Before you leave for the long trip you’ve been dreaming about, there’s an all-too-common mistake you want to avoid: not giving your home the attention it deserves.
Working on things that will help your house stay safe and secure may not be as fun as picking out restaurants and must-try gelato flavors, which is why it can be overlooked. But how you prepare your house for some quality time without you is an equally important piece of pre-vacation planning.
Why You Need To Secure Your Home Before Vacation
Here’s what you gain from taking a little time away from thinking about where you’re going, to focus on what needs to be done right where you are.
Peace of Mind
When you dedicate some time to get your home ready, and cross each task off your list as you go, you won’t have to wonder if you actually locked the back door or stopped your mail. And instead of interrupting your well-deserved R&R to take an emergency phone call, you can sit back, sip your piña colada, and know you took care of your home before you left.
Lower Chances of Property Loss or Damage
No one wants to return from a recharging break to discover a burst water pipe or missing valuables as soon as you walk through the door. By taking some steps to help secure your house pre-trip, it can help ensure that your biggest worry post-trip will only be where to put the new souvenirs.
To help make that happen, here are the home security tips you won’t want to skip before going on vacation.
Pre-Vacation Home Security Tips You Don’t Want To Miss
Before an extended vacation, you probably wouldn't wait until the last minute to book your flight or find a place to stay. And getting your home ready shouldn’t be any different. Here's how to prep your home for your absence over the weeks, days, and minutes before you take off.
A Few Weeks Before: Install a Security System (or Get a Few Upgrades)
If you don’t have a home security system yet, you might want to set it up while you have some time to customize it to your needs. It only takes a few minutes to order a DIY kit online and have it delivered to your door. It’s also easy to install and set up yourself.
A security system, like Ring Alarm, monitors the home for you and can let you know if something happens. You'll get an alert on your phone if there is activity at home, so you can ask someone to check it out or call the authorities.
If you already have a security system, consider a few add-ons like a glass break sensor, smoke and carbon monoxide listener¹, or additional security camera, that can be extra helpful while you’re away for longer than usual.
And if you want to make sure you never miss a notification while you’re lounging on the beach or touring a new town, you can also add professional monitoring services² to your system. An agent will call you if there’s a security alert.
A Few Days Before: Start Filling Out a Pre-Vacation Checklist
Do you ever get that nagging feeling you might have forgotten to turn off the oven or unplug the iron as soon as you leave the house? That feeling is even worse when you’re halfway around the world.
Leading up to your long trip, keep in mind that pre-vacation lists aren’t just for packing. This home security checklist will help you keep track of what you should do. And once all of the tasks are crossed off, snap a pic for proof later on that you remembered to:
- Set timers for indoor and outdoor lights to turn on in the evening and off in the morning. Even if you just set one lamp near your front windows, it will help make it look like someone is home. You can grab a standard wall timer at your local hardware store or order it on Amazon. All you need to install the timer is plug it into a wall and then plug the lamp into it. Also, consider getting smart lights, which can be even better than timers, because you can program them from your phone to turn on randomly so people don’t notice a pattern.
- Check your thermostat and adjust its settings according to the weather forecast. If not, you risk coming home to issues like mold or burst pipes if there were extremely hot or cold temperatures while you were away. You can also potentially save on your energy bill by setting your thermostat a little higher or lower than usual depending on the season.
- Water your indoor and outdoor plants and leave instructions if someone will be taking care of them while you’re away.
- Prepare everything your pets will need if they’re staying at home and write down (or text) instructions for your pet sitter. The key to an enjoyable staycation for your pooch is in the details, so remember to also fill the sitter in on any of your pet’s favorites or quirky habits. (And make sure you keep your pets in mind when you check the thermostat!)
- Clear out your refrigerator and take out the trash, so you don’t return home to a rotten smell or something worse —uninvited critters.
- Suspend your mail — a pile of packages on your doorstep is an easy giveaway that you’re not home. Check if your delivery service will hold packages that might arrive while you’re gone. If that’s not an option, arrange for someone to pick them up.
- Mow the lawn and do your normal landscaping tasks. If you’ll be gone for a while, arrange for someone to take care of your yard while you’re away. Like the piling packages, an unkempt yard can signal that you’re gone.
- Lock up your valuables or at least move them away from doors and windows so they can’t be easily seen from the outside.
- Give a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor a heads up that you’re leaving, so they can check in on your house. Make sure to return the favor and keep them updated with your latest vacation pics or go old school and send them a postcard.
- Never hide spare keys anywhere outside your home. Even if you upgrade your hiding place from under the doormat to a spot you think is more secure, there’s still a chance someone could find your keys. Leave them with an aforementioned trusted friend or neighbor.
The Day Of: Cross These Last Items Off Your List
- Unplug appliances and electronics that won’t be used while you’re gone, like your washing machine, dryer, microwave, coffee maker, TV, or computer monitor. This protects them from a potential power surge if the power goes out. When it turns back on, the high voltage can fry electronics. It also helps save a little energy (and money) because appliances use power when they’re plugged in, even if they’re not on.
- Leave your blinds and curtains in their normal daytime position instead of completely closing them. It might seem counterintuitive, but if someone notices your house is shuttered up during the day, they might figure out you’re not home. But don’t forget: visible valuables can be a magnet for unwanted attention, so it’s essential to move them out of sight.
- Check your doors, windows, and garage to make sure they’re not just closed but also securely locked.
Other FAQs About Getting Your Home Ready Before a Long-Term Vacation
If you're wondering about any of the following — you aren't alone. Here are common questions people have about how to best prepare their homes for a long-term absence.
Should I Turn Off the Water Before My Vacation?
If nobody is coming by to look after plants or to refill Fluffy’s water bowl, it’s a good idea to shut off the water. This is the most foolproof way to protect your home from leaky pipes or appliances causing water damage. There are plenty of YouTube videos and online how-to guides to help you find, and then shut off, the main water valve if this is your first time.
If you need to leave the water on, and you have a Ring Alarm security system, adding a few flood and freeze sensors* offers another layer of protection. All you have to do is put the sensors near water sources — like sinks, washing machines, and toilets — and connect them via app to your security system. You’ll get a notification on your phone if they detect a leak, so you can call someone to check things out and address it if there’s an issue.
What Temperature Should I Leave My House At?
This answer depends on your area’s weather during the time of year that you’re away and who (or what) will still be in your home. To prepare your house for an extended vacation during warmer months, it’s best to set your thermostat either several degrees higher than usual or a few degrees lower than the predicted highest temperature. Generally, 85 degrees Fahrenheit is around the highest you should go because it saves money on your cooling bills without risking damage from excessive humidity. If you turn your AC off altogether, you might come back to mildew and mold in your home.
For long trips during colder months, you should set your thermostat no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.This will lower your heating bills without running the risk of your pipes freezing. If you have reason to believe your home will lose excessive heat (if it’s drafty or poorly insulated, for example), you may want to set your thermostat a little higher just to be safe. And if you’ll have frequent visitors in your home while you’re away, you should keep your home between 64 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them comfortable.
Smart thermostats are convenient during long vacations — you’re able to check the weather each day and adjust the temperature setting from your phone.
Of course, if your beloved house plants or furry friends will be staying behind, you don't need to change your regular settings.
What Should I Do With My Cars?
It’s best to leave your car with a friend or family member and ask them to drive it — not just turn it on — every two or three weeks. A short drive is better because it recharges the battery and protects your tires from forming flat spots.
However, if your car is staying at home, your garage is the most secure spot to park. And if you don’t have one? Parking your car in its normal spot is the next best option. This helps throw off potential intruders by making it look like you never left. You can help protect your car by adding an app-enabled outdoor security camera. Many are battery-powered and easy to install yourself. (Pro tip: just check to make sure it’s angled right to capture the intended part of your driveway). If your cameras have motion detection, you'll receive notifications from the app if they get triggered, and you can check in on your phone from anywhere.
No matter where you leave your car, you should fill it up with gas first. A full tank keeps moisture out, which protects your engine.
One Last Tip: Enjoy Every Second of Your Trip!
Once you’ve finally checked everything off your list, it’s time to get into vacation mode. Bon voyage, safe travels, and take lots of pics!
¹ Requires the Ring Alarm Security Kit.
² A compatible Ring Protect subscription is required to enroll in the Ring Alarm professional monitoring service. Professional monitoring service is available only within the U.S. (all 50 states, but not U.S. territories) and in Canada (excluding Quebec). Ring does not own its own professional monitoring center. Smoke and carbon monoxide monitoring is not available for commercial properties.