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Easy guide: Prepping your house for travel and return

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Our vacation nightmare was a busted water heater and a flooded basement. That’s right; we came home from a 10-day vacation after an 18-hour flight with kids from across the world to a not so welcome headache. I will tell you what happened at the bottom of this post.

While this is a worst-case scenario, there are a few things you need to do to prep your vacation home.

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Traveling and packing is an enormous undertaking, especially when you are tagging kids along. The packaging list is so much longer. But one thing that should be on your to-do list is prepping your home.

Your home is your sanctuary, and you want to make sure it is ready to welcome you back after a long vacation. To prep your vacation home, you first need to decide how long you will be gone. Most people will take a week off, but some will take even longer, and others will return after just a few days.

The longer you are away, the more prepared you need to make your home.


Preparing your house for vacation

Home prep the checklist:

Two weeks before you leave

  1. Stop your mail – visit to set up a mail hold. So that way you don’t have an over-filled mailbox.
  2. Manage your autoshipments – do you have things that get automatically sent to your home? Meals, household items, diapers etc be sure to skip a delivery or change the dates on those shipments
  3. Get a house sitter – have a family member or friend visit your home while you are gone to checkup on things.
  4. Set-up a pet sitter – your family pet will need a place to stay and getting this set up early will help
  5. Check your sump pumps work – in the off chance there is a lot of rain make sure your subpumps work
  6. Call your home security company – if you have security company let them know that you’ll be out of town
  7. Ask someone to sholve – if you leave during the winter season make sure to have someone shovel for you. That way the home is not left to freeze over. Nothing like trying to shovel solid ice. Also keeps intruders away because the home looks lived in.

One week before you leave

  1. Clean out the fridge – about a week before your scheduled to leave try to eat everything that’s in the fridge and about two weeks before pre-make meals to avoid having spoiled food and having to buy food the week before you leave. This includes your pantry items. Put items in the freezer that you can save.
  2. Wipe down/clean the fridge – now that the fridge is empty its time to wipe it down. So that when you get home to restock it, it’s all clean and ready to go. Left over breads can be freezed.
  3. Do all laundry – you may have laundry loads to do when you return which is why doing all your laundry before you go will help avoid laundry overload. I do laundry up until that day before.
  4. Speed clean your entire home – a speed clean is all you need to come home from vacation to feel at ease. This includes wiping down all surfaces, picking up all the rooms. Mopping all floors. Check -out my entire cleaning list here.
  5. Get someone to water – if you have flowers and a garden makesure you ask them to water the plants for you.

Two days before you leave

  1. Clean all bathrooms – scrub all toilets and showers and place fresh towels out. To keep the ring from forming around your toilet consider adding a little vinegar to help keep the ring from forming.
  2. Change bedsheets – nothing better then to climb into your own bed with fresh sheets after jetlag and a long day of travels.
  3. Put out the trash – depending on your trash pickup day be-sure to empty all garbage cans and toss out all old food. Leaving the least amount of trash as possible. And anything you may have left over place into a outdoor trash bin.
  4. Clean the outside of your home – cut your grass, water your plants, wipe down stuff to make sure the home looks lived in and is left in a clean state.
  5. Set up a backup generator – should the power go out your food in the freezer won’t spoil
  6. Add a cup of water to your freezer – sounds crazy I know. Get a cup and fill it with water half way. Place a coin on top. When you come home check if the coin has moved. If so you know that power was lost and you may not want to eat what is inside.
  7. Place valuables in a fire/water proof safe – important documents should be stored away and even jewelry in case of fire, water or theft.

Night before you leave

  1. Leave washer door open for airflow
  2. Make sure your dish washer doesn’t have any standing water in it
  3. Put water-heater on vacation mode
  4. Put all cars in the garage
  5. Adjust your temperture on your heating or cooling to a range close to what it is outside. Just be sure to keep your home warmer enough to avoid pipes bursting.
  6. If it is cold outside be sure to open cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow in.
  7. Wash all dishes
  8. Clean your garabage disposal – half cup of vinegar, baking soda and boil hot water to clean it out. Making sure your home doesn’t smell.

Day of departure

  1. Unplug unused items – unplug appliances, extension cords, electronic cords of all kinds. To help avoid house fires and save on your electric bills.
  2. Leave on your lights – set your timer lights or nighttime lights to on. You can use timers such as theses.
  3. Double-check your windows/doors – be sure to lock up anything in your home. Check all windows, garage doors etc.
  4. Add some white vinegar to your toliets to clean out the bateria and keep the ring around the toleit at bay

Products and apps to help you prep your home for vacation

  1. WeMo – smart plugs and switches that you can control from your phone. This is great to make it seem like you are home or to turn off things you forgot.
  2. 7-Day Programmable Digital Timer, 1 Outlet Polarized, Plug set up random lights to run on different days and times
  3. YI 4pc Security Home Camera – Check in on your home while you are gone in a afforable way
  4. Packing Pro – Use it to help you create a reuseable packing list for when you travel.
  5. Water Sensors– place them all around major places for water alerts. These are my favorite.

Prepping your home for an extended

As I mentioned above, we had a negative experience after a long trip. Leaving your home for two weeks. This means there should be some extra steps taken when you are on an extended trip.

  1. Putting your water heater on vacation mode and reading the directions on your unit is a must to make sure that is the best option for it.
  2. I would suggest placing cameras inside to check-in on your own home
  3. Think about installing water sensors
  4. Have someone enter the home and run the water a bit and flush toliets
  5. Have a family member for friend check in on the home for damage or to make sure nothing looks off

What happened when we came home to our broken water heater. The water heater, we guess, imploded on itself. According to the repairman. Which meant all the gallons of water leak out of a hole that forms when the pressure sucked the inside into itself.

Luckily our basement was not finished at the time, so we came home to mainly clean up a watery mess on concrete but ended up costing a few thousand dollars after spending a lot during our travels. 🤦🏽‍♀️

What to do when you get back

  1. Check all your utilities are working
  2. Check your water and flush all the toliets
  3. Restart your mail service if you didn’t already put an end date
  4. Reset your thermostate
  5. Walk your home to make sure there is no damage or anything out of sorts
  6. Vacuum right away- when the home has no activity critters like to appear. Such as spiders and other small things. Dust also settles so do a good vacuum of the whole house.

Preparing your home for vacation is an important part of any vacation. If you’re like most people, you’ll be spending some time away from your home, and when you return, you want to come home to the comforts of the place you love. Vacation is an ideal time to get your home in shape for the year so that you can have a safe, clean home that is ready for anything.

Be sure to check out some of my other related posts, such as:

I hope you find this post helpful be sure to share it and pin it to refer back to it on your next trip. Sharing helps support the blog, so thank you in advance and check out other posts I have all about home management.