A family vacation is always something to look forward to, but it also requires a fair amount of planning. Before you hit the road, sea, or air, there are a few essential things to do to ensure that your home will be secure while you’re gone. Start planning by creating a checklist of the crucial things you need to prepare before your travel day arrives. With a few simple tips and some thinking ahead, you can stay on top of your home’s security for a fun vacation and peace of mind.
How to keep your house safe and secure while you’re gone
Before you go, there are some crucial things to do to keep your home safe. Make a checklist, and make sure you complete all of the tasks by the day before leaving.
Inform the right people you’re leaving. Police in certain areas will drive by your home if you let them know you’re out of town. Call your local police, and ask them to keep a watchful eye on your property. Inform the neighbors you’re leaving, and exchange phone numbers just in case there’s an emergency while you’re gone.
Keep mum on social media. Don’t tell people on social media that you’re going on vacation. Keep your status private until you return.
Install a security system. Consider installing a quality security system you can monitor while you’re away. Look for high-definition security cameras, a doorbell camera, and alarms that will alert you to any suspicious activity. Some of the best home security systems are relatively affordable and are well worth the cost of protection and peace of mind. In the same way, integrating an IoT-based home security system will allow you to control locks, lights, radios, heating, and camera security while you are away.
Install security lighting: A well-lit home is a protected home, so be sure you have plenty of bright outdoor lighting around the house’s front and back. Motion-activated smart lights are a good deterrent for criminals. Program your outdoor lights to come on at a particular time so that people think there’s someone there at night. Put your indoor lights on a timer so that they only turn on during certain hours to save on your electrical bill.
Use your safety deposit box. If you have a lot of valuables, consider leaving them in a safety deposit box to avoid the possibility of theft.
Hand out spare keys: Give a friend or relative a spare key in case your house sitter gets locked out, or the police need access. Make sure you lock the deadbolt and all exterior doors, including the garage door.
Get the yard in shape. Do a few simple yard decluttering tasks before you leave so that your home looks great when you come back. Mow the lawn, rake the leaves, or hire someone to come and cut the grass and check on the yard while you’re gone. Put your patio furniture away — store it in the garage or shed if you can. If not, cover your furniture with a weather-resistant cover to protect it. Stack chairs and place outdoor furniture together in a corner near the house to blow away or get stolen.
Program the thermostat. Consider installing a smart thermostat that you can program while you’re on vacation. Set the thermostat to a reasonable temperature, so your HVAC system isn’t running constantly. The ideal temperature for an empty home is about 50-55 degrees in the winter and 85-90
Shut down the house. Before you leave, unplug the TV, computer, and small appliances — anything you don’t need to be plugged in while you’re gone. Use surge protectors for anything you must leave plugged in. Ensure that all doors and windows are locked, and close curtains and blinds so people can’t see inside. Check your smoke alarm and batteries and the batteries of other security devices, or just add new batteries to ensure they’re fresh.
Understanding security systems features for traveling
There are plenty of travel safety tips and having a home security system is one of the most valuable. Having a home security system will give you peace of mind, especially while traveling. Here are some security system basics to remember.
Remote access allows you to see activity in and around your home from any location. Most quality home security systems include an app so you can access this via your smartphone and check in on your home at any time.
Set up your home security system to alert you of any activity in real-time. This will send an alert to your phone where you can view the camera footage and see what’s going on as it happens. This is especially important if your home is unoccupied. Having real-time notifications set up will allow you to alert the authorities if you see any suspicious activity as it’s occurring rather than later.
Unlike landline monitoring, cellular monitoring works through a cellular network to provide you with a wireless security solution. This feature isn’t just convenient, but it also allows you to take your home security system with you when you move or if you plan to stay in another home long-term.
Video monitoring is crucial if you want to have peace of mind while you’re gone. Using security cameras, your system will start recording any movement while you’re away. Set up motion-detecting cameras and turn on the real-time notifications alert option so you can see what’s going on in and around your home in real-time as it’s happening.
Home automation gives you complete control over your home, even while you’re away. Use this feature to lock and unlock doors, use your security cameras, and change the setting on your thermostat. Consider adding a home automation feature to as much of your home as possible to give you more control while you travel.
Additional preparation for extended vacations
If you’re planning a long time away, there are some extra things you should do to ensure home safety:
Clean or replace air filters. Replace your HVAC air filter before you leave, so the system runs smoothly while you’re gone.
Forward your mail. When leaving long-term, it’s best to have your mail forwarded to a safe location. It can be to your hotel or the home of a trusted friend or family member.
Take care of the cars. Store your car in the garage while you’re gone. Give it a little TLC to get it through its idle period — get an oil and filter change, fill the tank, and top off the antifreeze.
Find someone to clean the house. If you’re concerned about dust and grime accumulating while you’re gone, consider hiring a reliable housekeeping company or professional cleaning service to do weekly or bi-weekly cleanings.
Mind the plumbing. If you’re leaving for an extended trip, turn off the main water supply, and drain all faucets until they run dry. Empty the toilet tanks and bowls, and pour a cup of bleach into the toilet bowl to prevent mold or ugly rings from forming.
Finding a house sitter. You might want to hire a house sitter to watch your home while you’re away. Enlist a friend or family member’s help to do the house sitting if you have people you know and trust nearby. If not, use an online referral service so that the house sitter is fully vetted and trustworthy. Here are a few tips to ensure that your house sitter will be comfortable and well-informed about what needs to be done:
Write down instructions for essential tasks. If you have houseplants, leave clear written instructions for watering, fertilizing, and sunlight, so the house sitter knows precisely how to care for them. Likewise, make sure the house sitter knows exactly what to do to take care of your pets. Write down instructions for feeding, and if you have a dog, let the sitter know when and where they like to walk. Leave plenty of pet food on the kitchen counter so it’s easy to find and include some extra cash they can use to buy more food if it runs low. For smaller pets like birds or hamsters, make sure you leave clear instructions on feeding them and cleaning their cages.
Leave contact information. Give the sitter your travel itinerary, your phone number, and the numbers of close family or friends they can call if there’s a problem.
Provide certain information. If you have a temperamental garage door, a coded entry, or anything else the sitter should know to make the job easier and less stressful, write it down.
Tell the sitter to help themself to what’s in the kitchen. It’s best to leave an empty fridge and freezer behind, but instead of tossing it, you can leave some things behind and tell the house sitter they’re welcome to eat whatever they want from the refrigerator and pantry, so it doesn’t go to waste.
Home Insurance: A Pillar of Pre-Travel Prep
As you make your travel plans, your home’s safety should be at the forefront of your preparations. While securing doors and windows or asking neighbors to keep an eye on your property are practical steps, an often overlooked yet crucial aspect of home security is ensuring your home insurance is up-to-date.
Before jetting off, it’s a wise move to review your home insurance policy. Ensure that your coverage limits adequately reflect the current value of your home and its contents. If you’ve made significant purchases or upgrades since your last review, you might need to adjust your policy to include these new assets.
Additionally, familiarize yourself with the ‘unoccupancy’ terms of your insurance. Some policies may have stipulations regarding how long a home can be unoccupied before the insurance becomes void or specific conditions change. If your travels will keep you away longer than your policy allows, inform your insurer in advance; they may offer an extension or a specialized product to cover such scenarios.
Lastly, ensure that your insurance policy covers common travel-related mishaps such as burglaries, water damage from frozen pipes, or electrical issues that could result in fire. By ensuring your home insurance is comprehensive, you’ll have an extra layer of peace of mind as you embark on your journey, knowing your biggest asset is well-protected.
Prepare for the trip
Once you’ve got most of the details checked off your list and it’s getting close to zero-hour, start getting into the mindset of traveling. Keep in mind that avoiding common mistakes will save you a lot of stress. Here’s what you should start working on the week before you leave.
Go easy on grocery buying. Don’t over-buy groceries before you leave for vacation. Try to keep your food purchases minimal, so you don’t end up having to throw a lot of it away before you go. About a week before you leave, write down a meal plan and only buy the groceries you need. If you subscribe to any grocery delivery services, see if you can temporarily put them on pause. Now is a great time to declutter the fridge and freezer. Look for items that are expired or that have freezer burn and toss them. If there’s good food that you won’t eat before you go, consider giving it to a friend or family member, or let the house sitter eat it, so it doesn’t go wrong while you’re gone.
Plan transportation to the airport. Decide if you’re going to drive your car to the airport and park it, or if you’re going to use a driving service to pick you up and drop you off. Remember that airports charge you by the day to leave your car, so calling for a ride is likely the least expensive option. Asking a close friend or taking a taxi to the airport is the best idea for solo travelers.
Pause delivery services and mail. Temporarily stop all home delivery services and mail so that it doesn’t pile up on your doorstep. The US Postal Service has a section online where you can temporarily pause mail delivery until you return.
Prepare for different weather conditions. Make a list before you start packing, and keep things as minimal as possible, so you’re not weighed down by too much clothing and too many travel accessories. Here are some tips to help you pack and prepare for various weather conditions:
Cold weather. Pack at least a few extra items of clothing in case the weather gets cold at your destination. Bring a fleece jacket or hoodie for layering during chilly weather, so you stay insulated and comfortable. If you’re leaving a cold climate behind, winterize your plumbing to prevent the pipes from freezing and possibly bursting while you’re away. Look for drafts, and seal them before you leave to keep your home warm.
Hot weather. When traveling during hot seasons or in hot climates, always pack sunscreen and warm-weather clothing like tank tops, shorts, and a swimsuit. Preparing with the correct travel accessories will make your vacation smoother. To prep, your home, remove all trash and have your home professionally treated for pests. If you’re going on a long trip, hire someone to mow the lawn while you’re away.
Humid weather. Dress in lightweight, breathable clothing when traveling in humid weather to keep you cool and comfortable. Prepare your home by programming the thermostat to a reasonable temperature, so you don’t return to a stuffy house. If someone is house-sitting for you, ask them to open the windows when they’re there to improve airflow and help keep your home aired out.
Rainy weather. Pack a lightweight raincoat or jacket if you’re traveling in a rainy climate. A pair of packable rain boots are also helpful. You can buy an umbrella when you arrive since they’re relatively easy to find at most stores. Prep your home by making sure that all windows and doors are properly sealed to prevent leaks. Have your roof inspected before you go to confirm that it’s in good condition so you won’t have to worry about the possibility of a leak if there’s a heavy rainstorm.
Are you leaving the kids behind? If you’re planning a trip without the kids, make sure that they understand why you’re going and that it’s only temporary. Make your kids feel secure, and inform them that it’s just a short time that you’ll be away. Choose a babysitter you trust while you’re gone, like a beloved friend or family member, that your children feel comfortable and safe until you return.
Are you bringing the kids along? Make a packing list for your kids’ luggage, so they have everything they need. But don’t stress yourself, flying with an infant doesn’t have to be a challenge. Be sure to bring a few games, their favorite stuffed animal, and some coloring books or puzzles to keep them entertained. When traveling with kids, bring lots of snacks, bottled water, a roll of paper towels, baby wipes, and all the chargers you need for their devices. Keep in mind that being prepared will ensure an amazing family vacation.
Dietary restrictions. Researching your travel destination ahead of time can save you time and money. Whether you are vegan, paleo, or keto, it’s a good idea to seek out meal options before arriving at your destination. In case of a food allergy, we recommend you bring an allergy card and the appropriate medication.
Prepping for business travel. If you’re planning business travel, your family will likely stay behind. There will be less planning required for a business trip since there should be someone at home to keep the house safe and maintained. Remember to pack essential business items, like your work phone, laptop, and professional attire, so you’ll be dressed appropriately for meetings and other work-related events during a business trip. Bring some street clothes, too, in case you want to dress down for a casual lunch or dinner. Every trip is different and you should pack according to the location. For example, if you are traveling to photography locations, don’t forget to bring all your camera equipment. On the other hand, if the trip is leisurely, you can leave your work devices at home.
Business Travel Home Safety Tips: Since most business trips are paid for by your employer, you’ll likely have the entire itinerary already planned for you in advance. Schedule things like mail forwarding, housecleaning, and lawn care around the dates you plan to be away from home. If your family is staying put, they can house sit and take care of pets and plants for you. However, if you’re bringing them along, make sure you follow the same tips you would when leaving home empty on a leisure vacation to ensure that everything is safe and in place before you go.
Minimize travel stress. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before travel day. Use an eye mask and earplugs if you want to nap on the plane or train. Stay hydrated, wear comfortable shoes, and eat a healthy breakfast so the day starts smoothly and you’re ready to roll. Your trip will go much more smoothly when you take care of the travel stress.
Prepare for a week, 1, 3, and 6-month trip
Whether you’re going away for one week or six months, it’s important to be sure to prepare the right way:
One week: If you’re just heading out for a week-long trip, you can have your neighbors keep an eye on your home or hire a house-sitter to mind your property. Make sure your mail and the daily newspaper are secure and out of sight. Turn on all motion-activated lights and security cameras just in case. Lock all doors and windows and set your thermostat to a reasonable temperature, so the HVAC system isn’t constantly running while you’re away.
One month: Temporarily deter any curious would-be thieves, asking the post office and newspaper delivery service to hold deliveries. You can also ask your local police department to drive by your home occasionally, making sure everything is safe and secure. Continue to set timers for your lights, set the thermostat for your HVAC system, and activate all security cameras, so everything is being monitored while you’re away. Trips longer than a week should always include a house sitter or a neighbor checking in on your property.
Three months: Hire a landscaping service to mow your grass and take care of your lawn while you’re away. Put the newspaper and mail on hold and consider having someone stay in your home while you’re gone so that it’s always occupied. Before you leave, get rid of food in the fridge and pantry so that it doesn’t spoil, and take out all trash before you lock up the home.
Six months: A six-month trip requires everything mentioned above and some more in-depth preparations. Turn off the main water feed to your home unless you plan to have someone stay there while you are gone. This is a good opportunity to rent out your home on a short-term lease if possible. Otherwise, make sure that all water and gas valves are turned off while you’re gone. Use a timer to turn the lights on and off sporadically and sign up for the local police check-in service if available. Stop all mail and package deliveries or have everything forwarded to your new destination until you return home. Continue all landscaping services, and never mention that you are not at home publicly on social media.
Tips for traveling during each season
Your specific travel plans may vary depending on the destination and the season. Here are some quick tips for preparing your home before you leave during each season of the year:
Spring: Remove all leaves and debris from gutters before you leave. Cut your grass one last time, and ensure that all patio furniture is secure or put away. Repair window and door screens so insects and pests can’t get inside your home while you’re away.
Summer: Cut dead or rotting tree limbs, so they don’t fall onto your roof during summer storms. Make plans for landscaping if you’re going to be gone for longer than a week. Remove all trash from your indoor and outdoor trash cans and empty the fridge if you will be gone for more than a few weeks. Spray the inside and outdoor perimeter of your home for insects.
Fall: Autumn is also a great time to clean your gutters and yard of excess leaves, twigs, and debris before you leave. Keep your patio furniture in storage and put garden tools away. If you have a swimming pool, secure it with a cover before you depart. Make sure all windows and doors are sealed and add new weatherstripping if necessary to prevent drafts.
Winter: Leave your heat on and set the thermostat to around 55 degrees. Turn off the water supply and drain all of your pipes, so they don’t freeze. Let family members know you’ll be away, so they don’t send Christmas gifts to your home while you are not there. Secure loose items outside so they don’t blow around or get damaged if a winter storm hits.
What to do with your home if you are becoming a digital nomad
If you’re planning to become a digital nomad, you’ll probably be away for extended periods of time. If you’re a renter, consider ending your lease early and putting large and valuable items in a storage unit.
Digital nomads who are homeowners can try these tips:
- Consider renting your home to a tenant while you’re away so that your home is occupied and you’re making some extra money during your travels.
- Use a rental service app to rent out your home to vacationers for some supplemental income.
- Designate a trusted friend or family member to be your point of contact while you’re gone so they can check on your property for you.
- Organize your luggage well and leave enough space to save the best moments of this journey. When packing as a remote worker, you should know that you will be carrying more than just a backpack. Don’t forget to bring your emergency kit or even the charging source for your work devices.
- Always store valuables in a secure location if you plan to rent your home out while working abroad or in another state.
Snowbird checklist for leaving home
Snowbirds tend to leave their Northern homes for the winter and head to a warmer location like the Caribbean or Costa Rica. If you’re planning on taking your snowbirding journey to another country, make sure you’re familiar with local laws and tax regulations. Here’s a handy snowbird checklist for leaving your Northern home:
Prepare for leaving your Northern home
- Set your thermostat for about 55 degrees unless you plan to have someone occupy your Northern home while you’re gone.
- Forward all of your mail to the Southern home address while you’re away.
- Store valuables in a safe or a locked area of the home where they can’t be found.
- Turn off the main water supply and drain the faucets and pipes to prevent freezing.
- Clean your gutters, check your roof and windows, and do a general once-over to make sure your Northern home is winter-ready.
What to do when you get to your Southern home
- Open all windows to let your Southern home air out and plug in kitchen appliances as soon as you arrive.
- Inspect the home to make sure that everything looks good and that it’s free of damage.
- Contact the utility companies before you get to your Southern home so that the power, cable, etc., are turned on when you arrive.
Prepare to leave your Southern home for the summer
- Dispose of all perishable foods before you go.
- Clean the home from top to bottom: dust, vacuum, and wash linens before putting them away.
- Unplug appliances and electronics while you’re gone.
- Have your mail re-forwarded back to the address of your Northern home.
Returning to your Northern home
- Turn the water back on and make sure there are no signs of leaks or damage to plumbing, the roof, or anywhere else in the home.
- Take all patio furniture out of storage and let it air out to be used for the summer.
- Keep a snowbird checklist handy, so you can go back through the home and make sure everything is back for the summer season.
Traveling smart is crucial if you want to have a pleasant vacation, so keep these travel hacks in mind:
- Stay aware of all the latest safety measures and rules by checking the TSA website frequently.
- Look for affordable flights to and from your destination to help you save cash.
- Pack items using organization cubes, and make sure you create a packing checklist before you leave so you don’t forget anything.
- There are plenty luggage storage networks to stash your suitcases when you arrive in a city too early to check into your hotel or when you’ve checked out of your room and have adventures planned before heading to the airport. Secure locations like Vertoe luggage storage NYC offer safer and convenient alternatives to any conventional locker storage while traveling abroad.
- Sit down and create a budget for your trip in advance.
- Take extra time to prepare if you are going to travel internationally.
- Within the travel hacks, there are plenty of online options to help you find everything for your trip. You will get to book a wide range of activities, vacation homes, cars, and flights at low prices. Researching those sites will be key to book your accommodation on a secure website and avoid any unwanted scams.
- Come up with ways you can save money for traveling, like cutting down trips to the coffee shop, hosting a yard sale, or selling unwanted items online.
Considering traveling by cruise is a great option for your vacations. This type of trip has become one of the best options to visit several destinations in a single trip, without worrying about going from one place to another with your suitcases.
- When talking about money, you should consider looking for the best options to transfer money while traveling, in any case, you need to do some payments back home and you´re out of the country, this could save you a lot of headaches when the situation happens.
Tips for traveling with a pet
Traveling with your pet is fun, but it can also be challenging. Follow these tips to keep your pet safe and healthy on your vacation:
- Make sure you bring enough medication for your pet while you’re away and keep it close at hand.
- Bring a lightweight, portable food and water bowl so you can feed your pet on the go.
- Use durable leashes and harnesses, and always make sure you know local leash laws.
- Give your pet a comfortable way to travel with a roomy carrier. Include their favorite blanket and toy, so they have a scent from home to comfort them.
- Make sure your pet is microchipped, and bring all of your paperwork with you.
Budgeting House Expenses While You are Away
Aside from budgeting for your vacation, you will need to create a budget for household expenses while you’re gone:
Set your bills up for automatic payments, so everything comes out of your bank account, and all of your bills are paid on time.
Create a house expense budget before you leave to know what you can and should spend on the home separate from your vacation.
Pay for everything in cash or via debit while you’re away, so you don’t end up in debt when you return.
Turn down the thermostat to save on your energy bill and unplug appliances and electronics before you leave.
Consider stopping newspaper and magazine subscriptions to help you save a bit of extra money while you’re away. Ask if you can temporarily “turn off” your cable and Internet service until you return.
Remember to save money for landscapers and house-sitters so that everyone gets paid.
Don’t order anything online that will need to be delivered to your home – there will be time to shop when you get back.
Renting your home while you are away
If you’re planning to rent your home while you’re traveling the world, keep these tips in mind:
- Use referrals or do background checks to make sure you choose a safe and reliable tenant.
- Write up a lease and make sure you and the tenant both sign it before you leave and keep a copy for yourself.
- Lock up your personal belongings and valuables or put them in a storage facility until you return.
- Ask someone you trust to check on the home occasionally just to make sure everything is going well.
- Consider using a property management service if you’re a digital nomad or plan to be away from your home for a year or more.
Tips for finding a home rental for long-term travel
If you want to rent a house, condo, or apartment for long-term travel, consider the following information:
Know exactly what you want in terms of size and amenities well in advance to help you narrow down your choices.
Set a budget for long-term rental, so you include the cost in your travel expenses.
Ask friends or family members if they have any recommendations for long-term rentals they may have used in the past.
Use apps like Airbnb or VRBO to help you select the right rental for you.
Try to put a deposit down and secure your rental well in advance to save money and avoid losing it if someone else gets it first.
Research the owner, the location, and the local culture before you make a decision, so you’ll be happy with your choice.
Read the rental contract carefully before you sign it so that you’re familiar with the terms.
Post-Vacation Home Recovery
When you return from your vacation, there are a few things you’ll need to attend to for a smooth transition back to everyday life at home. The first thing is to open the windows, even if it’s cold, to let the stale air out and bring fresh air in. Then:
Do a house check. Do a quick walkthrough of your house, make sure that the electricity is working, the water is running, and the house’s temperature is comfortable. You may need to run the faucets for a while and change the temperature on your thermostat so your home is comfortable again.
Unpack. Throw all of your clothing in the laundry when you return. Put toiletries back in the bathroom, and return medications to the medicine cabinet. Find a place for your souvenirs, and set aside gifts you brought home for your friends. Put your empty suitcases in the closet — clean each piece before you put it away, and pack smaller bags inside larger ones to save space.
Reinstate delivery services and mail. Reinstate your mail delivery as soon as possible, and cancel any forwarding instructions. Start up your subscription services back up, and if your neighbors were picking up the mail, retrieve it as soon as you can.
Clean, if it’s been a while. If you’ve been gone for an extended period of time, you’ll probably want to clean the house sooner than later. Dust ceiling fans, wipe down countertops, and vacuum and mop the floors when you return. Rinse out the sinks, tubs, showers, and flush the toilets.
Whether you’re heading out on a business trip, a girls’ getaway, or planning a fun family vacation, keep these traveling tips in mind to keep your pets, plants, and property safe. You can leave town confident that you haven’t left anything behind or undone with careful preparation — you know the iron is unplugged, and the front door is locked. Start early so you can ease into the vacation mindset and leave home ready and relaxed.