Is there anything better than knowing your vacation is near? You’ve taken off work and you’re busy planning and packing. But while you’re focused on your destination, don’t forget that you’ll also be leaving your home unattended.

Whether you’re heading out of town for two days or two weeks, take the time to prepare your house and property so there will be no unfortunate surprises (or visitors) while you’re away.


Make your home looks lived-in.

Savvy thieves look for signs that you are away, such as an overgrown lawn, a pile-up of mail or packages, or an empty driveway. A well-maintained home and property reinforce the fact that people are living here, and most likely at home.

    • Mow and edge your lawn before you leave. Trim your bushes, especially around windows and close to your house.
    • Pick up any debris and any personal items in your front or backyard.
    • Stop your mail and newspapers, and arrange for a neighbor to pick up any packages.
    • Leave a car parked in your driveway or ask a neighbor to park in front of your house.
    • Invest in an inexpensive light timer to turn the lights on and off while you’re away.


Secure your home and property.

There’s a lot more than simply locking the doors that goes into securing your home and property. You want to make it unlikely that a thief would target your home, and also protect its contents should a neighborhood fire or disaster occur.

    • A security system can help protect your property and also reduce the cost of your home insurance policy.
    • Consider a motion-sensor floodlight, which can help to deter trespassers.
    • Make sure your important papers are in a fireproof container or safe.
    • Leave an emergency contact number and a spare key with a trusted neighbor. (Don’t hide your key in a rock. That’s the first place a thief will look.)
    • Don’t advertise that you are going away on social media. Wait until you return home to post photos.


Clean thoroughly.

Coming home to a dirty house is no fun. Neither is being greeted by week-old smells of stinky garbage. Take the time to clean up before you leave so everything is fresh and ready for your return.

    • Give your house an overall cleaning.
    • Empty the refrigerator of perishable items.
    • Empty all of the trashcans, especially the kitchen trash, right before you leave. Ask your neighbor to put out your trash cans on the next trash day.
    • Run your garbage disposal with half a cup of vinegar and some water.
    • Do the laundry and change the sheets.


Make plans for your pets and your plants.

It goes without saying that you won’t leave your pets or plants unattended if you’re going to be away.

    • Depending on the type of pet, you may need a pet sitter or boarding facility. Make those plans well in advance of your trip.
    • If you’re leaving pets at home, make arrangements for someone to check on them. You will provide them with food and water of course. But even low-maintenance animals can get accidentally trapped in spaces or encounter other mischief.
    • Ask a neighbor to water your plants at your home or theirs. If you dole out your plants to multiple neighbors, make a list of plants and locations so you know who has what.


Put your systems in vacation mode.

If no one will be living in your house, why pay for gas, electric or water? It’s a good time to save energy by shutting down the home systems that you don’t need, taking into account if there are any pets or plants that will need them.

    • Put your water heater in vacation mode. It’s a setting that allows your water heater to run your boiler at a lower temperature than normal.
    • Turn off the water valves to the dishwasher, washing machine and all sinks, if no one is going to be using them (such as a neighbor watering plants).
    • Set your thermostat to a temperature closer to the outside temperature. Just remember to adjust it for pets and plants as needed.
    • Change the batteries in your smoke detectors if you have not recently done so.


Do a final check the day you leave.

There’s a lot to think about as you’re leaving for vacation, and likely your mind is more focused on the trip ahead than what’s happening at home. This is where a final “to do” list and check-in helps. Plan to do these things on the day you leave.

    • Unplug and shut off appliances not in use. Not only does this save on your electric bills, it protects items from power surges.
    • Close all doors and windows. Close the curtains and blinds.
    • Leave on a light or two on or set a lamp timer.
    • Set the thermostat appropriately.
    • Check the washer. The last thing you want is old (and smelly) wet laundry to greet you when you return.
    • Make sure your oven is off. Make sure your iron is off.
    • Pro tip: Take pictures of items you’re worried about, such as oven knobs to show they’re off. That way, you can check back if you’re concerned about them.


Check-in while you’re away.

You may be out of town, but you’ve got great ways to check in to see what’s happening in the neighborhood.

    • Subscribe to a local app such as NextDoor.
    • Look at online footage from your home’s security camera.
    • Text or call a neighbor to check in.

You also may consider hiring a house sitter so that you don’t have to worry about what’s happening at home. If you do choose that route, make sure that the person is a reputable one. Establish a set of rules, so it is clear what your house sitter can and cannot do (for example: can watch Netflix; can’t have parties).

Don’t forget to thank the neighbors who helped you. Bring them a souvenir or small gift from your vacation or get them a gift card for a dinner out.

Finally, know that your home and property are protected by homeowner’s insurance. Should anything happen while you’re gone, your policy helps provide that peace of mind.

Have a great trip.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or


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