Snowbirding for the winter, going on vacation, or even just a few days away to visit friends and family can be fun and exciting. It can also become stressful if you’re worried you forgot to turn something off in your home or wondering if you left a door or window unlocked. While you’re triple-checking your luggage and other personal items you’ll be taking with you, don’t forget to put your house in order before you leave. Use these 12 steps to get your home ready when preparing for a trip so you can relax and enjoy your time away from home, whatever you’re doing.

12 Steps to Get Your Home Ready When Preparing for a Trip

1. Stop Mail Delivery and Trash Service

You can have USPS hold your mail while you are gone for up to 30 days using their online portal or by calling them. Many trash disposal companies also have online services to allow you to hold trash pickup while you are gone. You can always call and request the pickup hold if necessary.

Another option is to have a trusted neighbor collect your mail, package deliveries and put out and return your garbage and recycle containers for you. It’s best not to order anything that might arrive while you are gone, if possible, to avoid having packages sitting on your front porch.

2. Leave a Spare Key with a Trusted Friend or Neighbor

If you have a neighbor that you trust, offer to exchange spare house keys with them so you can watch each other’s homes when either of you is on a trip or vacation. Make sure you have each other’s phone numbers for calling or texting if necessary. It’s reassuring to know you have someone close by that can get in and check on things if necessary while you are gone.

Remove any hidden spare keys outside your house while you are away, so only your neighbor or trusted friend has a spare key.

3. Clean Out the Fridge

Even if you are only going to be gone for a few days, try to consume or toss anything in the refrigerator that might go bad while you are gone so you don’t come back to a smelly house and fridge. That goes for fresh food outside the fridge as well such as fruit or vegetables or even bread in the pantry that could turn moldy.

4. Clean Your House

Clean your house a day or two before you leave so you don’t have to think about it last minute when you are getting everything else ready for your trip. Coming home to a clean, de-cluttered fresh-smelling home is well worth the effort.

Wipe down your countertops and stovetop, sweep and vacuum, especially in rooms where you eat so there isn’t anything left to attract rodents or pests while you’re gone. Make sure to empty trash cans and laundry hampers as well. In addition to washing your clothes before your trip, make sure to wash your bedding and towels to avoid a build-up of bacteria or mold. Don’t forget to empty the washing machine and dryer before you leave.

5. Prep for Pets and Plants

This is one of the 12 steps to get your home ready when preparing for a trip that many people forget about until the last minute. So, don’t forget to make arrangements in advance for any pets you aren’t taking with you. Give your pet sitter or boarding facility detailed care instructions and medications, food, treats and toys needed to keep your pets healthy and happy while you are gone.

Water your indoor and outdoor plants before you leave if you’ll only be gone a few days to a week. If you will be gone longer than that, or have plants that require more attention, have someone come by and do the watering while you are gone.

If you are leaving in the winter, and it might snow while you’re gone, ask your trusted neighbor or friend to have your driveway shoveled while you are away unless that service is included through your HOA.

6. Pay Any Bills That Will Be Due Within a Week of Your Return

Even if you use online bill pay and can pay bills from your phone or laptop that come due while you are gone, it’s best not to leave it to chance, and pay them before you leave. You may be too busy having fun while away and forget about mundane tasks such as paying bills.

It’s especially important to pay your bills before you leave if you pay bills by mail and need to allow a week or more for the payment to arrive. Pay any bills before you leave that are due within a week of your return date to be safe.

7. Run and Unload the Dishwasher

Don’t leave dirty dishes and glasses in your dishwasher while you are gone. They can become moldy over time and difficult to clean. Run your dishwasher the night before you leave and unload it the next morning. Leave the door slightly open so it doesn’t trap moisture and get moldy.

Don’t turn the dishwasher on right before you leave. If something happens and it leaks, you could have a huge disaster when you return. Even if that doesn’t happen, your dishwasher and everything in it could get moldy if it’s sealed up for a few days or a week while you are gone.

8. Program Thermostat for Vacation

If your thermostat is a newer “smart” version, you can set it to away or vacation mode so that it’s not heating or cooling your home to normal temperatures to save money.  It will keep your home from freezing or getting too hot while you’re away by using different temperature settings. If you can control it remotely, change it back to normal mode a few hours before you return so you walk into a comfortable house.

If you have a manual thermostat, set it to around 50 degrees in the winter so you don’t have to worry about any pipes freezing, and to around 85 or 90 degrees in the summer. This will save money while you are gone but you may be slightly uncomfortable for a few hours after you return. If you have a neighbor that will be home, ask them to adjust your thermostat for you the night before or the morning of the day you plan to return so your house is nice and comfortable when you get back.

9. Prep Lights and Appliances

It has become easier and less expensive in recent years to control your home’s lighting remotely with an app using smart bulbs or an automated lighting system. This makes it easy to program lights to come on at different times during the day and evening to give the appearance that someone is home. If you want to take a simpler approach, you can put a few lamps on analog outlet timers for interior lighting while you are gone.

For exterior lighting, it’s best to use light sensors, so your lights automatically come on at dusk and turn off at dawn. You may also want to have a porch light on a motion sensor so it will come on at night if anyone approaches your home.

Unplug kitchen appliances such as toasters, toaster ovens, blenders or anything that could short out and cause an electrical fire. You may also want to unplug TVs and computers to protect them in case of a power surge.

10. Turn Off the Water

If you are going to be away during the winter months, it’s best to turn off the main water supply to your home and open an exterior faucet to let the water drain out of your pipes. To be thorough, open all the faucets in your home until they run dry and flush the toilets to prevent mold.

If you need to leave the main water supply on for sprinkler systems or because your heating system uses water, you can close the shutoff valves to your washing machine, dishwasher and sinks to prevent a leak from becoming a disaster while you are away from home.

Even in the summer months, it’s recommended to turn off the washing machine water faucets and as well as the dishwasher, toilets and sinks to prevent any plumbing issues while you are gone.

11. Leave Blinds and Curtains as If You Are Home

If you normally have your blinds and curtains open in specific rooms in your home, and only close them when you leave town, you’re advertising that you are away. Leave them as you normally would or only close blind louvers partially to make it more difficult to see inside. Curtains should stay as you normally have them in the main living areas and second-floor bedrooms.

12. Check That All Windows and Doors Are Locked

Before you leave, walk your house and check that every window is closed and locked. Then check all the doors, including the garage side door, and any patio doors. Use a bar or rod in the bottom track to prevent patio doors from being opened. Throw the deadbolt locks on all exterior doors from the inside except the door you leave from. If you are leaving through one of the main garage doors, don’t forget to lock the door between the house and the garage.

If you have an alarm system, make sure to arm it before you leave. You may also want to get in touch with your provider and notify them of the days you’ll be gone and if you’re expecting anyone at your house while you’re away.

Scarmazzi Homes

While reviewing the 12 steps to get your home ready when preparing for a trip, keep in mind that Scarmazzi Homes communities helps alleviate many common concerns people have while being away from home. This is because most lawn care, landscaping and snow removal are covered by the homeowner’s association. With all of that taken care of while you’re traveling, you can relax and enjoy yourself knowing your home is being looked after.

While some very large communities seem impersonal, our communities are sized to make it easy for residents to get to know their neighbors and build personal friendships. So, homeowners feel confident in asking their neighbors to keep an eye on each other’s homes while they are traveling. It’s a philosophy called the “Lock & Leave” lifestyle prominent in Scarmazzi Homes communities.

Contact us to schedule a tour of one of our Pittsburgh area communities and to learn about the advantages of single-level living and other benefits we offer.