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Pre-Vacation Routines for Your Home

The upcoming Independence Day holiday marks the big vacation exodus for many Washingtonians. A post on the Apartment Therapy blog about preparing an apartment before you leave on vacation got me thinking about the pre-departure routines we've developed around my house. So far, these steps--and a generous dollop of good luck--have kept the house safe when we temporarily abandoned it. Please add your own tips in the comments section!

  • Leave a car in the driveway so it looks as if someone is home. If we're away longer than a week, if the weather is likely to be really hot or cold, and especially if the car's battery is old, we park the car with the battery closest to the street, so it can be jump-started easily when we return.
  • Place a vacation hold on the newspaper at least a week ahead of time. But we don't put a hold on mail delivery because it's deposited safely inside the house through an old-fashioned mail slot.
  • Run the garbage disposal! Then toss some baking soda in the drain to keep bad smells away.
  • Even though we always use surge protectors for electronics, we disconnect all televisions, audio equipment and computers, including laptops, in case an overwhelming power surge were to hit during a thunderstorm. It also eliminates the slight drain of electricity that these machines use even when turned off.
  • Set lots of lamps on timers throughout the house, upstairs and downstairs.
  • Leave the air-conditioning on, but set at a warm temperature. There's no bigger giveaway that no one is home than a quiet air conditioner+sealed windows on a steamy Washington day.
  • Double-check that the water hose to the washing machine is turned off. A burst hose can leave a terrible flood. Leave washer lid open for freshness.
  • Mow the lawn. In the peak summer heat, the grass can usually last two weeks between mowings. But it hasn't gone dormant yet this year, thanks to our Seattle-like rains, so you may need to arrange for a mowing while you're away.
  • Forward the house phone to your cell phone. Call forwarding is available from the phone company for a small monthly charge. You wouldn't want to miss an invitation from friends!
  • Group potted plants together in the backyard so a neighbor can water them more easily and not overlook any.
  • Leave keys and contact info with at least one neighbor. Ask them to take away unanticipated deliveries and doorknob fliers, and let them know if you expect anyone else to be looking in on the place. No matter how well you prepare the house, nothing beats an observant, helpful neighbor. In fact, if you're leaving for longer than two weeks, you may be better off arranging for a trusted house-sitter to take up temporary residence while you're away.
Do you have any other ideas?

By Elizabeth Razzi  |  June 30, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Department of Hopeful News , Home features , Outdoors  
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We also turn the hot water heater down to the "vacation" setting, and set up the fish feeder.

Posted by: binpa | June 30, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Make sure to check the fridge for anything that might go bad while you're away! Also, I try to tuck away valuable items (laptops, xboxes, nice jewelry, cash, etc) so they are not visible to prying eyes.

Posted by: LisaChristine88 | June 30, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

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