can be a neighbor, a family member, or a close friend.
This designated person can also collect your mail and newspapers while you are gone — as well as park in your driveway, move your vehicle, feed your pets, water your indoor plants, ensure that your irrigation system is in operational order for outdoor plants and landscaping, mow the grass, confirm that other hired services are doing their jobs, flush toilets, and take out your garbage receptacles — to give the impression that someone is at home because of obvious activity as well as to ensure that everything is in good condition when you return.
That person can even adjust the thermostat one day prior to the conclusion of your trip so that you can arrive home to a comfortable interior temperature.
2. Tell a Trusted Neighbor That You are Going Out of Town
Technology has resulted in keeping in touch with anyone else in the world to be easier than ever — and you can use technology to your benefit to ensure that you are kept up to date as to the latest information pertaining to your home by a trusted neighbor.
Leave your emergency contact information with a neighbor — including your telephone number, e-mail address and ways to contact you via social media.
Be sure to clearly inform your neighbor as to what and how you want to be updated about your home. You want to be alerted of any emergency; but you do not want news about which you can do nothing to unnecessarily ruin your trip.
3. Program Your Thermostat
Programmable thermostats are a great way to save money on energy while keeping your home at a minimal temperature and acceptable level of humidity — you do not want excess energy to be unnecessarily wasted — and you can even set the thermostat to an optimally comfortable temperature prior to you returning home.
Many programmable thermostats have an “away” program which temporarily bypasses the regular programming so that you do not have to program the thermostat once again when you arrive home from your trip.
While you are away, consider setting your thermostat to a temperature closer to outside ambient temperatures — warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter — but which still protects your plants, pets and furniture inside of your home, as certain types of wood cannot tolerate extreme heat and humidity. For example, you may want to turn your air conditioning to between 82 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit during warmer weather — or turn it off altogether, if nothing is damaged or dies as a result — to save on your electricity bill; and do not set the temperature of your thermostat so low in the winter that water pipes could freeze — perhaps between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Every degree to which you can adjust the thermostat — warmer temperatures during summer and cooler temperatures during winter — can potentially save two percent on your energy bill.
4. Replace Batteries in Important Devices
Smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and home security systems are only three of the devices with which you want to have fresh batteries — especially if they are capable of remotely communicating to authorities in case something goes wrong…
…and some law enforcement authorities will impose a penalty or a fine on false alarms emitted by home security systems or fire alarms — whether or not they are caused by weak batteries — as they are a waste of valuable resources which could be used elsewhere.
Fresh batteries in thermostats are also important to ensure that the temperature in your home remains constant. For example, hot and humid weather can cause dangerous mold damage in a home if the air is not cool and dry enough.
5. Clean Refrigerator and Freezer
The last thing to which you want to come home is rotten, stinky and spoiled food. Leaving a quart of milk in the refrigerator is not exactly the best idea — unless you enjoy clumpy sour milk.
Take food which may not last for the duration of your trip and either eat it, take it along with you, freeze it, give it away to someone who can use it, or toss it in the garbage. Wasting good food is simply not sensible.
Afterwards, ensure that your refrigerator and freezer are clean to keep the remaining food as fresh as possible.
You also may want to consider lowering the temperature of the refrigerator with which food will still stay fresh but you are not wasting more energy than necessary. The main reason the temperature can be lowered is that the door of the refrigerator will not open during the entire time you are away, meaning that the temperature inside of the refrigerator will remain more stable.
6. Water Plants — Or Set Up a Time Release Irrigation System
Self-watering plant stakes can be used as a time release irrigation system for your indoor plants; or you can ask a trusted friend or neighbor to water your plants — and ensure that you leave multiple lists of all plants and their locations throughout the home.
7. Empty Dishwasher
After washing your dishes, glasses and silverware, empty the dishwasher and leave it open by a crack — if it is possible — so any standing water in the system evaporates.
Leaving standing water in the dishwasher could cause it to stink — especially if any bits of food are in it.
8. Remove All Trash From Your Home
Take out the trash in the kitchen — especially if it contains anything which might cause it to eventually emit foul odors — as well as other areas of your home to avoid the risk of coming home to a plethora of rancid smells and unwanted pests.
As mentioned earlier in this article, you can ask a trusted neighbor or friend to take your trash cans or receptacles to the curb on designated days when the trash of collected.
9. Flush All Toilets
Flush all toilets in your home so that no residue of waste sits in the standing water.
Also, flushing toilets help to prevent sewer gases from building up — especially if your home uses a septic tank instead of a municipal sewer system.
You may also want to consider adding one half of one cup of chlorine to the toilet bowl in order to prevent a ring from forming due to standing water for a long period of time — as well as to prevent bacteria from building up and staining your toilet.
As mentioned earlier in this article, you can ask a trusted neighbor or friend to flush your toilets if you will be away for a long time.
10. Temporarily Suspend Delivery of Your Mail Through the Post Office
The United States Post Office offers a free service through which you can schedule hold mail service up to 30 days in advance of when you want delivery to be temporarily stopped; or as early as the next scheduled delivery day. Request your start date by 3:00 in the morning Eastern Time — or 2:00 in the morning Central Time or at midnight Pacific Time — on your requested day, Monday through Saturday.
For hold times greater than 30 days, please sign up for a United States Postal Service Forward Mail Service — or you can opt to have your mail forwarded to you while you are away, which may incur a charge for this service.
If you feel uncomfortable about the mail delivery person skipping your home each day without delivering mail while you are away, consider instead having a trusted person collect your mail.
11. Stop Newspaper Delivery
Having newspapers strewn across your lawn or driveway is a telltale sign that no one is home — which is exactly what an unwanted intruder looks for before burglarizing the home.
Try to also have circulars and other unsolicited advertisements stopped from being delivered to your home. If this is not possible, ask a trusted neighbor or friend to collect what is left on your doorstep or driveway so that they do not pile up and give an obvious signal to the world that you are away on a trip.
12. Ensure Care For Your Pets
Whether you hire a pet sitter or entrust your pets with a neighbor, family member or friend, be sure that your pets have plenty of their favorite foods, treats, toys, medicines and other supplies readily available.
If you cannot find a trusted person to take care of your pets, consider placing them in a reputable kennel or boarding facility if those pets are either cats or dogs.
In either case, ensure that you leave detailed care instructions for your pets.
If you have fish, set up a timer in the tank for lighting and the dispensing of food for the fish.
13. Set Up Programmable Timers Around Your Home
Put at least one of the lights in your house — preferably several lights — and other electronics such as televisions on programmable automatic timers so that they turn on and off while you are away in order to give the illusion that someone is actually home.
If you can, set variable light timers at staggered intervals so that they do not activate lights and electronics at exactly the same time in exactly the same places in your home. If that is not possible because you have ordinary automatic analog timers, have a trusted neighbor, family member or friend switch on alternate lights — or rotate the order in which the lights illuminate — in your home for you once or twice per week.
You may also want to consider installing at least one motion-activated light outside of your home if you do not already have one, as that can catch a potential intruder off guard.
14. Keep Your Lawn and Yard Maintained
Ensure that your lawn stays watered and trimmed, your grass is mowed and cut, the landscape is maintained, and that all other basic upkeep is done while you are traveling.
Use timers to water the lawn while you are gone. If you will be gone a long time, consider hiring someone to mow the lawn and do any basic upkeep that you normally take care of yourself.
Homes and properties with lawns and yards which appear to not be kept stand a greater risk of being invaded by unwanted intruders.
15. Unplug Appliances and Electronic Devices
Walk around your entire home and unplug small appliances, unnecessary appliances, electronic devices and chargers prior to embarking on your trip. You may be surprised by just how many devices are plugged into electrical outlets around your home — as well as how many of those devices consume electrical power even when turned off or deactivated.
Unplug electronic devices such as computers, televisions, sound systems, coffee makers and cooking appliances as five of many examples in order to prevent excess electrical power usage while also reducing the risk of an electrical fire.
16. Close Your Chimney Flue
Leaving your chimney flue open could potentially allow unwanted pests into your home during warm weather; and it will likely waste energy if you have your climate control system operating in your home while you are away.
To prevent a fire from occurring, do not have a fire in your fireplace the day prior to your leaving. You must leave the flue open after a fire to prevent smoke and unwanted gases from building up in your home while the embers smolder; and you want to ensure that those embers are completely extinguished of any heat prior to leaving.
17. Take Photographs of All of Your Rooms
Taking photographs of all of your rooms in your home serves two purposes:
- Evidence for a claim to your insurance company in case anything goes wrong — such as fire, flood or natural disaster
- Proof that you left your home exactly as you intended — including not accidentally leaving the oven on or your door unlocked
18. Put Cable or Satellite Television and Internet On Hold
Let the companies which provide you with cable or satellite television programming and Internet service know that you want their services placed on hold. Depending on the company, you may save some money on services which you do not need while traveling.
Whether your trip is for business or leisure purposes, piece of mind is of the utmost importance when you are miles away from home — and the tips mentioned in this article should not only contribute to that peace of mind, but also may help you save some money in the process.
If you have any additional tips which you employ prior to traveling, please post them in the Comments section below, as I intend to include them in a future article with updated helpful information.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.