COVID-19 has changed much this year, but the holidays are still happening! If you’ve determined that it’s safe for you to travel or plan a visit to see loved ones this holiday season, you’ll still need to make a plan to prepare your home for safety while you’re away — and sanity when you return.
There are many tasks around the home that need to be done while you’re scheduling that itinerary and packing your luggage.
Making sure you have a clean house to come home to is one of the most important steps to prepare your home before holiday travel. Obviously you don’t need to deep clean everything before you leave, but you won’t want to return to piles of laundry, trash, and rotten food.
Cleaning out the refrigerator is a cleaning step that many forget about taking before heading out of town on an extended trip. You’ll want to eat, freeze, or throw out anything that has a chance of spoiling while you are away so that you don’t come back to a fridge full of moldy, stinky foods. And while you’re at it, consume or eat any fruit sitting out on the counter as well.
And now that you’ve thrown that expiring food in the trash, you definitely need to be sure to take out the garbage before locking up and leaving. If you skip this step, you’re almost sure to come home to rancid smells and insects… or worse.
Scrub the sinks and toilets, vacuum, and finish the laundry, yes, even including that load you might have missed in the dryer.
Now that your home is tidy and trash-free, you can make some other advance preparations and precautions. And you might want to think about how your home can conserve energy while you’re enjoying your vacation. It makes sense to lower the thermostat, or put yours on an away mode. If you have any of the newer “smart” thermostats, you can even adjust the temperature setting when you’re not home, and return it to your perfect temperature so you walk into a heated (or cooled) house.
Another smart home feature that can help you plan a safe vacation are timer lights. Putting lights around your home on timers, whether you do this with outlet timers or any of a variety of smart bulbs, helps to deter break-ins, because light timers simulate the look of someone being at home. And if you put them on a different schedule each day while you’re gone, the effect is even more convincing.
Other anti-burglary precautions include managing your mail delivery. One easy way is to ask a friend to gather your mail. Asking a trusted friend to pick up your mail, collect your newspaper, and keep your yard picked up avoids the appearance of not being at home. But if you don’t have someone you can ask to do this, putting your mail and deliveries on hold with the post office is another smart way to keep your mail from piling up — a classic clue that your house is vacant.
While you’re taking steps to secure your house from burglary, make sure to be smart about with whom you’re sharing your holiday or vacation plans. Try not to post about your trip on social media until after you’ve returned as some criminals look for this type of announcement to schedule their activities. But if you have a neighborhood watch, it might be a good idea to notify them, especially if you’re going to be gone for more than just a few days.
It doesn’t happen often, but weather conditions, power surges, or frayed wiring can cause electrical fires. So while you are cleaning up and making your home safe from theft, take precautions for fire as well. Before you leave, unplug certain appliances and electronics around the house that don’t need power while you’re gone, like routers, televisions, computers, toaster ovens, or unused chargers.
And right before you leave, make sure that your home is locked up tight — including not only all of the doors and entryways, but the windows as well. Remove that “hidden” key you have under the mat or in a flower pot and entrust it with a friend or neighbor so no-one snooping around in your absence has the chance to find it.
If you follow these steps, when you walk back in the door after your much deserved time away this holiday season, your home will look and smell fresh, and your safe space will have everything just as you left it.