There’s nothing like coming back from an amazing vacation only to be greeted by smoldering food in the fridge, dirty dishes in the sink and a pile of old newspapers on your stoop. Or even worse, to a burglarized house, which may be more common than you realize. Many insurance claims experts believe that home burglaries increase during the summer largely because people leave their homes unoccupied while on vacation.
To avoid (or at least minimize) the post vacation blues, why not ensure your home will feel welcoming when you come back from travels afar? That way you won’t waste your vacation worrying if you left the hose on, or forgot to hide the spare key.
Whether you're going out of town for two days or two weeks, here are twelve things you can do to put your house in order before you go—and have it be in tip top shape when you return.
Prep for departure:
1. Make sure your pets are covered
If you are going away for a few days, some pets can get by with an auto feeder. But for more high maintenance pets, or longer absences, line up something with a pet sitter or boarding facility. Stock up so you have all the necessary pet supplies on hand.
2. Purge your fridge
Throw or give away all the perishables, unless you like coming home to interesting-smelling science experiments. While you are at it, an empty fridge presents a great opportunity for a deep clean. One thing I know for sure: A fresh smelling, gleaming fridge is much nicer to come home to one that’s grimy and stained.
3. Take out your trash
Trash, especially in the summer, will stink up your house and your garage. Take it out before you go. Just imagine what your kitchen trash will smell like after a week or two of festering in a stuffy house.
4. Stop the mail
Nothing broadcasts your absence like a pile of newspaper in your driveway or an overstuffed mailbox. Put a vacation hold on your newspapers and a freeze on your mail.
5. Keep up with watering
Ask a friend or neighbor to water your plants, or invest in self-watering plant stakes. And don’t forget about your outdoor area. If you don’t have a good irrigation system installed for your yard and garden, ask a friend or hire somebody to periodically water.
A power outage can knock out everything from computers to televisions to small appliances. Unplug everything that’s not on a timer or related to an alarm system. Even toasters and DVD/Blu-ray players can be damaged in a lighting storm. And don’t just rely on surge protectors, which can also fail under duress. Need more convincing? Many appliances have an electrical draw even when plugged-in and turned off, which wastes energy and can add to your electricity bill.
7. Adjust your thermostat
Reset your thermostat so the air-conditioner or heater won't waste energy by running in an empty house.
8. Get spare key savvy
Hiding a house key under the mat, or other somewhat obvious hiding spots is not a great idea. They are the first places thieves look—they know all the usual suspects when it comes to spare key access.
9. Inform your neighbors
Let your neighbors know you are going on vacation and for how long. Ask them to keep an eye out for unusual activity and give them a spare key just in case any issues arise.
10. Use social media with caution
When you post your trip plans and adventures to Facebook you advertise your absence. It may sound paranoid, but in fact many police officers warn residents that posting vacation plans on social media could let potential burglars know when, and for how long, a home will be unoccupied. Rather than share your vacay highlights in real time, wait until you get home.
Prep for return
The following two tips score you bonus points: They are optional but deeply appreciated by a weary traveler.
11. Stock your kitchen
Just because you threw away perishables doesn’t mean you don’t want some food in the house. Plan on having at least a basic breakfast at the ready by stocking your kitchen with cold cereal, coffee and a container of shelf-stable milk. If you are coming home in the afternoon and want a hassle-free meal, have a few freezer meals ready to go so you don’t have to go grocery shopping or out to eat (again!) as soon as you get home.
12. Tidy up
The truth is, coming home can be deflating enough—a dirty house only compounds the anticlimax. Do what it takes to make your home feel inviting: Sweep or vacuum floors, wipe down counters, don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink, give toilets a quick scrub. Go the extra mile by making the bed with clean sheets; it will make sleeping in your own bed that much sweeter.