15 Things To Do Before You Leave For Vacation

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December is here and all the travel that comes with it.  Even my parents are off to Florida tomorrow for 10 days, although they'll be back in time for Christmas.  Not always the case!  One year they were in India for Christmas, so I know a lot of people travel for the holiday season.

We'll be staying home, but we did just get away to Kentucky for a long weekend back in November, which made me consider all of the things that I like to/should get done around the house before I leave for an extended period.  Nothing ruins a vacation like forgetting something essential or worrying that something is amiss back at home.  If you're about to travel this year, make sure you take a look at this list of things to do before you leave:

  1. Make copies or photos of important documents.  Losing your belongings is terrible to matter what, but it's a different level of hassle if you're not in your hometown.  (Ask my dad about getting on a plane back to Chicago after he had lost his ID in Vegas.  Not enjoyable!)  Having paper copies on you is so important so you can report lost credit cards and show a copy of your lost ID.  Pictures of these work as well, but since you never know if your phone will go missing too, put the pictures in cloud storage.  Obviously this means things like your passport and your credit card, but it also means things like the label of your prescription medication bottle.
  2. Clean out wallet and purse.  Bringing anything unnecessary doesn't just make your bag heavier, it's also asking for trouble because it's more to lose.  If you don't need certain rewards cards or keys, leave them at home.  Few less things to keep track of.
  3. Pay bills or automate payment.  I automate all payments, but there are some things that John still gets in the mail and then pays (he's crazy.)  If you're crazy like him, make sure you pre-pay these or automate a one time payment, so you don't miss it while you're gone and get slammed with a late fee.
  4. Create an automated e-mail response.  I have to do this at my office, otherwise people keep e-mailing asking why you haven't replied yet.  Let them know you're not around, give them another contact if it's an emergency, and put your 'back in office' date as 2+ days after you actually return.  Trust me.
  5. Put mail on hold.  The post office will hold your mail between 3 and 30 days when you fill out this form online.  Do the same if you get a newspaper subscription.  A buildup of mail or newspapers is a clear sign to burglars that you aren't home.
  6. Call your bank.  Your credit card might get declined if you're suddenly buying breakfast in Las Vegas when you live in Boston.  Call your bank and have them put a note on your account that there will be charges outside the normal geographical scope of your activities, especially if you're overseas.
  7. Call your alarm company.  We love our alarm company.  Sometimes we set it off accidentally and they give a bit of a grace period to respond to their call and say it's not an emergency.  When we're away, we call to let them know that any going off of the alarm is an emergency and don't even waste time calling us - just send the police.
  8. Update your calendar.  Check the dates you're going to be gone to make sure there's nothing still scheduled that you forgot about.  Change anything that needs it.
  9. Clean out fridge and take out the trash.  The smell will be awful if you don't.
  10. Wash laundry and sheets, and generally tidy up.  If you've ever come home late from a trip to a messy house while you have a suitcase full of dirty laundry in hand, you understand how important this is.  Make sure it's clean before you go - wash any laundry, make sure everything is out of the washer and dryer, clean your sheets so you have a fresh bed to climb into when you return, and generally tidy up so you can return in peace.
  11. Conserve energy.  You don't need the house to be at the same temperature when no one is home.  Turn it down in the winter (mid to upper 50s) and up in the summer (mid to upper 70s.)  Make sure all the lights are off and nothing is running.  Unplugging most things is a good idea too (like the toaster, coffeemaker, XBox, etc.), because it might not eat a lot of energy, but it could start a fire.
  12. Turn off the main water supply.  The Wet Bandits wouldn't have been successful if the homeowners had remembered to turn off the water supply!  In real life though, this will save water and minimize any damage if something happens like a pipe bursting.
  13. Close the curtains.  While you're doing a walk around your home and taking care of everything plugged in and turned off, make sure to close all the curtains as well.  It's an energy conserving method as well as a deterrent to burglars.
  14. Charge electronics and then pack the chargers.  Make sure everything is fully charged before you leave, because you don't know when you'll be able to charge next - very important if you use your phone as your boarding pass and everything else.  But don't forget to pack the chargers!
  15. Alert someone to keep an eye on your house.  We live about 6 blocks or so from John's parents, and 2.5 miles from mine.  They both have extra keys to our house, and it's easy for them to drive past and just check that the house (and behind the house, in our alleyway) looks normal.  If you don't have family nearby, ask a friend to do a quick drive by or a trusted neighbor.

Are you going out of town for the holidays this year?  What do you make sure you do before you leave?

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