clock menu more-arrow no yes

Things to Do Before You Leave for Vacation

Avoid mere inconveniences—as well as potential catastrophes—by taking care of some not-so-obvious to-do list items

• Run your garbage disposal: To head off a smelly homecoming, TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey advises tossing in lemon rinds, then running the disposal with the cold water tap on.

• Pause your post: Piled-up mail is an instant tip-off that no one’s been home for a while. Go online to temporarily turn off your mail at You can opt to pick it up or have it all delivered at once when you’re back.

• Unplug unused appliances: Save on your electric bill by pulling the plug on microwaves, coffeemakers, and other appliances that draw power to run a clock or even a standby light.

• Thwart potential thieves: Though it’s no substitute for a home security system, research shows that a sign suggesting you have one can be a deterrent, says ADT’s Bob Tucker. Another easy fix: Toss gravel (it’s noisy!) on the ground near entries.

• Check social media settings: Make sure you and your family are sharing vacation photos (“Look at us, we’re not home right now!”) only with your actual friends, not the general public. Or take the old-fashioned route and wait till you’re back to share.

• Turn off your water-main valve: Richard Trethewey says that stopping water at the source can prevent potential leaks. In colder weather, the lack of pressure will help prevent a burst pipe.

• Practice proactive landscaping: Mow the lawn, and take care of trimming, pruning, and other chores. Overgrown hedges and large plants can provide cover for home invaders, notes ADT’s Bob Tucker. If you’re thinking about new plantings, put shrubs that are prickly or thorny below windows.

• Park a car: If your driveway would usually have a car in it, at least at the beginning or end of the workday, ask a nearby neighbor to park in your drive.

• Alert a local: ADT’s Tucker says that this is one instance where a nosy neighbor can be a benefit. Let someone close by whom you trust know that you’re going out of town; he or she can be on the lookout for anything that seems awry.

• Move your spare key: Yes, that trusty flowerpot or fake rock may have served admirably for years, but while you’re out of town, switch your house key’s hiding spot. With no one home, a potential intruder would have more time to hunt for the spare, so don’t leave it in an obvious place.

• Randomize your lights: Many homeowners swear by timers to create the “Light’s on, somebody must be home” look. But a timer set to come on at the same hour each day can make a recognizable pattern. There are plenty of apps that let you control lighting via smart devices, but if you don’t want to be tethered to your phone while you’re away, choose a timer that allows for variety. The Honeywell 7-Day Programmable Timer Switch (about $25; The Home Depot) lets you set different on/off times for each day of the week.