Getting ready to leave your home for a longer trip can require significant preparation.
If you have time to spare on the days before your journey, you can make both the transportation, the stay at your destination and your homecoming more enjoyable.
|“||Parting is such sweet sorrow
that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.
—Romeo and Juliet
If you have time, clean the house. You will find it much nicer to come home to a clean house, and it makes things easier for anybody checking up on the place.
Clean out the refrigerator. What you need to use up in advance, freeze, or discard depends upon the length of your trip. Raw meat should not be kept in the refrigerator for more than a few days. Most fresh produce and milk will last about a week. Eggs (uncooked in the shell) and hard cheeses can be kept for approximately a month. Many condiments, such as mustard and mayonnaise, will last for several months. If you're leaving for more than a month and your refrigerator is entirely empty, switch it off to conserve energy, clean it thoroughly with baking soda and dry it, and leave it open to prevent mold developing inside. On the other hand, if you're going to be gone for less than a month, it's usually recommended that you keep your refrigerator on. There may be things that you normally keep on the counter and should consider putting in the refrigerator or freezer to preserve them and keep them away from pests, such as onions, apples, butter, and coffee beans. Some products, such as garlic and honey, may be better preserved cool than cold, and some are sensitive to the humidity in the fridge.
Empty the trash cans, especially the one designated for the organic waste. Finding a kitchen full of flies and stinking to high heaven when you return will not be pleasant, to say the least. If you have to take the trash bins out to the curb for pick-up, and you're going to be gone longer than one pick-up cycle, then ask a neighbor or friend to put them out and bring them back in for you.
Wash the dishes and put them away. If you leave them in the drying rack, they may be dusty by the time you return. If you turn on the automatic dishwasher as you're walking out the door, then you may come home to a moldy dishwasher full of dishes that need to be washed again.
Wash the laundry. You may need many of these clothes for packing anyway. When you get home, you will also want some clean clothes rather than a pile of laundry – possibly stinky, moldy and mildewed laundry, if any of it was damp when you left. This might also be a good time to send out bedding and household linens for dry cleaning. Many cleaners dispose of unclaimed items after a month or two, so if you're going on a long trip, then check with your cleaners about their storage limits or have somebody fetch them for you.
Check your home insurance policy. You may need to tell the insurance company if you are away for a longer period (in some cases, more than one month), or they may impose conditions, such as leaving the heating on during cold weather, to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting, and to prevent moisture problems.
You may need to arrange for someone to cut the grass and weed the garden. In winter, you may want to ask someone to clear any snow, or to walk across it so it looks like someone's home. Check the timer on your irrigation system, if any.
You also have to care for the indoor plants if you will be away for more than a week. A thorough soaking will hold most houseplants for a week, and slow-drip bottles can extend that for up to another week or so. For longer periods, you may want to consider an automatic watering system that is designed for long-term irrigation of indoor plants. If you travel only occasionally, it's probably easier to ask a friend or neighbor to water the plants when they stop by to make sure that everything's okay. Don't forget potted plants on the patio; they will dry out faster than plants in the ground or those located inside. Some plants will be more likely to survive if moved to a less sunny place (such as from the window to the table).
Contact your post office to have your mail stopped, or arrange for a trusted neighbor to collect and perhaps check it (which may be necessary anyway to get rid of junk mail). If you get some other deliveries (such as newspapers or subscription boxes) or have memberships (such as to a fitness studio), then take care of them also.
Figure out how to pay your bills while you are gone. If you can, you may want to pay your basic utility and tax bills in advance. Other services, such as cable television, should be suspended on a vacation hold or cancelled completely. The companies or your bank may have standard arrangements for approving the bills in advance to get them paid on time. Many banks offer online bill payment services, which can be used to pay anyone. You may be able to get bills sent to you via e-mail, but if you'll be gone longer than a month, it's probably a good idea to have someone sort through your mail to see if any unexpected bills or urgent notices (jury duty?) have arrived during your absence.
You may want to have someone come to your house occasionally to check for water leaks or other problems. There may even be some friend or relative that could stay at your home part of the time you are away.
If you have a car, think about looking after it, too. Make arrangements for anything that will need to be done when you are away: annual tests, insurance renewal, etc. If you are leaving it parked in the street, consider what will happen if the parking is suspended, e.g. for roadworks. If it is not locked in a garage, security may also be an issue. Most cars benefit from being driven every couple of weeks to keep the battery charged and to discourage any squirrels from moving in – maybe you can make arrangements for a friend to drive it occasionally. If you are away for much longer (six months?), think about selling it before you go.
Health and body care
While a farewell party or "one for the road" might be enjoyable, travel with a hangover is usually a terrible experience.
If you travel between distant time zones, you can try to prepare for jet lag by accommodating to the destination's time zones. However, if you intend to live in the new time zone for more than a few weeks, this is usually not necessary, as your body will ultimately adjust to the local time no matter what you do before the trip.
Grooming your body carefully before you go makes the journey more comfortable. Trimming your fingernails and toenails helps you keeping your hands and feet clean and comfortable during the first week of your journey. You might want to get a haircut before your trip, to avoid having to figure out how to get one at your destination. If you travel to a low-income destination, shaving, manicure, pedicure and spa services might however be cheap (if you have the time to spare).
- Main article: Traveling with pets
If you have one or more pets, you will have to decide whether to take them with you or to leave them at home. Cats and dogs are often good travelers, although going across borders can require significant paperwork and quarantines.
Any pets left behind for more than a night will at the very least require their water and food to be replenished, and their litterboxes to be cleaned. Most birds require attention in the morning and evening, as they will starve to death rather than eat when it's dark, and they can't sleep when it's light. Rabbits left behind generally need a pet sitter to visit once or twice a day for food, exercise, and a quick health check. The needs of fish and reptiles vary significantly, according to the needs of the particular animal. If the aquarium is big enough and the water starts off very clean, a goldfish can usually be left alone with no additional food for a full week, and for two weeks if it has a live plant to nibble on. Most fish need to be fed daily or near-daily and to have the water changed once a week.
Ask a trustworthy friend or relative take care of your pets, preferably in your house as pets tend to be emotionally attached to their common surroundings. You may be able to work out a deal with someone who has the same type of animals: you'll watch their dog during their trip, if they'll watch your dog during your trip. This is a typical arrangement if you have a small amount of livestock, including chickens, goats, and horses, since another backyard poultry enthusiast will already be knowledgeable about basic care for these less-common pets. Think, too, about the friend who has been talking about getting a pet, and suggest that watching yours during your trip might make a useful trial run for potential pet ownership. Don't forget to hand in your spare key! If no one is up for the task, you may have to find a pet sitter or arrange a stay at a pet hotel.
Some pets are very attached to their "family", some are very suspicious against strangers. You might ease the situation by making sure the people who will look after your pet (or any pet that will provide company) have become good friends with it before you leave.
For a longer trip, consider stopping services or making sure that they expect you to be gone.
- Return books to the library, and stop any inter-library loan requests that you have placed.
- Most subscription services that deliver stuff to your home should be stopped. Do you have a wine club subscription? Community-supported farm box? Automatic deliveries from Amazon's subscribe service or the Dollar Shave club? What about mail-order prescription drugs? You might need to pack a larger than usual supply of your acid reflux meds, but you probably don't want them sitting in the mailbox or baking in an airless warehouse for weeks during your absence.
- Telecommunications services require a little thought. If your home will be unoccupied, then internet and cable television services could be suspended – but first make sure that your home security system doesn't depend upon a working internet connection. If your cell phone or mobile-equipped tablet won't work at your destination, or if you're not taking it along, then call your provider to see whether you can move it to a cheaper plan during your absence. Landline phones can also have added-cost features disabled. Consider whether you need to update your voice mail message, and make sure that you know how to pick up messages from your destination.
- Look ahead on your calendar to see if you have any appointments that need to be re-scheduled, such as a teeth cleaning at the dentist or an oil change for a vehicle.
In hot weather, turn the air conditioning system off or to a higher temperature. In a high-humidity setting, runing the air conditioner occasionally will reduce the risk of mold.
In cool weather, turn down the heater. If there is risk of long-time freezing temperatures, some heating may have to be left on, but unless you are leaving pets at home, it can usually be set to a temperature that would feel uncomfortably cool, around 50 °F (10 °C). Some section of the pipes may be more exposed to the outside temperature, requiring extra heating if general indoor temperature is lowered and water not used. Keeping the heater running can be expensive in cold climates. You may have the option of emptying the water pipes, but make sure that everything in your house will survive freezing, including plants, the refrigerator (which will stop working at very low temperatures), food in the cabinets, etc.
Turn off the water for the house to prevent water leaks going undiscovered during your absence. If you're leaving the water on in general, then you may want to turn off water to the washing machine or other individual appliances. If you will be gone for more than a few days, turn the temperature down on the hot water system to save money.
Any electrical devices, such as washing machines, coffee makers, computers, and TV sets should preferably be unplugged from the wall. Unless some devices, such as your freezer or home security system, have to stay on, electricity could be switched off entirely.
Make sure any open fire is properly extinguished, including any last-minute cigarette butts.
Damp towels in the kitchen and bathrooms should be hung so that they will dry quickly during your absence. Leave the doors to the bathrooms and other damp rooms open, to promote air circulation and reduce the risk of mold.
Empty homes are often targeted by thieves. Contact your police department to let them know that you will be gone (if that is local practice). Consider putting lights on timers. Somebody checking the mailbox, cutting the grass, using the garden and perhaps even staying some nights will make the house seem less empty.
Do not tell the public via social media that you are not at home. Tell a few trustworthy people on a need-to-know basis.
A housesitter is a person who lives in your home while you are gone. It might be a friend or family member, a professional house sitter, or someone who is visiting your area. You might want a housesitter if you have pets that you are leaving behind, because paying for a housesitter might be cheaper than paying for pet boarding.
Another option is a home exchange, which allows you to trade housing with someone else.
Plan for your return
- See also: Returning home
When you return from your trip, you may be tired and hungry. Before you go, make the bed, and make sure that you have some basic, non-perishable food in the house. If you're emptying "everything", then consider keeping some basics on hand, including toilet paper, hand soap, and laundry detergent, so that you won't have to go shopping on the day you return.
When you return, many of your preparations will have to be un-done. You may need to re-start newspaper or other subscriptions, re-stock the freezer and refrigerator, pick up your dog from the kennel, and go grocery shopping. Once your return date is fixed, then it may be possible to set up some of this in advance or online. For example, in some areas, you may be able to order groceries online and have them delivered to your home on the day of (or the day after) your return. Write a list of the things to be undone or otherwise taken care of on return.