10 Mistakes You Make Every Time You Leave for Vacation

During the holiday season, hordes of people pack up their bags and embark on extended vacations. But in the excitement of planning a trip, homeowners often neglect to properly secure their house and belongings before they leave—and nothing sours a homecoming quite like returning to find that your property's been vandalized and valuables have been stolen. We’ve put together a list of the most common mistakes folks make before a vacation, so you don’t have to spend your travels worrying about what's going on back home.

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  1. Announcing Your Vacation on Social Media

    Social media

    When you divulge details of your upcoming vacation on social media, you’re basically announcing to the world that your house will be unoccupied. Wait until you return home before you share the joy of soaking up the sun in the Bahamas. Once you're safely back home, you can post highlights on Facebook and Twitter knowing that would-be intruders aren’t targeting your vacant property.


     Related: 10 Ways to Burglar-Proof Your Home for Under $100

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  2. Forgetting to Check Windows and Doors

    Lock door

    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.


    Related: 10 Things a Burglar Doesn't Want You to Know

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  3. Not Recruiting Someone to Watch Your House

    Neighbor vacation

    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.


    Related: 16 Weirdly Awesome Summer Vacation Rentals on Airbnb

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  4. Neglecting to Turn Down the Thermostat

    Adjust 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.


    Related: 9 Energy-Saving Home Upgrades That Pay for Themselves

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  5. Keeping Your Pets at Home

    Dog vacation

    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.


    Related: Check In: 10 Offbeat Hotels Worth a Special Trip

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  6. Not Considering Smart Security

    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

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  7. Making Your Home Appear Empty

    Stuffed mailbox

    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.


    Related: 8 Clutter-Cutting Strategies for Managing Mail

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  8. Ignoring Potential Water Issues

    Leaking pipe

    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.


    Related: 14 Sneaky Ways to Save Money on Your Water Bill

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  9. Leaving Food to Rot

    Rotten food

    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.


    Related: Which Expiration Dates REALLY Matter?

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  10. Leaving Electronics Plugged In

    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.


    Related: 9 Bad Habits That Are Killing Your Appliances

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