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How to Prep Your Home Before Heading out on Winter Vacation

Dec 27, 2019 07:23AM ● By Editor

Photo: The Weather Channel

By Ally Hirschlag from The Weather Channel - Posted: December 27, 2019

Many people eagerly await the holiday season because it means they get to go somewhere fun. Whether you're planning a trip to the Caribbean, a family ski excursion, or just a long visit with the grandparents, a change of pace away from home offers so much to look forward to. However, if you neglect to prepare your house before heading out on you vacation, you may end up coming home to a whole host of expensive, messy problems. 

Wouldn't you prefer knowing your home is safe and sound while you sip margaritas/head down that snowy slope? It's easy enough to give yourself that peace of mind — all it takes is a little bit of preparation. 

Here are some tips to help you make sure your home stays in tip top condition while you're gone. 

Make sure important parties know you're going out of town

(Getty Images/Westend61)

It's a good idea to notify your credit card companies and home security company that you're going to be away so that they know to be on alert to unusual charges and activity. If you don't have a home security system yet, there's no better time to have one installed. State Farm offers great suggestions if you don't know where to start. And while we're on security, it's also wise to alert a trustworthy neighbor to your upcoming absence so they can keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

Take steps to make it look like you never left

(Getty Images/Simon Battensby)

Thieves often case neighborhoods for empty-looking houses because they're the easiest to rob. However, if it looks like business as usual at your house, odds are they'll steer clear. Have that same friendly neighbor park their car in your driveway and pick up your mail and newspapers so they don't pile up. Make sure no deliveries are scheduled to come while you'll be away. Install motion-activated light sensors on any outdoor flood lights. It's also a good idea to connect your electricity via a smartphone app so you can regularly turn lights on and off. If you can install a smart home security system that allows you to check various areas of property from anywhere, even better. Finally, keep some blinds/curtains open a bit so when your lights turn on, they'll be clearly visible from the outside. 

Reassess your insurance policy

Before you head out of town during the winter months, it's a good idea to re-evaluate your insurance policy so you know what's covered and what isn't in terms of weather and burglary-related incidents. For example, State Farm offers comprehensive coverage for most incidents that could affect your property while you're away from it. They also have a number of tips to help you prevent incidents before they happen and keep your property safe. 

Protect your home against electrical and plumbing issues

(Getty Images/Sadeugra)

Keeping electronic devices plugged in while you're away not only racks up your electrical bill, it can cause expensive and potentially dangerous issues. For example, an electrical short near faulty wiring or flammable material could cause a fire, which likely won't be caught quickly when no one's home.

If you live in a cold climate, and no one's been using the plumbing for an extended period of time, your pipes could freeze and burst. Calling the plumber as soon as you get back from your trip is probably the last thing you want to do.

The best way to avoid these issues is to unplug every electrical plug in your home (including TVs and routers) before you leave and set your thermostat closer at a lower temp (no lower than 55 degrees F), which should still protect your plants, pets and furniture (or invest in a thermostat that has an "away" setting and will adjust automatically). In terms of plumbing, although it may sound counterintuitive, State Farm notes it's a good idea to keep a few of your faucets dripping with hot and cold water. This helps keep the water running through your plumbing, which helps prevent frozen and cracked pipes.

Keep it clean

(Getty Images/Rafael Ben-Ari)

While it may be tempting to say, "I'm going on vacation, I don't need to clean!" coming home to a dirty, smelly house is never fun. For example, if you don't at least throw away food in your fridge that's expired or expiring, your vacation decompression will be filled with multiple trips to the outdoor garbage cans. 

It doesn't have to be a full deep clean. If you simply do a load of laundry, a quick sweep of the fridge and maybe a light vacuuming, you'll come home to a much more welcoming space that might help you feel like you're still on vacation. 

Note any dangerous-looking trees in your yard

(Getty Images/Dan Reynolds Photography)

Do you have a tree on your property that looks like it might keel over if hit with a strong wind gust? Or perhaps there's a tree with widespread branches that hang over your roof and could break and fall after a particularly heavy snowfall? If you have any trees that fit these profiles, or simply look precarious, it's a good idea to have them checked out by a tree expert before you leave on vacation. The expert will tell you if any trees need to be braced, have branches removed or need to be taken down altogether. While it will be an upfront expense, it will likely be far less expensive than fixing the damage a tree can do should it fall on your house. 

Here are several more tips from State Farm to help you avoid costly weather-related damage like roof cave ins from heavy snow, water damage and personal injury during snow removal.

Check all the windows and doors

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Right before heading out on your vacation, make sure to check all the entry points into your house to see if any are open or unlocked. Thieves will look for any way in they can find — don't think that simply locking the front door will deter them.

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