Preparing Your House for Vacation: 16-Step Checklist

May 10, 2021 4 min read

Preparing for vacation is a lot of work. Whether you’re heading on a road trip and need to get the car serviced or you’re heading out of the country and need to dust off your passport, taking a vacation requires careful planning and preparation.

When you’re busy getting ready for vacation, 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 compiled this list of tips for preparing your home for vacation. Take these steps to protect your home while you’re on vacation.

Keeping Your Home Safe While You’re on Vacation

Before you head out, ask yourself these questions to decide what level of precaution you need to take before going on vacation.

1. How long am I going to be gone? 

The longer you will be away, the more preparation you need to do to keep your home safe.

2. Have there been burglaries in my neighborhood before? 

Burglars have a tendency to return to the same residences or areas, so if burglaries are common in your area, take extra precaution to vacation-proof your home.

3. How well do I know my neighbors?

While a trusted group of people keeping an eye out for strange activity might not prevent a burglary, they may be able to notify the authorities and get help quickly. Consider notifying your neighbors of your travel plans so they know to look out for your home while you're away.

Preparing the Exterior of Your House for Vacation

Taking care of the outside of your home will be especially helpful if you are preparing your house for an extended vacation. Burglars will watch a house for telltale signs that you’re away on vacation. If you are gone for two weeks or more, these are the signs that criminals looking to break into homes look for.

1. Mow the Lawn and Shovel the Driveway

To a criminal, an overgrown lawn can be a sign that nobody has been home to care for the yard. On the flip side, to prepare your house for vacation in winter, it is important to shovel the driveway before you leave.

Cut Your Grass

2. Don’t Neglect Trash Day
Arrange for a neighbor or friend to put your trash cans out on trash day if you plan to be away for an extended period of time.

3. Have the Post Office Hold Your Mail

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

Have the post office hold your mail.

4. Arrange for Someone to Check In
Ask a friend to stop by to check on your house. The peace of mind you will feel knowing that a friend is keeping watch is well worth the cupcakes or cookies you’ll offer them in exchange. 

5. Trim Overgrown Bushes

Take a walk around the outside of your house before you leave and look for obstructed views into your home. It’s not uncommon for burglars to use overgrown bushes as cover while they pry open a first-floor window or slip in a door.

Preparing the Interior of Your House for Vacation

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

6. Turn Out the Lights 
Leaving a light on to make it look like someone is home is good, but having the same lights on in your house 24 hours a day for seven days straight can be costly, ineffective and an obvious sign that you’re away on vacation.

7. Have a Lamp (or Two) on a Timer
Consider purchasing a light switch timer and scheduling various on/off times for one or two lamps in your home.

8. Adjust the Blinds  
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 peek in 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.

9. Scatter Your Valuables

If you have valuable information or documents that aren’t in a safe deposit box, scatter them throughout the house in unconventional locations like kitchen cupboards, pantries, children’s rooms or the laundry room. 

10. Unplug Appliances and Electronics

Did you know items like TVs, toaster ovens and phone chargers continue to use electricity even when they’re not in use? To save on electric bills and protect your belongings from power surges, unplug unnecessary items before you leave on vacation.

Unplug Appliances

11. Set the Thermostat Accordingly 
If you’re traveling in the summer and you don’t have pets at home, it’s safe to set your thermostat at 90 degrees or turn it off completely. In the winter months, keep your thermostat set to at least 50 degrees to avoid freezing pipes. 

12. Purge Perishable Foods
After saying goodbye to the beach or those freshly-powdered slopes, the last thing you want to come home to is a smelly kitchen. Dispose of milk, fruits and other perishables so your house will smell as good when you get home as it did when you left.

13. Remove the Spare Key

Make sure your house sitter has a spare key and isn’t pulling out a hidden key each time they come over. Unfortunately, the hide-a-key rock just doesn’t cut it anymore. The areas around your front door will be the first place intruders look to find your spare key, so it’s best to save yourself the trouble and give that spare key directly to your friend.

14. Lock Up

Double checking that you locked all your windows and doors could mean the difference between a safe home and a break-in.

15. Amp Up Security
If you have a home security system, make sure it’s armed. If you don’t have a security system, consider sticking a “beware of dog” sign in the window. Burglars are less likely to break in if they think they might be dealing with a dog. 

Beware of Dog Sign

16. Avoid Posting About Your Trip on Social Media

Tipping off friends, acquaintances and strangers (depending on your privacy settings) about your vacation is comparable to trusting an intruder with "checking on" your house. Save your social media posting until after you've safely returned. 

Do not post about your trip on social media

Protect Your Home

If the unexpected happens while you are away, your local Farm Bureau agent can help you get back on your feet. 

Want to learn more?

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