By Ariana Arghandewal
Now that you’re getting ready to embark on that chase-the-winter-blues-away vacation, remember that preparing your home for your trip is just as important as preparing your suitcase. Taking these five important steps will help ensure your home is safe while you’re away, and it’s in great condition when you return.
- Keep the house fresh. Before heading off on your trip, take out all the trash, get rid of perishables in your refrigerator, and rid the pantry of any open packages that may attract ants or insects. Pour a cup of vinegar down the garbage disposal and half a cup of bleach into each toilet to ensure that no putrid smells will greet you when you return. If you’re leaving your pets home and having someone look in on them, make sure they have more than enough litter, disposal bags, or other special cleaning supplies, and leave the pet-stain eliminator in a prominent place. For the outside, consider hiring someone for yard maintenance and/or snow shoveling while you’re gone, for aesthetic and security reasons.
- Security measures. Regardless of whether you have a home security system, it’s a good idea to leave at least one light on inside your house to deter burglars. The light should be easily seen by anyone passing by. Hallway lights usually do the trick, and if you don’t have motion-sensor lights outside, leave a porch light on as well. It’s also a good idea to leave a car parked in the driveway. (It doesn’t have to be your car. If the neighbors have an extra car, ask them to park it in your driveway while you’re gone.) If potential burglars drive by repeatedly and notice no car in the driveway, they may see it as a green light to break in. Make sure all windows and doors are locked and smoke detectors are in working condition before you leave. Unplugging small appliances and computers is a good safety step that also conserves energy.
- Mail delivery. Nothing gives away an empty house like a pile of newspapers sitting on the driveway. If you’re gone more than two days, arrange for the post office to hold your mail, or ask a friend to pick it up each day. If you take a newspaper, call the paper’s circulation department and have them hold your subscription while you’re gone. If you ask nice, they’ll extend your subscription for the length of time they’ve held it. (These days, they’re thrilled to have any paying customers.) This will help preserve order while you’re gone.
- Move to autopay or e-bills. If you haven’t signed up for electronic bill delivery, now’s the time. It eliminates that pileup in your mailbox and lets you track your bills (credit-card and otherwise) while you’re away. For even greater peace of mind, set up automatic payments on utilities and pay your credit-card bills in advance. You won’t be worrying about paying your bills late or having them pile up in your mailbox for potential identity thieves, and because you paid your credit-card bill your chances of maxing out your card while on vacation will be that much less. And who wants that?
- Store your valuables. When I was five years old and living in Germany, my mother and I came home from a trip to the mall to find our home had been broken into. The VHS player, some cash, my sister’s bike, my dad’s new leather jacket, and some jewelry my mom had failed to store in a safe place were all gone. While most things can be easily replaced, it’s important to safely store away the things that can’t. This includes your most valuable jewelry, personal documents, keepsakes, collectibles, and electronics. Don’t think it won’t happen to you, because it happened to us during a brief trip to the mall. I’ll leave it to you to find a creative place to hide your valuables. Remember: You know your house better than any thief.
If there’s something else you do to prep your house for vacations, let us know in the comments section. Otherwise, enjoy chasing away those winter blues.
Ariana Arghandewal is the creator of http://www.pointchaser.com, a fun and informative look at travel deals across the internet and around the world.