As former expats, we used to leave our home unoccupied for months at a time so I thought I’d share some tips for preparing your home prior to vacation, based on things we sometimes learned the hard way.

It’s funny that this post is sponsored by Finish, a brand I became familiar with while living in London and facing these very challenges.

Well, I have a home that I leave behind while traveling and keeping it vacation ready (translation: clean) is a huge priority.

Here are 14 ways to prepare your home before leaving on vacation.

1. Alert The Alarm Company

Letting the alarm company know that no one is home prompts a quicker response as they’ll usually dispatch police immediately versus calling you at home first. Plus, if you’re traveling out of the country you should leave them a local contact in case they need to get into the house or have trouble contacting you.

2. Consider Opening Closet Doors

This is especially important if you don’t have central heating and air to keep air flow moving while you’re gone. Closets that seal tightly, may develop a musty smell.

3. Clean Your Garbage Disposal

While this is in line with keeping your kitchen clean, cleaning the garbage disposal is so important that it deserves its own mention. Sometimes we forget about what we can’t see. There might be egg shells or orange peels that haven’t been flushed away. You know who will find them? Ants and flies. Not to mention you might come home to a foul odor if gone for a while.

Before you head out the door, flush the garbage disposal with distilled white vinegar and water while letting it run for a minute or so.

4. Unplug Small Appliances

Why pay for electricity when you’re not using it? Even your coffee maker and phone suck up a little power when not in use. Plus, there’s something mentally freeing knowing that only necessary items are still plugged in

5. Stop All Newspapers

In La Jolla, we occasionally get advertisements and local papers tossed on the driveway. If you live in La Jolla, I’ve had success stopping both the La Jolla Light and the La Jolla Village News while gone. Stop your main newspaper subscription and also these, unless you have a dutiful neighbor that can pick them up.

6. Adjust The Thermostat

Even in temperate Southern California it’s beneficial to have a high and low range set on the thermostat even when you leave. Certain woods can’t tolerate extreme heat and humidity and you’d be doing them and who knows what else a disservice by making the home a sweat box.

However, USA TODAY reports that every degrees you can turn up the thermostat up saves 2% on your bill.

7. Set Your Water Heater

Experts don’t recommend turning off your water heater, however, most new ones are equipped with vacation mode. Put the water heater in vacation mode, or if you don’t have that, dial the temperature down a few degrees to save energy. Your manual should have recommended settings.

8. Address Standing Toilet Water

I’ve never done this but have recently read that adding 1/2 cup of chlorine to the toilet bowl will prevent the ring that sometimes occurs from standing water. Maybe give this a go.

9. Leave Lights On?

I would say do what you feel comfortable with in this regard. Some experts say that leaving lights on a timer in the same place at the same time every night signals that you are not home. The best thing to do is have a neighbor switch on alternate lights for you.

Now, I’m not sure that’s a realistic thing to ask someone to do. We leave lights on a timer.

10. Check The Irrigation

Our irrigation is timed to run before the sun comes up which means we don’t always see obvious leaks. Run it before you leave in broad daylight and walk around the house to make sure there are no leaks. If gone for an extended period of time, have your gardener check every time they come.

Trust me, trying to coordinate with a gardener to fix a sprinkler-turned-geyser from overseas is not easy.

11. Mute Your Phone’s Ringer

If you live in a condo complex or close quarters to other people, mute the ringer on your phone so that people can’t hear it ring multiple times, signaling that you aren’t home.

12. Do A Faucet Check

Before heading out the door, make sure that no faucet is dripping. Drips over the course of a few weeks are incredibly wasteful, especially in areas where water is scarce. Not to mention if could add a few unnecessary extra dollars to your water bill.

13. Use Apps

In the absence of more high tech cameras with night vision that are accessible from your smart phone, there are a number of apps that can assist with monitoring your home while gone.

With the Presence app you can turn an old iPhone or iPad into a home security camera and monitor the live feed from the phone you use. If movement is detected, the app will ping you. The iCam app does pretty much the same thing but uses your computer’s web cam.

14. Leave The Kitchen Clean

We once came home to a bug problem after I hastily put away “clean” dishes from the dishwasher. Gunk had been left on a pan and a cutting board from eco-friendly detergent that wasn’t powerful enough for our needs and we paid the price. I went back to conventional detergent.

However, Finish sent me their new Power & Free line featuring hydrogen peroxide and it works great as a happy medium because though they may have removed a lot of hard chemicals but it still cleans really well.

We also have a ton of displayed glassware that gets gunky after the house has been closed up. Several times a year I run it all through the dishwasher. True story.

How else do you keep your home safe while traveling?

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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