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How to Prepare Your Home When Going on Vacation

David has owned a house for over 10 years and has extensive knowledge on maintaining the safety and security of a home.

Preparing your home for your absence is an important step to enjoying your vacation.

Preparing your home for your absence is an important step to enjoying your vacation.

There is a lot to prepare for when going on vacation. You have to book a hotel, book a flight, pack, plan your itinerary, and so much more. The one thing not considered is what you need to do in your home when planning a vacation. There is a lot of preparation that must be done to have your home in the best possible state before you leave.

While this article will be referencing vacation, this could also apply to those situations where you will be gone from your home for an extended period of time. This could include business trips, stays in the hospital, and so on.

Making a to do list is an important part to getting your house ready.

Making a to do list is an important part to getting your house ready.

Make a Thorough To-Do List

Each time you are about to go on vacation you have various things you need to do.

  • Plan your to-do list. Figure out everything you need to do to get your home ready for you to be gone. While many items in this article may be on the list, there could be items you need to consider specifically for your house. The chart below lists some ideas as well.
  • Hold your mail. This is something you should always do. Hold your mail starting the day you leave until the day after you will be back. Even if you plan to be back early, something may happen and you may not be back until after all of that mail is delivered. If you are flying, you may want to push the return date out even further.
  • Plan what to do about your pets. This is a very important item you need to take care of. So much so that I cover it in the section below. I mention it here since it should be a major point in what to do with your pets when you plan to be away from your home for an extended period of time.
  • Clean thoroughly. What is the worst thing to do after a vacation? Clean! I come back dead tired even after a good vacation, so the last thing I want to do is clean my house. If you thoroughly clean a day or so before you go on vacation, you can come home to a clean home and no work to do.

Potential To-Do List















Hot Water Heater

Garage Door






Security cameras are a great way to check on your house while on vacation.

Security cameras are a great way to check on your house while on vacation.

Secure Your Property

One of the things that would always make my vacation more stressful was leaving my home empty with no one in it for days or even weeks at a time. An empty home is left vulnerable to being robbed. Fortunately, now a days that is better handled.

  • Get a security system. This could be pricey, but well worth it for peace of mind. A security system can alert you and the company handling security if someone is trying to break in. I would only get this if you plan to use it outside of your vacation.
  • Install cameras. This is my go to security measure. I have multiple cameras installed throughout my house that feeds to an app on my phone. This allows me to see what is going on at any time, take screenshots, or capture video. They even come with motion and noise sensors to alert me if something is going on.
  • Check the outside of your house. Trim back any bushes, secure any windows, and pick up any personal property left lying around. This deters would be burglars as your home shows it's well maintained.
  • Talk to your neighbors. Let them know you plan to be away for awhile and ask them to watch your house while you are gone. Obviously, these should be neighbors you trust with this kind of information. If you really trust them, you can give them a key to go inside as well. However, I only recommend this if you really trust them not to steal or do anything to your home.
  • Leave a car in your driveway. This will give the feeling that someone is home. Make sure the car is locked up, nothing is visible that someone would want to steal, and you would be okay if someone were to break into it if it were to happen.
  • Don't advertise on social media. Before your vacation, don't share that you are going away on vacation. Don't even share it during your vacation. You can share the details afterwards. You never know who is watching your account and waiting for you to be gone so they can break into your home.
A kennel may not be the best option for your pets.

A kennel may not be the best option for your pets.

Make Sure Your Pet(s) Will Be Cared For

Pets are another monster you have to tackle when planning a vacation. While it can be obvious what to do with children, pets can be a bit trickier.

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  • Decide where your pets are going to be while you are gone. If it's a short trip then you can leave them at home, but if it's longer you may need to put them in a kennel. I'm against kennels since I have heard so many horror stories on how pets have been treated. So you can leave them home and have someone check in on them. In fact, I like leaving my pets at home since they make noise, which could scare an intruder away.
  • Leave double the amount of food and water. If you are gone a few days, leave enough food and water for six days. This ensure your pets have more than enough. If you happen to be gone longer, then they are well taken care of. The same goes for toys, litter boxes, and so on.
  • Animal proof your home. I have a cat that loves to close doors, which sometimes gets her locked in the room. When I go on vacations, I put a door stop on each door so she can't shut herself in. I do the same for cabinets and other areas pets may get into.

Do a Final Check Right Before You Leave

Right before you walk out of your home you need to take care of more things to ensure you have everything covered.

  • Unplug and shut off appliances not in use. This could include computers, video game systems, TVs, or other equipment you won't be using.
  • Make sure your oven is off. This can be an easy one to miss but something that is a quick fix. Make sure every part of your oven is off.
  • Close all doors. This includes any doors in house that you won't need access to, outside doors, garage doors, and so on. Make sure to secure your garage door if it's electronic, so that no one can guess the code and open it with their remote.
  • Close all windows and curtains. Allow as little view into your house as much as possible. With locked windows that are covered up, criminals won't be as eager to spend time looking inside to see if it's worth breaking in.
  • Set the thermostat appropriately. Set it higher or lower, depending the weather, so it doesn't use as much electricity. You can shut it off as well.
  • Shut all the water off. Make sure each faucet is securely off so water isn't running or dripping everywhere.
  • Take pictures of items you worry about. For example, I take a picture of all doors to show they are closed, the knobs on my oven to show the oven is off, and so on. I also take pictures of my pets!
  • Triple-check everything. I go through my to do list three times to make sure I have done everything. From getting food ready for my pets to making sure I have a hold on mail delivery.
  • Drive around a few times. I drive around my block a few times when I leave just to make sure nothing jogs my memory that I need to go back for. It also allows me to visually inspect the area.

Consider Hiring a House-Sitter

If you can't or don't want to rely on friends or family to take care of your home, you can hire a house-sitter. If you do, ensure you research the house-sitter thoroughly to determine if they are trustworthy and what they are capable of. Ensure they can handle all of your needs, from feeding your pets to watering your plants. Provide a do's and don'ts list so they know what they are allowed to do. For example, they can't have any guests over, but they can watch Netflix on your TV. Things like that.

I haven't done this though as I just don't trust a stranger in my home with no one else is around, but it can be worth looking into if you plan to be gone a long time and just want the peace of mind of having someone take care of your house.

Using your phone to check local news and security camera apps can provide peace of mind during a vacation.

Using your phone to check local news and security camera apps can provide peace of mind during a vacation.

Check in While on Vacation

Even while you are on vacation, you want to check on your house to make sure everything is still in order.

  • Check local apps. I use Nextdoor to see what is going on in my area. For example, neighbors may share that someone is prowling about looking for a house to break into or if there is a fire nearby. It's good to keep up on what's happening in your area.
  • Talk to your neighbor. Even if they don't know you are gone, call them up and see how things are going. That will allow you to see what is going on nearby without saying you are on vacation. Or, you can state you are on vacation and ask them to quickly check in on your home if you feel it's safe to do so.
  • Check-in on your security cameras. You can see what your pets are doing and check in on your house. This is something I would do a few times throughout the day. Usually when I wake up, mid-day, and when I am about to go to bed.

Vacation Horror Story

This isn't as much of a horror story as much as it's a gross story. My parents and I were going to go on a vacation together. I was living on my own and my mom loved to cook for me. I would always return the containers she used, but being a young 20-something, I wouldn't always clean them out before I returned them. We were leaving their place and I dropped the container off in their kitchen sink, but no one checked it before we left.

They had given me stew. After a four day vacation, in the middle of summer, that leftover stew turned bad real quick. The entire house smelled horrible with how bad that stew had turned. While it was my fault, it proved that it's always good to check everything in your house right before you leave for a vacation.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 David Livermore

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