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5 Ways to Prepare Your Home Before Your Holiday Vacation

Prevent major headaches by following these steps before traveling this winter.    

U.S. News & World Report

5 Ways to Prepare Your Home Before Your Holiday Vacation

Symbol of the house with silver key on vintage wooden background

Hiring a house sitter and setting automatic light timers in the evenings can help prevent breaks-ins.(iStockPhoto)

Winter travel is supposed to be all about holiday traditions, snow-capped mountains and warm mugs of hot cocoa. However, for some travelers, it can mean returning home to an unpleasant surprise, like frozen pipes or stolen mail. To help increase your odds of a relaxing homecoming, protect your house prior to leaving town. Here are simple strategies that can help keep your home safe before traveling over the holidays.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

If you live in a part of the country that experiences frigid winter temperatures, you will want to prepare your home's pipes before your trip. Frozen pipes can cause significant damage, especially if a leak goes unchecked while you're away. The American Red Cross suggests draining your yard's sprinkler supply lines to help prevent them from freezing. You can also insulate any exposed pipes outside your home or in the garage. Additionally, opening cabinet doors beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks can help warm air circulate to the pipes. 

It's also important not to turn the thermostat down too low while you are away. While setting back the heat can help save money, it can also allow the temperature in your home to get too low, making it easier for pipes to freeze and burst.

Find a House Sitter 

Asking a trusted friend or family member to stop by your house periodically while you're away can prevent a myriad of potential problems. A leaky pipe can be caught in time before significant damage has occurred, a battery can be replaced for a faulty fire alarm and a break-in can be prevented.

If you'll be away for a short trip and don't want to ask a neighbor or friend to visit your house, you can at least supply someone you trust with a spare key. After all, leaving a key hidden under your doormat is much riskier than handing off a spare key to someone you trust.

Prepare Your Pets 

Don't wait until the last minute to make plans for your pets. Hire a reliable pet sitter or book a stay for your dog or cat at a local kennel. If you aren't fond of the idea of leaving your pet behind, consider researching pet-friendly hotels and bringing your four-legged friend with you on your adventures. Either way, you'll need to allow ample time to make arrangements for your pets during the busy holiday travel season.

Prevent Home Burglary and Break-Ins

To help keep your home safe from burglars while you're on vacation, alert friendly neighbors of the dates that you'll be gone, and ask them to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. And if you have a home security system, make sure to activate it before you leave. Some home security companies even offer smartphone apps that allow you to check the status of the alarm while you are away.

Also, you can help make your home look occupied by setting a few lights on automatic timers. Another option: request a house sitter stop by and turn on a few lights in the evenings to make it look like someone is home.

Hold the Mail

Don't let mail accumulate in your mail box or on your front porch. You can temporarily stall your mail delivery while you're out of town by opting to Request Hold Mail service on the U.S. Postal Service website. Putting in a request is hassle-free and can be done by filling out a brief form. You will even be offered delivery options for when you return. This is a great way to keep your mail organized while you are out of town, and it could even prevent burglars from targeting your home or potential identity thieves from helping themselves to your unattended mail. 

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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