So, you’ve done the research and booked the perfect family vacation. You’re all ready to go, but wait, aren’t you forgetting something?

About an hour into your trip, you may start to worry. Did you leave the straightener on? Did you take the garbage out?

Many homeowners go into panic mode when they leave on vacation. This is a common scenario, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s what checklists are for! Vacation is the time to unwind, not get knotted up.
While there is real reason to worry, there are many ways you can protect your home while on vacation and enjoy the trip you’ve been planning for so long.
Keep in mind that a lot of this pre-vacation preparation will take more than a couple of days. Luckily, if your house is already cleaned and kept up, you won’t have to do as much.

Pre-Vacation Checklist

Here’s a checklist of what to do before leaving on vacation:

Inside the Home:

  • Buy light timers for lights and electronics. You can make it seem like somebody is home by plugging your lamps, radios, and TVs into light timers.
  • Even if you have whole-home surge protection, you can prevent power surges and save money on “vampire energy” leaking from plugged-in items by disconnecting all of your expensive electronics. Unplug anything that won’t be used while you are traveling. Obviously leave your fridge, HVAC system, and any light timers plugged in.
  • Consider a home security system, but realize that they aren’t cheap. You can expect to pay around $700 for installation and around $25-$50 per month for monitoring service. If you don’t have a home security system, there are cheaper solutions, such as camera smartphone apps, smart locks, motion sensors, light timers, door/window sensors, video doorbells, and more. Continue reading for more tips on improving home security.
  • If you do have a home security system, call your representative to tell them you will be away from home for an extended period of time. Double-check the alarm is set properly before you leave.
  • Make sure all of your valuables, such as jewelry, passports, and important documents are locked away in a fireproof box. Consider securing items you don’t readily need access to in a safe deposit box at the bank. If you haven’t organized valuable items and important documents, this is a good time to do so.
  • Ensure all phones, TVs, laptops, and other valuables are out of plain sight. Store them away and close the drapes or blinds to windows and doors that provide easy viewing.
  • Close and lock ALL doors and windows. Make sure the fireplace flue is closed and sealed. Open windows and doors not only provide easy access for human intruders, but also for rain, snow, bugs, and rodents.
  • Set the thermostat! Do not turn your HVAC system off. The general rule for setting the thermostat when you leave home is to turn it up or down 4 degrees from the normal setting. So, if you normally keep the home at 78 degrees, then set it to 82 degrees before you leave. We recommend keeping the thermostat at around 80 degrees during summer vacations and around 60 degrees during winter vacations. While you may think you are saving money by turning the HVAC system off, you’ll pay a lot more in the damage caused by high/low temperatures and high/low humidity. Don’t make this rookie mistake! Learn how to prevent frozen pipes.
  • Protect your plumbing. If you haven’t scheduled a professional plumbing inspection in the last year, now is a good time to do so. Fix any plumbing leaks as soon as you notice them. We encourage you to shut off the water to the house before traveling. Usually your main water valve is found outside near the front curb. Learn how to turn off your water supply here. If you can’t find your main water shut-off valve, contact your local plumber or water company.
  • Do NOT post social media and status updates to the world about your vacation. Wait until you return home to share your vacation photos and updates. While private accounts are safer, you never know, so just don’t do it.
  • Lower your water heater temperature to save a little bit of money, but don’t turn it off completely.
  • Clean out your kitchen of any perishables or items that will expire while you are gone, especially dairy items.
  • Clean the house and take the garbage out. Nobody wants to come home to a dirty, smelly home.
  • Only close all the blinds if you normally keep them all closed. Closed drapes on blinds on all the windows when you don’t normally do this can signal an empty home. Consider closing some of the blinds (the ones that hide valuables and receive the most sunlight) and leaving others open.

Outside the Home:

  • Mow the lawn, water your plants, and get your pool cleaned. If you will be gone for a long time, ask a friend, family member, or neighbor to keep your landscaping updated.
  • Similarly, trim back shrubs and tree branches from around the perimeter of your home. Not only can they provide a bridge for pests, they can also serve as a useful hiding place for potential burglars.
  • Stop newspaper and mail delivery or have them be picked up by a friend or neighbor. You don’t want piled up mail and newspapers to signal your absence.
  • Plan your exterior lighting by setting timers or motion sensor to deter burglars.
  • Do NOT leave a spare key outside. It’s common knowledge that spare keys are often left under door mats, flower pots, on above a high ledge. And those fake rocks aren’t fooling anybody.
  • Consider hiring or arranging a house sitter. If you don’t have a friend, neighbor, or family member available, there are house sitter services available. Just make sure they conduct background checks and are trustworthy.
  • If you have pets staying at home, a pet sitter is a must.
  • Store any outdoor sports or yard equipment inside the garage, basement, or shed.
  • Lock the garage, shed, cellar, and/or fences. This is a good time to inspect the garage door, shed, and perimeter for any potential sources of entry. Fix doors, windows, and any other entrance before you leave on vacation.
  • If you are driving and parking your car at the airport parking lot, remove any GPS device that may be inside. If you cannot remove the GPS device, set “Home” to a different address, so the only thing that’s stolen is your car and not all the belonging in your home.
  • Tell your neighbors that you will be leaving on vacation and whether or not you have a pet or house sitter visiting. This can add an extra layer of security while also preventing unnecessary calls to the police.

Contact OnTime Service today to get all of your important home systems—plumbing, electrical, and HVAC—before your vacation to really put your mind at ease. If you have any questions about how to prepare your home for vacation, don’t hesitate to contact the professionals at OnTime Service.