Vacations are a time to relax and escape from regular life. When you're miles from home, the last thing you want to worry about is the safety of your home. If you plan on taking a vacation this summer (or any time this year), here are some simple tips on prepping your home for a vacation.
Stop Your Newspaper and Mail
One sure sign of being absent from your home is a pile of newspapers in the driveway. Contact your newspaper delivery person and stop service while you're gone. If you don't have a locked mailbox, contact the post office and have them hold your mail. You can also ask a trusted neighbor to collect mail, newspapers and deliveries and have him/her hold them for you until you're back.
Park Your Car in the Garage
The last thing you want is to get home from a vacation and have your car gone. If you can, park your car inside the garage, or have a family member park it at his/her house. You can also ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway, making it look like someone is leaving each morning.
Put a Light on a Timer
A dark house stands out in a neighborhood, especially when all the other homes are lit up. Before you leave, buy a timer and install it on a lamp in your home. It's also a good idea to install a motion-activated sensor on an outdoor floodlight that will be triggered should someone walk by it. You can also ask a neighbor to turn on the front porch light in the evening.
Mow Your Lawn
Grass can grow pretty fast in two or three days. If you have a lawn, make sure it's trimmed before you embark on your trip. If you're going to be gone longer than a week, ask a family member or neighbor to cut the grass in the front yard while you're away.
Some of these items are easily overlooked, but could cause major issues when you're away:
Unplug Small Appliances and Electronics
Small appliances and electronics can be energy vampires when plugged in, and some are still active even when they look like they're turned off. Before you leave, unplug those items that won't be used while you're gone (coffee makers, toasters, espresso machines, etc.). It's also a good time to make sure all smoke detectors work properly throughout your home.
Turn Down the Thermostat
Your thermostat makes sure your home maintains a specific temperature throughout the day. Before you leave, set the thermostat to a lower temperature if the house is going to be empty. This will help conserve energy while you're gone. If you do turn down the thermostat, be sure to keep your home at a temperature that will still protect plants, pets and furniture.
Put the Water Heater in Vacation Mode
Traditional water heaters heat water throughout the day, even when you're not using water. Before you head out on a vacation, put the heater in vacation mode. Check to see if your water heater has a VAC setting -- which is for vacations. If it doesn't, you can turn down the thermostat to the lowest setting. But don't stop at the water heater: turn off water valves to the dishwasher, washing machine and any sinks. The last thing you want to come home to is a flood in your house because a pipe broke or a hose burst.
Tidy Up the Kitchen
Before you leave it's always a good idea to clean out the fridge and dispose of anything that will go bad while you're gone. The sink can harbor things that cause bad smells -- run a half cup of vinegar and some water through the garbage disposal to alleviate any potential buildups, and make sure to take out any trash and recycling so you don't come home to a smelly house. If you have a trusted neighbor, ask them to put your garbage, recycling or yard debris bins out on pickup day.
Leave Emergency Contact Info with Neighbors
You may tell your family that you're heading out, but you should also let a neighbor know. Neighbors live near you and can be your first point of contact should something happen to your home while you're away. Let a trusted neighbor know you're going to be out of town -- provide them with information on where you're going, how long you'll be gone, and contact information for yourself and for family members in case of an emergency.