20 Tips for Preparing Your Home for an Extended Vacation

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Cummins originally sponsored this look at how to prepare your home before a vacation.

It’s the day we leave for that month-long South Pacific cruise. Alan waits in the car as I lock the front door after checking everything in the house one more time. Then I try the lock, again—and again.

Confession time: I have a hard time leaving our house for vacation, especially an extended trip. But I shouldn’t really worry, because I have Alan and he makes lists.

Tips for Preparing Your House for an Extended Vacation

Woman in red coat checking to see if front door is locked to prepare her home for an extended vacation.
Did I lock the door?

Creating a list of all the tasks needed to prepare your home for vacation is the single most important travel preparation tip I can offer.

Keep a master list of every task stored on your computer or phone to print out before every trip.

Check off each task as you accomplish them, and then head off on your adventure knowing that your home is prepared.

Not sure where to start? Here are some must-haves for your extended vacation preparation checklist:

Before you leave for vacation

house alarm panel
Don’t forget to set the house alarm.

Household Tasks:

  1. Empty the dishwasher and leave it cracked open (if possible) so any standing water in the system evaporates.
  2. Clean out the refrigerator. In addition to throwing away food that will spoil, this is a great time to give the fridge a good cleaning.
  3. Run a mixture of vinegar and water through the garbage disposal so odors don’t build up.
  4. Empty and wash all trashcans.
  5. Set the thermostat to reasonable temperature. For a winter trip, set the thermostat to a low temperature, but not so low that pipes will freeze. In summer, set the thermostat to a higher temperature so the air conditioning won’t run unnecessarily.
  6. If you live in a cold climate, leave doors open underneath all sinks to keep pipes from freezing.
  7. Place the water heater on “vacation mode” setting.
  8. For long trips, put a trickle charge on car batteries. If rodents are a problem in the garage, place dryer sheets around the car to keep them from chewing on wires. Or plug an ultrasonic pest repeller into garage electrical outlets. They really work!
Hot water heater set to away mode before vacation.
Be sure to set the hot water heater to away mode.

Home Safety Measures:

  1. Place several lights on timers (or ask the house sitter to rotate which lights are turned on, both inside and out, once or twice a week)
  2. Install a motion-activated floodlight in at least one location outside your home.
  3. Consider investing in a whole house generator to save headaches in the event of electric outages. If you’re out of town when the electricity goes out, food can spoil in the refrigerator, irrigation systems will stop watering the lawn, and automatic timers will stop turning on and off the lights that are making your home look occupied.
  4. Make sure smoke detectors are working properly.
  5. Turn off water to the interior of the house. An undiscovered water leak can result in thousands of dollars in damage. Leave faucet taps open so when you slowly turn the water system back on, pressure won’t blow out the gaskets. At the very least, turn off the water valves to sinks, dishwasher, washing machine and toilets.

While you’re away from home

Purple, yellow and red flowers in a pot. Ask the housesitter to water them while you're on an extended vacation.
Remind the housesitter to water the plants.

Hire a house sitter (or ask a trusted friend or neighbor) to make weekly (at least) checks inside your home. They should:

  1. Flush all toilets so that sewer gases don’t build up, especially if your home is on a septic tank.
  2. Confirm mail is being held or collected.
  3. Make sure the irrigation system is working
  4. Water outdoor and indoor potted plants.
  5. Cut the lawn or confirm the landscape service is doing it.
  6. Survey the house for leaks after major rainstorms, heavy winter snows, or extreme cold weather.
  7. Adjust the thermostat a day before the end of your trip so you arrive to a comfortable home temperature.

Keeping a detailed list of how to prepare your home for vacation makes it easy to walk out the door. And remember, installing a generator or back-up power supply ensures your home is protected in the event of a power outage.

Prepare for the worst and have peace of mind during your trip by installing a Cummins QuietConnect home standby generator.

Disclosure: Cummins originally sponsored this look at home preparation tips. 

Scratch those itchy travel feet!

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