You're Ready for Vacation, but Is Your House?

Written by Teressa Campbell
Updated October 24, 2014
Car in driveway
When you're away on vacation, having a car in the driveway is one of the best ways to make a house seem to be occupied. (Photo courtesy of member Marshall B. of Virginia Beach)

Before you put on that out-of-office email and lock the doors to catch a flight, here's what you need to do — and what not to do — before leaving on vacation.

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You've planned your vacation and can’t wait to get going? Not so fast. Before you close the door and hit the road, here's how to keep your home safe while you're on vacation, including shutting off utilities while you’re not home. A little planning before you leave can keep you from worrying about your home while you’re away and prevent surprises when you return.

Does your house look empty?

The last thing you need is a thief choosing your home because it likes like no one’s home. What screams “Owner on vacation”? Curtains drawn, newspapers in the driveway, lights on all the time and an full mailbox.

Here are tips to make your home look lived in while you're away:

• Hire a house sitter or ask a neighbor or friend to check in on your home while you’re away. This person can also bring in any mail or newspaper and take your trash out if you're gone more than a week.

• Leave a car in the driveway or ask a friend or neighbor to park occasionally there to make it look like someone’s home.

• Set the lights to switch on an off randomly with an automatic timer or security system you can access by smart phone or computer.

• Don’t share your vacation plans on social media. Wait until you return to post your travel pictures.

• Turn your telephone ringer off or forward your calls to your cell phone. Don’t set the answering message to indicate you are on vacation.

• Place a temporary hold on your mail and newspaper delivery.

• Remove any spare keys you've hidden to make sure someone doesn't find it.

• Lock up any valuables and place sentimental items out of sight.

• Hire a lawn care service or ask a neighbor to take care of your lawn or shovel your walkways while you're gone.

RELATED: 8 Tips for Preparing your Home for Vacation

Plan for the worst case scenarios

Do you have a plan for emergencies that arise while you're away from home? Power outages and broken pipes can cause major damage when left unchecked.

• Leave emergency contact information with whoever is checking on your house.

• Make sure the batteries in your smoke and fire detectors are fresh. Route alarms, including ones for home security and sump pumps, plus temperature alerts, to the right phone number.

• In the winter: Leave a faucet turned on just enough to trickle water through the pipes if you'll be gone and are concerned that your pipes may freeze.

• Turn your air conditioner off or heating unit to the lowest level for minimum use — but set the heat high enough to avoid frozen pipes.

• Unplug electronics that could be damaged by a power surge, including TVs and computers, and unused appliances to reduce power consumption.

Unpack an easier return

Coming home from vacation can be as stressful as leaving without a plan in place. Before you go:

• Prepay bills or schedule their payment in advance. You don't want to get home and find that the water or power was shut off in your absence.

• Determine what to do with your pets while you’re away. If you can't take them with you, interview pet sitters and boarding kennels.

• Prepare your plants if you're vacationing during the summer.

• Clean out your refrigerator and pantry before you leave. Check the expiration dates on perishable items such as milk, eggs, fresh food and bread to make sure they won't go bad before you return.

• Clean your home so you won’t have to clean when you get home.

Want less to fret about?

Hiring a house sitter can remove much of the stress caused by trying to find someone to check on your home. Search Angie's List for reviews of professional house and pet sitters who will visit or live in your house while you are on vacation. Be sure to check references before hiring a house sitter so you know you are getting the best person at a price you can afford.

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