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Complete This Household List Before a Vacation

woman dancing on sand dunes
Follow these tips to make sure your home is safe while you’re away.

If you’re headed out of town on holiday this year, then you may also be one of the millions of people who fail to properly prep their homes before leaving on vacation.

Don’t be the unlucky homeowner who arrives home after a week at the beach only to find your house with dead plants, a fridge full of rotten foods, or, worse, burglarized.

“Returning back from a trip can be stressful,” says Paula Rizzo, founder of and author of Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed. “To return to your routine as easily as possible, that means setting yourself up for success before you leave. A little planning goes a long way when it comes to prepping for life postvacation.”

Follow this household list to ensure that when you return home, your cozy abode is just as you left it.

Keep things running

More specifically, keep the air conditioner on. It may sound like a waste of money and energy, but a warm temperature indoors can cause mold and mildew to grow in just a few days.

“Set the air conditioner to 82 degrees Fahrenheit and your house will stay cool enough to prevent both,” says Craig Muccio, energy expert at Florida Power & Light Company.

If your trip’s months away, consider investing now in a Nest programmable thermostat, which will let you adjust your settings from your smartphone while you’re away.


The toilets, that is. “Leave the lid up — just this once — so you don’t come home to icky, stagnant water, says Denise Baron, a Philadelphia-based real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway Homes.

Clear drains and gutters

Even if it hasn’t rained in weeks, be sure that gutters, downspouts, and drains are clear. If water overflows its proper channels, it can seep under siding, flood the basement, and cause expensive damage.

Secure the garage

“If you’re leaving your car at home, park it outside against the garage door, to block access [for potential intruders],” advises Baron. “Remove garage door remotes from the car and unplug the electric door opener (the box unit attached to the garage ceiling) so the door can’t be opened while you’re away.”

Power down

Small appliances such as coffee makers and toaster ovens can be ruined by a power surge. “A power surge can damage these items or even cause a fire,” says Allstate insurance representative Jim Towns.

Unplug any small appliances and electronics (read: your coffee maker or streaming music system) that aren’t plugged into a surge protector. Better yet? Buy a surge protector for expensive equipment.

Cut the water supply

“If a hose to your dishwasher or washing machine happens to crack or come loose while you’re away, you could come back to a flood, so turn off the water supply to those two appliances,” Baron recommends. Look under the sink for the lever for the dishwasher and behind the washing machine for the other.

Get secure

According to statistics from the FBI, 61% of burglars gain entry by force, which is all the more reason to use your home security system when you’re out of town.

“Notify your security company that you’ll be away and give a family member or friend your alarm code, the security company’s phone number, your itinerary, and your contact numbers,” suggests Baron. She also advises you press the “test” button on your smoke detectors to make sure they work. If not, change the batteries.

Finally, take notes

For the month leading up to your vacation, take notes about the daily, weekly, or even biweekly chores you do around the house.

“Make a list of all the tasks like taking in the mail or setting the alarm that have become second nature,” says Paula Rizzo. That way, you can address those to-do items like cleaning the cat litter box or taking out the trash before you ever leave — and leave a detailed household list for your housesitter or the neighborhood kid who’s stopping in to feed Kitty while you’re gone.

What are your top household to-dos before a vacation? Share the wealth in the comments below.