Are you planning to travel to visit loved ones at the holidays this year? After staying close to home in 2020, many of us are ready to hit the road and spend valuable time with our families in 2021. But before you put your house in your rear-view mirror, there are some things you should do to protect your home while you are gone. This is particularly true in winter, when freezing weather can lead to issues that will make your return challenging, and potentially, expensive.
- Unplug and turn off anything you can. This includes small appliances like your toaster oven, coffee maker and air purifier. If you leave your ceiling fans running most of the time, turn those off too. Not only will this save you money on your power bills, but it will also prevent electrical issues while you are away.
- Turn off water valves where possible. To prevent leaks that can cause all sorts of issues, turn off the water valves to your dishwasher, washing machine, ice maker and all sinks. It is also a good idea to put your water heater in “vacation mode” too. (To do this, look at your water heater’s thermostat and scroll through the menu. If it has vacation mode, select it; if not, you can accomplish the same thing manually by turning the temperature down to “pilot mode.”) Don’t forget to also shut off and drain outdoor hoses to avoid leaks and broken hoses when you return.
- Test your smoke detectors before you leave. If it is time to change the batteries, do so before you hit the road. Even if it isn’t, check that all of them are in working order in case the worst happens while you are gone.
- Clean out your kitchen. There’s nothing quite like the horrible smell of spoiled food, and you don’t want that to be what greets you when you return. Dispose of any food in your refrigerator that could go bad before you return from vacation. Move foods you typically keep on the counter, like breads and fruits, into the refrigerator. Take out your trash and dump your recycling and compost too. Once you are all done, run your garbage disposal with a half-cup of vinegar and water to clean it thoroughly and prevent odors. Empty your dishwasher and leave it open slightly so any residual water evaporates while you are gone.
- Set your thermostat to a lower temperature. There’s no need to heat your house while you are gone, but don’t turn your heater all the way off either. We recommend setting it to 55 degrees or so to ensure that your pipes stay somewhat warm, and your plants don’t get too cold and wither away.
- Make it look like someone is home. You don’t want to advertise your absence, so make sure you do things like put your mail and paper delivery on hold and add timers to a few lights, so they come on at different times of the day. Let a neighbor know that you will be gone and ask them to check for package deliveries while you are away too. (I recently paid my neighbors kids $1 a day to check for packages and put them in a safe space while I was gone. Money well spent!)
Right before you leave, double check that all windows and exterior doors are closed and locked, recheck your thermostat and set your alarm. Now go enjoy your vacation with the knowledge that you have taken precautions to protect your home while you are away!
Did we miss anything? Share your tips in the comments below!