Preparing Your House for Vacation: A 9-Step Checklist

Mar 6, 2024 5 min read

Whether you’re heading on a road trip and need to get your car serviced or you’re going out of the country and need to renew your passport, it takes careful planning and preparation to get ready for a vacation.

When you’re getting ready, it can be easy to overlook basic steps that will keep your home safe (and, in many cases, save you money) while you’re away. That’s why we’ve put together this checklist for leaving your house when you go on vacation. Take these steps to protect your home.

Keeping Your Home Safe While You’re on Vacation

Before you head out, think about the level of precaution you need and how to prepare your house for vacation before you leave.

  • How long is your trip? Preparing your house for an extended vacation will require more preparation than an overnight or weekend trip. 
  • Have there been recent burglaries in your neighborhood? Burglars tend to return to the same homes or areas. So, if they are common where you live, take extra precautions to vacation-proof your home.
  • How well do you know your neighbors? A trusted group of people keeping an eye out for strange activity might not prevent a burglary. But they may be able to notify the authorities and get help quickly. So, consider notifying your neighbors of your travel plans so they know to look out for your home while you're away.

Preparing the Outside of Your House for Vacation

Taking care of the outside of your home is especially important if you are going on an extended vacation. You don’t want the exterior of your home to show any signs that your home isn’t occupied. Burglars will watch a house for telltale signs that you’re away on vacation. If you’re leaving the house for two weeks or more, or even on a shorter trip, these are some steps you can take so you’re not signaling to criminals that nobody is home.

1. Make Sure the Outside Is Clean and Maintained

Trim any overgrown bushes and take a walk around the outside of your house before you leave and look for obstructed views into your home. It’s common for burglars to use overgrown bushes as cover while prying open a first-floor window or slipping into a door.

In summer, arrange for someone to cut the lawn while you are away. To a criminal, an overgrown lawn can be a sign that nobody has been home to care for the yard. In winter, be sure to have someone who can shovel your driveway and walkways if a storm hits. Snow that’s not cleared promptly can indicate that the home is empty.

Arrange for a neighbor or friend to take out and bring in your trash cans if you plan to be away on pickup day. Barrels that are left out at the curb late in the day or overnight are another sign of an empty home.

2. Have the Post Office Hold Your Mail

Ask the post office to hold your mail while you’re on vacation — you can do it online. That way, it won’t stack up while you’re gone — another telltale sign of a vacant home.

3. Arrange for Someone to Keep an Eye on Your Home 

Tell your neighbors about your travel plans and ask them to watch for anything suspicious. If you don’t know your neighbors well or you live in a remote area, ask a friend to check on your house. It can bring you peace of mind to know that a friend is keeping watch for you, and you can pay them back by checking on their home when they are away. 

Preparing the Inside of Your House for Vacation

There are things you can do inside your home to help protect your home from crime and to reduce home-related expenses while you’re away. Take these steps to put the interior of your house into vacation mode.

4. Make Your Home Seem Lived In

Along with the steps you take outside, there are things you can do inside your home that create the appearance that someone is home. Leave some lights on, but it’s not a good idea to leave the same lights on for your whole vacation. That can be a sign that you’re away.

Use timers or lighting control apps to turn a couple of lights on and off at different times throughout your trip. Or, if you’re having a friend check on your place, ask them to switch a few different lights on and off.

Adjust the blinds in the way that makes the most sense for your home and neighborhood. If you think your neighbors or people on your street might peek in to eye your valuables, it might be a good idea to close your blinds.  

However, if your neighbors are more likely to look if they suspect something strange is happening, consider leaving your blinds as you normally would. An unobstructed view inside your house could be helpful to neighbors or police checking for unusual activity.

Again, if you have a friend checking on your home, you may want to ask them to raise the blinds in the daytime and lower them in the evening, if that’s how you usually have them.

5. Protect Your Valuables

Ideally, you want to store any valuable items, information or documents in a safe or a safe deposit box. If that’s not an option, place them throughout the house in unconventional locations like kitchen cupboards, pantries, children’s rooms or the laundry room so they’re harder for thieves to find. Just remember where everything is so you don’t lose track of anything.

6. Save on Your Electric and Gas Bills

Items like TVs, toaster ovens and phone chargers continue to drain electricity even when they’re not being used. To save on your electric bills and protect your belongings from power surges, unplug anything that doesn’t need to be plugged in before you leave on vacation.

Adjust your thermostat — you don’t need to heat or cool your home as much when you’re not there, unless you have pets that are staying home. 

 In the summer, it’s safe to set your thermostat at 90 degrees or turn it off completely. In the winter, keep your thermostat set to at least 50 degrees to avoid freezing pipes. 

7. Clean Out the Fridge

It can be tough to come home after a trip to the beach, the ski slopes or a new city. Ensuring that your home is clean and fresh when you return can make it a little bit easier. Go through your fridge and use, freeze, give away or toss anything that won’t be edible when you return, like dairy products and fresh vegetables and fruit.

8. Amp Up Your Security

Don’t make it easy for anyone to enter your home. Leave a spare key with a friend or neighbor — don’t hide it anyplace near your door or in your yard. Intruders know exactly where to look to find a hidden key. 

If you have a home security system, make sure it’s armed when you leave. If you don’t have one, consider sticking a “beware of dog” sign in the window or in front of your house. Burglars are less likely to break in if they think they might be dealing with a dog. 

Double-check that you locked all your windows and doors before you leave. That simple step could mean the difference between a safe home and a break-in.

Preparing While You’re on Vacation

When it comes to things to do at home before going on vacation, once you’re traveling, it’s time to enjoy your trip without worrying about your home. There’s just one step to take while you’re away.

9. Avoid Posting About Your Trip on Social Media

Tipping off friends, acquaintances and strangers (depending on your privacy settings) about your vacation is like trusting an intruder to check on your house. Take all the photos you like while you’re on your trip. But save your social media posting until after you've safely returned home. Consider it a fun opportunity to relive and revisit the good times. 

Protect Your Home

Despite all of your preparations, there’s always a chance that something could go wrong at home when you’re on vacation. If the unexpected happens while you are away, your local Farm Bureau agent is ready to help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible. 

Want to learn more?

Contact a local FBFS agent or advisor for answers personalized to you.