Forgetting to Check Windows and Doors
In the last-minute hustle of leaving for vacation, it’s easy to forget to double-check the locks. Leaving just one window or door unsecured can be an invitation for robbers to sneak into your home. Add this precaution to a pre-departure checklist, so you don’t find yourself in a last-minute rush to latch your locks. Don’t forget to remove any door keys you have stashed outside—professional burglars know all the common hiding places.
Not Recruiting Someone to Watch Your House
When planning an extended trip, recruit a close friend or trusted neighbor to check on your house while you’re away. Give that person a list of tasks that need attention, such as watering houseplants or bringing in the mail, and have your friend inspect your appliances and locks. You don’t want to come home to a flooded basement or busted refrigerator (complete with spoiled food). Make sure this person knows how to reach you in case of an emergency.
Neglecting to Turn Down the Thermostat
By keeping your home at a toasty 70 degrees when you're not there, you’re throwing away money. Adjust your thermostat to about 50 degrees before leaving the house—warm enough to keep your belongings from freezing, but cold enough to save money on heating bills. If you have a sink along an exterior wall of your house, open the cabinet doors under the basin to keep the pipes from freezing.
Keeping Your Pets at Home
It’s true that Fluffy and Fido would probably feel more comfortable at home than at a kennel. But if your four-legged friend suffers from separation anxiety, you could come home to a chewed-up sofa or shredded curtains. Consider boarding cats and dogs at an accredited boarding location instead of relying on a friend to feed and walk them.
Not Considering Smart Security
You don’t have to invest in an expensive security system to protect your home while on vacation. Instead, deter would-be burglars by making your home appear occupied. Outfit your porch lights and a few interior lights with Wi-Fi-enabled smart light bulbs, which you can control with a smartphone from any location. Turn the light bulbs on for a few hours every night, and any wrongdoers will give your house a pass.
Related: Home Security 101
Making Your Home Appear Empty
If prowlers are staking out your neighborhood, they’ll be looking for signs of an empty home. A half dozen newspapers on your front walk or an overstuffed mailbox clearly communicate that nobody is around. Stop your mail and newspaper delivery while you're away, and ask a neighbor to put out your trash cans on garbage pickup day. Consider asking a friend to park in your driveway as well, to make everything look as normal as possible.
Ignoring Potential Water Issues
Turn off the water at the main valve where it enters your house before you leave for an extended period of time. Your plumbing probably won’t spring a leak during your absence, but it’s not worth the gamble. You should also turn your water heater regulator to vacation (VAC) mode—or, if it doesn't have a VAC mode, just switch it to the lowest setting. Remember to turn it back up as soon as you get home.
Leaving Food to Rot
Rotten food isn’t as serious as theft or property damage, but coming home to the overwhelming stench of moldy leftovers is no way to end your vacation. Fruits and vegetables left out on the counter can decay while you’re away, potentially attracting flies and other pests and leaving you with maggots (ew!) in the kitchen. Give away fresh produce if you’ll be gone longer than a week, and toss out any leftovers and dairy products in the fridge.
Leaving Electronics Plugged In
Don’t forget to turn off and unplug your computer, toaster, coffeemaker, Christmas tree lights, and other electronics before vacation. If a power surge or electrical storm occurs when you’re away, computers and appliances can suffer damage. Plus, unplugged electronics don’t use energy, which saves you money on your electricity bill.
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