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7 Tips to Prep Your House for Vacation

From deep cleaning and watering plants to unplugging electronics, the list of things to do at home before going on vacation is seemingly neverending. While it might take a little extra work to get your home in check, you can kick back and relax knowing that everything has been taken care of. If you take a few extra steps, you can also ensure that you save money on your energy bill and have a ready-to-go meal prepared for your return.

June 1, 2023

In the U.S., around 35% of families report traveling 50 or more miles from home for vacation. Whether a state away or an entire country, worrying about the safety or condition of your home can put a damper on any trip. But, if you prep house for vacation in advance, you can keep those pesky concerns that you left the garage door open or forgot to remove laundry from the washing machine at bay.

1. Prep house for vacation by deep cleaning.

If you will be gone for more than a day or two, it is a good idea to jumpstart your vacation preparation by deep cleaning your house. Oftentimes, when the day of departure arrives, people are in a rush and may leave dirty dishes in the sink, trash in the garbage can, laundry in the washing machine, or damp towels in the hamper. 

This will lead to unpleasant smells when you return, along with the potential for damage to your clothing and towels. It also sets you up for a relaxing return without diving straight into cleaning or doing laundry after a long day of traveling.

Keep up with dishes as you pack and allow yourself some extra time to take care of last-minute tasks on the day of departure, such as:

  • Take out the trash — check every room
  • Vacuum, dust, and wipe down counters and sinks
  • Wash dirty dishes
  • Ensure the washing machine is empty, and all clothes have been washed and folded.
  • Make your bed, so you can sink right in when you return.

2. Water plants and make plans for pets.

If you have house plants that must be watered while away, consider investing in self-watering solutions or recruit a trusted housesitter. Likewise, arrange care in advance for any pets staying behind. For pets like fish requiring little care, automatic feeders are available. Cats, dogs, and birds will likely require boarding, a pet sitter, or a helpful neighbor. In either case, ensure the caregiver can access adequate food, medication, and your veterinarian’s contact information.

If you frequently travel and solicit help from housesitters, installing a smart lock or alarm system may be a wise investment. This removes the need to keep track of traditional keys and instead allows caretakers to gain access to the home using a code. As an added bonus, you can often monitor activity and ensure that doors are locked from an app on your phone. 

3. Clean out the refrigerator and use perishable items.

The week before your departure, be mindful of the items you purchase at the grocery store. Any fruits, vegetables, or other perishables should be eaten before leaving. Keeping them in the fridge or a fruit basket days or weeks past their prime will result in decaying, which creates an odor and attracts insects. Be sure to clean the fridge before removing the trash so no food is left in the house. Likewise, consider when your trash pickup day is. A neighbor can set out and return your cans so you stay on schedule with trash removal.

Another helpful tip is to prepare a hearty meal in advance using these items and then place it in the freezer. This will allow you to minimize waste and have a meal ready to warm up when you arrive home. No need to cook while battling jet lag if you add this to your list of things to do at home before going on vacation!

4. Remove clues for burglars.

As important as it is to prep house for vacation, it is equally important to avoid making your home look vacation ready. Burglars are most likely to strike when they suspect homeowners are away for an extended period. This is often in the summer, widely dubbed as vacation season, but they are on the prowl all year looking for empty homes. Consider these tips to help your home look occupied:

  • Park at least one car in the driveway so it looks like someone’s at home
  • Hold all mail and packages or ask a neighbor to bring in your deliveries
  • Mow your lawn and trim hedges
  • Play it safe, and don’t mention your travel plans on social media

5. Prep house for vacation by unplugging electronics. 

If you’re gone for three or more days, take a vacation from your electric bill by dialing back your energy usage. 

  • Unplug small electronics, especially chargers, which continually draw electricity and can increase your electric bill.
  • While you won’t be using any of the lights in your home while you are gone, you will want to have them on periodically to keep burglars at bay. This can be done in an energy-efficient manner by placing your lights on a timer. Even when you return home, this can help ensure lights are turned off when not in use. 
  • Put the water heater on vacation mode if it has that option, so it operates more efficiently and gets a well-deserved break (like you!)

6. Adjust your thermostat to reduce energy costs.

While preparing house for vacation in the summer, be sure to raise the temperature on your thermostat or lower it if you are going away in the winter. This will allow your HVAC system to rest while you are gone and ensures minimal energy costs. Remember to keep your home's temperature comfortable if you leave pets behind.

If you frequently travel, investing in a smart thermostat offers maximum savings and optimal comfort. Smart thermostats can learn your daily routine to reduce utility bills. Many are also compatible with apps, such as the Trane Home App, that allow you to operate your thermostat while on the go. This means you can turn your AC off while you are gone for three weeks but turn it on hours beforehand to arrive at a comfortable, cool atmosphere. Despite this, it remains a useful tool all year long for keeping tabs on your energy usage and reducing your household’s carbon footprint. Many can integrate with other smart home hubs like Amazon Alexa™ and Google Home™ to further connectivity throughout the home. 

7. Check windows and locks while working through your “prep house for vacation” checklist.

As you are packing and working through your list of things to do at home before going on vacation, pay attention to any easy entry points. If you have a garage or a basement door that leads outside, check that these doors are properly secured. Likewise, check windows as you move from one room to the next to ensure they are fully closed and locked. People often crack their windows for air and forget to close or lock them. Also, quickly walk around the house before leaving and ensure all doors are locked. 

If you have neighbors or pet sitters helping to care for animals or plants while you’re gone, installing a smart lock can also simplify the process and may be able to integrate with systems like smart thermostats for full automation. Most of them are equipped with apps allowing you to access your locks and alarm systems from your phone, whether on the couch or across the world.

By taking these steps to prep house for vacation in advance, you can shift your focus to all the fun excursions that lie ahead. As an added bonus, you can put the money you save on your utility bills toward your next vacation fund.

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