Have you ever come home from vacation to an unfortunate surprise in your house? One of my friends recently returned to find an expired squirrel in her living room. The poor thing had apparently climbed in through a cracked window, then couldn’t find its way out again. So sad. And also so gross, because she had been gone for two months!
Before we go on vacation, I run down a checklist of “to-do’s.” I find it makes the process easier, and I am less likely to forget anything (like making sure to shut all the windows). Here’s my list – do you have a similar one?
1. Unplug appliances.
I love doing this! It’s so fun to unplug everything and know that we are saving money AND being energy-efficient. Why pay for electricity that you’re not using?
2. Open doors between rooms.
Keep all your doors open – including closet doors. That way the air can circulate and nothing will get musty.
3. Put lights on timers.
If you’re gone for a long time, consider asking a friend to come over and switch up the timers every once in a while.
4. Let your alarm company know you’ll be away.
If your alarm company knows you aren’t home, they usually won’t waste a step by trying to call you before they dispatch the police. It’s also a great idea to designate a trusted friend or neighbor as an alternate point of contact.
5. Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors.
So there won’t be any annoying beeping if the battery runs low. People outside can hear that, you know.
6. Adjust your thermostat.
I admit that I don’t know much about this one, because we don’t need air conditioning here in the SF Bay Area, and it never gets cold enough for anything to freeze. However, if you live in a place where it gets very hot or very cold, I’m sure you know what to do here.
7. Close your windows.
Alas, poor squirrel.
8. Check that your doors are locked.
A no-brainer, but do it anyway.
1. Put your mail on hold.
You can easily do this online. I even do it when we will be out of town for the weekend.
2. Get help from a neighbor.
Ask a neighbor or a friend to check on your house every few days to make sure that nothing is amiss, or that you don’t have packages on your porch, free newspapers on your driveway or random flyers sticking out of your mailbox.
3. Hire a gardener.
If you’ll be away for an extended period of time, you might want to think about hiring a gardener to tidy up the yard in your absence. You don’t have to tell them you’ll be out of town – just schedule and pay in advance.
4. Don’t leave your car parked in one spot.
If your car is parked outside, arrange for a friend or neighbor to drive every so often so it looks like it is being used.
1. Empty the dishwasher and leave it open.
Yucky things can grow in a closed dishwasher.
2. Clean your garbage disposal.
My favorite trick is to let the disposal run for a minute or so as you slowly pour white vinegar and water into it. This ensures that it will smell fresh and clean when you return.
3. Empty your fridge…sort of.
Did you know that your refrigerator will run more efficiently when it’s not completely empty? Once you’ve cleaned out all the perishables, fill the empty space with juice containers, empty soda bottles, or gallon jugs filled with water.
Alternatively, you can clear everything out, open the door, and unplug the fridge.
1. Turn it off?
Consider turning the water off altogether (at the main shut-off valve). If you’ll be gone longer than six weeks, you might want to have a friend come over to run faucets and flush toilets every so often.
2. Turn it down?
Since you won’t be using any hot water, you can save energy by turning your water heater down.
- For an electric water heater: turn the temperature dial down a few degrees.
- For a natural gas water heater: turn it down to “low” or to “vacation mode.”
3. Keep it fresh.
Adding 1/2 cup of Borax to each toilet bowl should prevent the ring that might occur from standing water. DO NOT add bleach to your toilet – this is terrible for the environment!
4. Check it.
Take a field trip around your house to make sure that there are no leaky faucets inside or dripping pipes outside. Also run your sprinkler system to make sure it’s not spraying wildly or leaking.
What do you do before you leave on vacation? Do you have anything to add to this list? Have any unfortunate events happened at your home in your absence (I hope not!)?