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Whether you’re heading on your dream international vacation or have to travel out of state for a long work trip, leaving your home unattended for a prolonged period can be exciting and nerve-wracking. After all, most travelers dread the thought of returning to an overflowing mailbox, or worse, a burglarized home. From burglary and ransacking to critter infestations and electrical fires, homes left unattended can become cesspools for disaster.

While no one can perfectly predict the outcome of an extended trip, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of mishaps taking place while you’re away. If you’re planning to leave your home alone, consult these eight tips that will help you prepare your home for your vacation.

1. Prepare your vehicles

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If you can’t bear the thought of embarking on a trip without your vehicle by your side, fear not. Travelers who wish to drive their car while on vacation but can’t move the car to the destination themselves can research information to find out the cost to ship a vehicle to your final destination.

If you’re planning to leave your personal vehicle behind while on your trip, you may be considering renting a luxury car or simply forgoing driving while you’re away. If this is the case, ensure that your automobile is safely locked inside a garage or otherwise protected from vandalism and theft. After securing your car in a garage or with a trusted loved one, remember to securely hide your car keys inside your home or in a lockbox at the bank.

If your trip will keep you away from home for more than a few months, consider asking a trustworthy friend or family member to safeguard your car keys and drive the vehicle a few times a month to keep the car properly working.

2. Lock all front and back doors, garage doors, and windows

While the need to lock your front door goes without saying, locking up at the front of the house isn’t enough to keep your home secure. Every entrance to your home should be safely locked before you embark on your journey. If you can’t lock your garage door and use an electric garage door opener, consider unplugging the openers while you’re away. After all, thieves can quickly access your residence by manipulating garage door openers that remain connected to electricity.

Do your best to obtain deadbolt locks for back doors and basement doors, and be mindful of potential window entrances to the home. Lock windows from the inside to prevent a home invasion while you’re away.

3. Ask your relatives or friends to keep an eye on your house

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When it comes to keeping your home safe and secure while out of town, remember that there is considerable strength in numbers. Don’t be afraid to ask family members, friends, and trusted neighbors to keep a watchful eye on your home. Give your housesitters your contact information and cell phone number to alert you if they notice any suspicious activity near your home.

Leave the second set of keys with your friend or neighbor and ask if they’d be willing to walk around the house to check for damage in case of bad weather. See if they’ll bring any packages delivered indoors and remove any potential leaflets or tags from the door.

Depending on how concerned you are about falling victim to a home invasion, you can consider asking your neighbor to park in your driveway while you’re gone. Leaving a car parked in the drive will make your home appear occupied while you’re away.

4. Leave a clean home and remove perishable food

Whether you’ve just completed a relaxing vacation or a stressful work trip, coming home to a cluttered mess will leave you feeling stressed and irritable. These feelings will be further magnified if you struggle with jet lag or have spent the last several weeks on your feet while traveling.

As such, it’s a great idea to clean up your house before you leave. It’s also essential to remove perishable items like milk, fruits, meats, or eggs from your refrigerator. If you don’t, you’ll come home to a rotten-smelling kitchen. Returning home to a comfortable and clean home will help you relax before re-entering your daily routine, so prioritize tidying your house before hitting the road.

5. Shovel the snow and mow the lawn

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To make it appear as if you are still occupying your house, shovel the snow off your sidewalk, porch, and driveway before you leave. If your neighborhood gets more snow while on vacation, you may want to ask a friend to shovel your place. The appearance of occupying your home will disincentivize robbers from attacking.

During the warmer seasons, make sure to mow the lawn before leaving for vacation. An unmowed, overgrown lawn also makes your house look empty. You’ll love coming home to a beautifully cut yard or a freshly shoveled driveway.

6. Ask the post office to hold your mail

If you’re going on a long trip, ask your local post office to hold your mail. Otherwise, you’ll come home to an overstuffed mailbox. If you’re embarking on a long enough vacation, the mailbox might not have enough room for all of your mail, resulting in the mail carrier being unable to deliver your mail.

When you have mail stacked up and falling out of the mailbox, thieves and robbers will take that as a sign that you’re not home and feel more emboldened to rob your house. However, your mailbox will look spic and span if the post office holds your mail.

7. Turn off the lights, the stove, and electrical appliances

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To reduce any risks of fire and keep your utility costs lower, you need to turn off the lights and all electrical appliances in your home. It would be best to double-check that you’ve turned off the stove and oven before you leave for vacation.

Vacationers will need to unplug their electrical appliances to keep them from using electricity and protect their machines from power surges. Leaving lights on in your home for 24 hours a day and seven days a week will also rack up a costly bill.

8. Set your thermostat to the appropriate level

If you aren’t home, spending money on heating or cooling will be a substantial waste. As long as you don’t have any pets you leave at the house, you can set the thermostat to a high temperature and unplug the air conditioner if it’s summertime.

During the winter, keep the thermostat between 50°F and 55°F when leaving for vacation. Doing so will keep the pipes from freezing.

Final word

Once you’ve put these eight tips into practice, you can rest easy on your vacation, knowing that you’re protecting your home from robbery, fire risks, financial waste, and more.