If you’re one of the thousands of retirees who head south when the weather gets cold, it’s easy to get swept up in all of the vacation plans and forget about last-minute details. But, for both safety and maintenance reasons, it’s important to prepare your cold-weather home before you board the plane to your home in paradise.
Homes that appear empty can be targets for crime, so it’s important to make your house look lived-in while you’re off soaking up the sun. Call your local post office and newspaper and ask them to stop any deliveries while you’re gone so they don’t pile up outside your house. If you’ll be away for more than 30 days at a time, you can ask the post office to temporarily forward your mail to your sunnier address. It’s free to do this for up to six months with an optional six month-long extension, but each piece of mail will be forwarded individually. If you typically receive large amounts of mail, you might want to consider the Premium Forwarding Service through the U.S. Postal Service. This way, you get all of your mail forwarded in one package weekly through priority mail. Enrolling in this service costs $15, but it can be beneficial if you’re a member of One Direction.
To give your house that lived-in look, it’s also beneficial to give your keys to a trustworthy friend, neighbor or relative. This way they can stop in every few days and make sure everything is taken care of. They can also pick up any extraneous pamphlets or flyers left behind that signal you’re not home. From your pets (if they couldn’t come on vacation with you) to your plants, they’ll make sure all of your bases are covered for when you come home. Just in case anything goes wrong, it’s best to leave an itinerary with any hotel phone numbers, cell phone numbers and flight numbers listed on it for your house or pet-sitter. Don’t forget to buy them a nice souvenir as a thank you!
If you live in a snowy state, you should also pay someone ahead of time to shovel your driveway and sidewalk. An unkempt lawn will also send the message that you’re not home, so you should hire someone to look after your landscaping if it doesn’t snow where you live. Ask your close friends or neighbors to park in your driveway a few days a week to make it look like someone’s there. But don’t tell too many people about your plans – you don’t want to broadcast that your house will be empty.
A suspiciously dark house can also be a red flag. By leaving a few lights on, it will look like someone’s home, and your home will be safer. It also might be beneficial to purchase a timer for your lights so it looks like someone’s turning them on during the day and off before bed. Unplug other devices like your TV, computer and any kitchen appliances that won’t get used while you’re gone to save energy. If you want to go the extra mile, turn off your water for the time you’re gone – you can leave the outer supply on for your sprinklers if they’re on a timer.
If you live in an especially frigid location, you might want to pour some non-toxic antifreeze in your toilets or anywhere else where water might pool. This way, if your furnace malfunctions while you’re gone, the water won’t expand to ice and damage anything. It’s important to turn your thermostat down when you’re gone during the winter months to save money, but never turn off your furnace completely. Fifty degrees is typically warm enough to keep your pipes from freezing and cool enough to keep your bills low. If you’re able to program your thermostat, you can set it to warm up the morning of your return so you don’t freeze when entering your home.
Don’t forget to give your kitchen a last-minute once-over before you leave. Make sure anything that’ll spoil is in the garbage, and make sure you take out your garbage. Make sure your dishwasher is empty, along with your washer and dryer. The last thing you want after a long, relaxing vacation is to come home to a smelly house.
Last but most definitely not least, make sure your home is properly locked – even that tiny basement window you never really open. You can’t be too safe when it comes to home security. If you don’t already have a home security system, it might be the time to invest in one. This way, you’ll have a set of electronic eyes on your home at all times, and it will alert the security company if anything goes wrong. If you have a spare key hidden on the outskirts of your home, you should move it inside or give it to that trustworthy friend who’s keeping tabs on your home.
Although vacationing during the cold winter months is exciting, it’s important to take care of all the mundane details before leaving your home for a significant amount of time. From locking every entry point to taking out the trash – every tiny detail is important. Besides, who wants to worry about the safety of their home when they have tanning to do and golf to play? If you take these steps before you leave, you won’t have to.