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Episode #016: Things to do before leaving for vacation

Do you feel stressed and overwhelmed the week prior to leaving for a big vacation? Same… unless I am armed with a list to keep myself organized. In this post I’m sharing a list of things to do at home before leaving for vacation. The hope is that completing the tasks on this list will enable you to enjoy your vacation without any lingering feelings of stress about how things are going at home.

If you are a person who thrives with a proper checklist, I’ve created one for you! Fill out your information below and I’ll send you a printable PDF checklist with all of the tasks mentioned in this blog post.

Week Before Departure

1. Arrange for house watchers (a neighbor is best here)

A neighbor is a great candidate for this job. If they’re up for it you can ask them to help you handle your trash bins on collection day for you. They can also do things like recycle newspapers thrown on your driveway or paper solicitations left on your doorstep. 

There are few things that scream “we’re out of town!” more loudly than a pileup of these types of papers or forgotten trash bins left in front of your house for a length of time. 

If you trust them, you can also leave them with a spare key to use in case of any emergency.

2. Make arrangements for pets

Obviously. Whether it’s a pet sitter who comes to your house or a location that boards pets while their owners are away, make sure to make arrangements for your animals.

3. Notify your alarm company you will be away

If you use an alarm system it’s not a bad idea to notify them when you’re traveling. 

4. Contact bank and/or credit card company

This is particularly important when you’re traveling internationally. If you plan to withdraw cash in a different currency or make credit card purchases, make sure your provider knows so they don’t put a security hold on your cards. 

5. Put mail on hold with USPS

It’s very easy to put your mail on hold while you’re traveling. This prevents mail from clogging up your mailbox and eliminates the threat of important mail being stolen while you’re away.

If you don’t want to put mail on hold, you can also enlist a trusted neighbor to collect it for you while you’re traveling.

6. Share your itinerary with a trusted friend or family member

This is a basic safety and security precaution. Make sure someone knows your flights, hotels, and pre-scheduled activities while you’re away. This just makes it easier for them to provide assistance to you and keep tabs on you in case of emergency.

While you’re at it, print a hard copy of your itinerary for you to travel with as well. It’s always helpful to have addresses, phone numbers, and confirmation numbers on hand.

7. Pay your bills

If you don’t already have all of your bills on autopay, take some time to make sure everything is paid and accounted for before your departure. Avoid the potential stress of trying to handle bill pay on unsecured networks and bad internet connections. 

8. Plan for medication needs

Fill prescriptions and stock up on basic medication that you or your family might need while away. If packing space is an issue, then invest in a pill container then label it with each type of medication. 

Even if you know you can visit a local pharmacy to get what you need, I always find that migraine headaches and stomach issues tend to present themselves in the least convenient times and places. Take the time and space to prepare for the worst and thank yourself later.

9. Scan ID Information

Make sure to take care of your ID information while you’re traveling. If yours happens to get lost or stolen while traveling, it can be helpful to have an accessible copy (physical or digital) so you can reference important numbers as you try to navigate getting replacements.

10. Freeze a few meals

Or plan and budget for healthy takeout upon your return. After traveling for any length of time, I am always grateful to come home to healthy home-cooked meals. 

11. Deep clean OR schedule professional cleaners

There is something to be said about coming home to a clean house after a long vacation. I find that cleaning my house before leaving while I’m also trying to finish laundry, pack, prep snacks and all of the aforementioned items on this list simply sends me over the edge.

Instead, as part of our vacation budget we set aside some money to hire professional cleaners to come the day we return. If you have a trusted relationship with a professional cleaner you can also hide a key for them to use to let themselves in while you’re away. Returning to a clean house is SUCH a gift and really extends that vacation feeling. 

For tips on preparing for professional cleaners, listen to Episode 10 of the A Clean Bee Podcast or read the related blog post for that episode here.

Day of Departure (or Day Before Departure)

12. File away or hide credit cards that you don’t plan to use

Only take the debit and credit card that you plan to use while you’re on vacation. Leave gift cards, other credit cards, rewards cards, and anything else casually sitting in your wallet at home. Make sure to place them in a hidden, secure location that you can easily access upon your return.

13. Set interior (and exterior) lights on timers

Setting a few strategically located lights on evening timers within your home helps keep up the facade that you’re still home. The hope is that doing so will make your house less attractive to a possible burglar. There are plenty of affordable outlet timers on the market, below are two of my favorite options.

  1. Smart Plug Outlets – You can control all smart outlets from your phone no matter where you’re located. You can use voice control to operate them within your home if you have Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Pack of 4 for about $25. 
  2. Mechanical Outlet Timers – If the idea of hooking up outlets in your home to a smart device makes you skittish then consider this mechanical outlet timer. You can hand program the amount of time the outlet is turned on 

14. Tend to your potted plants, lawn, and garden

If you have indoor plants or outdoor potted plants that aren’t hooked up to automatic irrigation then it’s important to tend to them before you depart. Water your potted plants deeply! In order to fully penetrate all of the soil with water, I fill the pot to the brim, let it drain then repeat 1 or 2 more times. I’ll do this in my kitchen sink for most of my indoor plants so they can drain without making a mess. 

Alternatively you can hire a house sitter or a gardener to tend to your potted plants while you’re away. 

15. Clean out the fridge 

This one feels obvious but I’ll share it anyway. Don’t let expired food sit in your fridge. Try to eat through your leftovers or food that is about to expire prior to your departure. If it makes sense, freeze foods to prevent them from going off while you’re away. For example, I freeze almost all of our leftover fruit and greens, which makes it very easy to make quick breakfast smoothies upon our return.

16. Run and empty your dishwasher

Even if your dishwasher isn’t completely full, run it and then put everything away. Give your dishwasher filter a quick wash too while you’re at it! Once empty, tape a sign that tells family members that the dishwasher is closed. Have everyone commit to hand washing dishes, cups, and silverware after that point.

17. Clean garbage disposal 

Cleaning a garbage disposal takes only a minute of your time and can prevent unsavory smells from developing while you’re away. Toss a few ice cubes with lemon juice into your disposal then turn it on to clean the blades. You could also freeze cubes of distilled white vinegar to get the same result!

Then, pour a few spoonfuls of baking soda down the drain and follow it up with some distilled white vinegar. The fizzy reaction will help loosen any crud from the sides of the drain. Finish the job by rinsing everything clean with hot water.

18. Empty washing machine if you haven’t already

Letting wet clothes sit in your washer WILL cause your washer to smell. Take a minute to make sure yours is empty and dry before leaving!

19. Change your sheets

This one is optional but man, it feels good to return home to clean sheets on your bed! Here are some of my favorite options for bed sheets.

Right Before You Leave

20. Take out the trash

Don’t let smelly trash sit in your house while you’re away! Do a quick sweep and empty all of the bins in your house right before you leave.

21. Unplug unnecessary electronics

Save energy by unplugging electronics like your TV, your internet, or anything else that doesn’t need to stay on while you’re away.

22. Lock up!

But you already knew that… make sure to lock windows, doors, then close your drapes and blinds. If you choose to hide a spare key make sure it’s somewhere very well hidden and only those you truly trust know where to find it.

And that’s that! Completing this list prior to departure will ensure that you can rest easy once you arrive at your vacation destination.