Leaving for an Extended Trip? 5 Ways to Prepare Your Home

There are dozens of details to attend to when you are getting ready to take a short vacation. All of those details, and then some, also have to be taken care of if you plan an extended trip. You probably already know the obvious ones, such as stopping the mail, the newspaper, arranging for pet care and houseplants. But there are five things you should also do before you leave your home for an extended period of time.

Leaving for an Extended Trip by Augie Schwer on Flickr

Theft Prevention

Even though mail and newspaper deliveries will be temporarily suspended, your house might display telltale signs that no one is home. Locking all the doors and windows and putting some lights on a timer is a first step, of course. But you’d be wise to investigate installing a security system if you don’t have one in place already. There are various types of alarms for burglaries available that range from simple to sophisticated.

If you have, or plan to install, a simple system that is not monitored off-site, be sure to ask a neighbor to telephone the police department if the alarm sounds. A monitored system will require that you notify your security system company and advise them of your plans. If the alarm should go off in your absence, the security company will notify the authorities.


Keep the main breaker on to power your refrigerator, freezer, furnace, air conditioner, and timing lights. Turn off the circuit breaker or remove the fuse for if you have an electric water heater. Just about everything else can, and should be, unplugged: all small appliances, televisions, computers, and any lights that aren’t hooked up to a timing device. Use random lighting; don’t leave any light turned on while you are away, it could overheat and start a fire.

Natural or Propane Gas

If you have appliances that use natural or propane gas, shut off the gas for each one. You can also simply shut off the gas at the meter. If you live in a cold climate and will be away for a good part of the winter, set the thermostat at 55° so that the house stays warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing. If you own a natural gas water heater, turn the setting to “pilot.”


Water can do as much damage as a fire, so eliminate or reduce all water hazards. Depending on the length of your trip, you might want to turn off your water entirely. If you do, be sure to open all of the faucets so that the pipes drain. Consider having a licensed plumber winterize your home.

Preparations Often Forgotten

It’s easy to forget the “little stuff” when there are so many other major details to take care of. But the little stuff is just as important:

  • Close all fireplace dampers.
  • Contact your local police department to let them know your house will be vacant.
  • Cancel the garbage and recyclable pickups.
  • Arrange for lawn care or snow removal.
  • Cancel regular deliveries, such as bottled water.
  • Notify your credit card companies about your travel plans so that your credit isn’t frozen due to unusual spending patterns.
  • Put all jewelry, important documents, and other valuables in a safety deposit box.
  • Open all cabinet doors so that heat can reach any non-insulated pipes under sinks or next to exterior walls.

It’s a lot to remember, so make a list and check each item off as you do it. With everything taken care of, you’ll have peace of mind while you are away.

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