As you settle into your airplane seat or begin nodding off in the car as the scenery gets boring, the thoughts begin to gather. One by one, the concerns pop up. You not only begin wondering if you packed everything you needed; you also start thinking about the house you just locked up and left for awhile.
The Spruce’s Melissa Epifano agrees that the rushed chaos that comes before you hop in the car or on the plane is kind of inevitable but at the very least, you can put your mind at ease when it comes to home-related chores with a thorough list — a list that checks off all the boxes that will keep your house safe and waiting for your return.
First. Cool your post-vacay jets by setting your AC before you go. “There’s no worse feeling than returning home from a trip and realizing the air conditioning has been on full blast while you were away,” says Epifano. “You can turn it off completely, but many models of thermostats have a holiday mode that keeps it at a set temperature for the number of days you'll be away. If you have to keep it running for other reasons, set a timer so it's not cooling down the house 24/7.” Oh, and don’t forget to shut the shades, blinds, and curtains in each room to maintain a cooler temperature as well as prevent any curious eyes from peeking in and noticing that no one's home.
As for appliances and other electronics, to save electricity and have more peace of mind while you're away, go around the house and unplug cords that won't serve you while you're away. Think: bedside phone chargers, coffee machines, and lamps. “Lights, central air, TVs, or any other timers that are set should be turned off or set strategically,” says Epifano. “Make sure any outdoor sprinklers are programmed to turn on when needed to keep lawns and outdoor plants healthy.” And don’t forget that age-old trick of keeping a light on near a window or arranging for an outdoor light to come on in the evening to make it appear as if someone's home.
Our parents’ generation never had to fret much about packages being left at the front door unless it was someone’s birthday or a holiday. With online orders being the rule instead of the exception to it, make sure you double-check your email for any orders that may be on their way and reroute packages or ensure delivery services know a safe place to store them while you're gone. A package on the doorstep is fine for a day (unless your neighborhood routinely falls prey to porch pirates), but it can be risky to leave them out for days at a time, especially if multiple packages build up. Asking a trusted neighbor to keep an eye out for you will reduce any worry too.
While locking the front door is usually the last thing you do before you leave, don't forget about locking the back doors and windows. It's easy to let these entry points and openings slip your mind, especially if they typically remain open or unlocked while you're at home. Now is the time to employ all those deadbolts and even unplug your garage door opener for now.
Who wants to come home to a sour smell in the house? “Clean your fridge and get rid of any food that will expire while you're away, and give it a quick wipe so you're not surprised by any lingering smells when you get home,” says Epifano. “Check the countertops while you're at it, too. Those ripe bananas should probably be eaten before you leave!” And don’t forget to take out the trash from all parts of the home the night before. Dishes, piled up pots or bowls or any leftover food can also create an unpleasant smell and lead to an annoying chore that needs to be done quickly. Who wants reality that quickly after vacation?
If you are lucky enough to have a house sitter, or even a friend or relative who is able to stop by to help when you're out, he or she will appreciate having a list to look over and refer to. Begin writing it out a few days before you leave so it’s not a last-minute thing.
Your personal checklist should have a few things underlined as “just before you leave” items — such as giving all your indoor and outdoor plants one last watering. “If you'll be gone for an extended period of time, it's best to ask a friend or family member or pay a service to come over and ensure houseplants and gardens don't shrivel up while you're away,” says Epifano. But also don’t forget to check all your outdoor areas, making sure hoses are turned off and that any string lights or lanterns are unplugged. You may want to either cover or store outdoor cushions and furniture as well.