Prepping Your Home for Vacation and a Preparing for Vacation Checklist

We all know it is important to take steps to get ready for vacation and make sure everything is covered while you are away. In the days leading up to departure I often find myself overwhelmed by the number of tasks that need to be completed. Not only are there animals to tend to, phone calls to make, and bills to pay, there are clothes to be washed and packed as well. Here are some steps you can take to prepare for vacation, so once you reach your destination you can sit back, relax, and know that everything is safe back home.

Get your house ready for vacation-Kids Are A Trip

How to Get Your Home Ready for Vacation

I’ve tried to make this list as extensive and comprehensive as possible and hope you’ll enjoy the printable checklist I’ve included at the end of the post to make planning easier the next time you head out of town.

Travel prep inside your house

  • Put a few indoor lights on an automatic timer throughout your house.
  • Park your cars in the garage. Leave the keys with a friend or tell the friend where to find them in your house in case of an emergency.
  • Leave a spare key with a trusted friend or neighbor.
  • Pay all bills that will be due while traveling.
  • Empty all trash cans and run the dishwasher the night before you leave. **Don’t wait until you leave in case the dishwasher leaks.
  • Empty all clothes from the washer and dryer.
  • Clear out the refrigerator and throw out any food that will spoil while you are away. Place a box of baking soda inside the fridge to absorb any odors.
  • Turn off the thermostat or turn it down to a temperature that is comfortable.
  • Turn off the water to avoid flooding from frozen pipes bursting or leaks in general.
  • Unplug any electronics that don’t need to run while you’re gone. The tv and computers are the important ones in case there is a power surge while you are traveling.
  • Check to make sure smoke detectors are working.
  • Put valuables in a fireproof safe.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are locked.
  • Set your house alarm when you leave.
How to Apply for a Passport for Kids
How to Make Your House Ready for Vacation-Kids Are A Trip

Travel prep outside your home

  • Use outdoor lights that run on an automatic timer or have motion sensors if possible.
  • Ask for a vacation hold on newspaper delivery or any other scheduled deliveries.
  • Fill out a request to hold mail via USPS (CLICK HERE) or have someone else pick up your mail
  • If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, arrange for someone to mow your yard so it looks like someone is at home. If you are traveling during the winter, arrange for someone to shovel your walkways and/or plow your driveway.
  • Set sprinklers to water the grass and plants or arrange for someone to come by and take care of this.
  • If you have a swimming pool, have someone that will check on the pool periodically.
House with white picket fence

Arrange for pet sitting

  • Connect with the kennel/pet sitter in advance to make sure they have availability. If you don’t feel comfortable taking your pet to the kennel, use community Facebook groups to find people who offer dog home boarding or cat sitting.
  • Pack your pet’s favorite bedding, toys, and food to last for the duration of their time at the kennel/pet sitter
  • Find a time to take your pet to their “vacation destination” when you have time to devote to their drop off.
  • Leave the contact information of a local friend (and veterinarian) with the pet sitter in case of an emergency.
Favorite Apps for Road Trips
Pet sitter when traveling-Kids Are A Trip
Don’t forget to make plans for pets when traveling.

Companies to notify when you travel

  • Call your credit card company and let them know your travel plans. This will prevent any “suspicious activity alerts” on your account preventing you from using your cards when you travel.
  • Notify your local police department and let them know you will be traveling. In some towns the police department will even do a “drive by” to check on your house while you are away.
  • Notify your alarm company so they know not to treat alarms as “false alarms”.
Notify credit card companies when traveling-Kids Are A Trip
Notify credit card companies if you are traveling overseas.

What else to do before going on vacation

  • Give a family member and/or friend a copy of your itinerary and emergency contact numbers. If they live nearby, ask them to check on the house while you are away.
  • Check the expiration dates on your drivers license, credit cards, and passport. Some countries will not allow entry if your passport expires within 6 months of your arrival date.
  • -If you have a service that comes to your house regularly (cleaning crew, dry cleaner, etc.), give them notice they do not need to come while you are away.

Don’t miss these other travel articles: What to Pack for Your Family Road Trip and How to Save Money on Travel

*This article originally appeared in March 2016, but was updated in March 2020.


How to Prep Your Home for Vacation-Kids Are A Trip


  1. I couldn’t pin this fast enough – I will be referring back to this in a few months. Thank you so much Kirsten!

  2. I am so happy to help. Anything else you want me to write about? I get some of my best ideas from friends! : )

  3. These are great tips. Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. This is an awesome list! So comprehensive! Definitely pinning for later!!

  5. I love this! There is always something I forget to do before heading out on vacation, so this list is very helpful! Thank you for sharing at Merry Monday!

  6. Great tips! We do most of these, but I never have done the light timer! I need to get on that! Thankfully this time we are going out of town my mom will be staying in our house with our son! By the way, I love the flowers on your front porch they are so pretty!!

  7. I could have used this list when I lived back East! Now that I live right by my family again I have to do less prep before trip because my parents stop by the house throughout the trip!

  8. This is the some great tips, especially about the mail and the lights.

  9. These are such great tips! I don’t know how many times I have traveled to a different state and forgot to call my credit card company. Only to try and use my credit card and they put a block on it for fraud protection. Also, remembering to turn the thermostat down. I always forget that one too.

  10. Thanks Candi! Happy to help!

  11. Shelly, don’t you hate when that happens. The worst is when your credit card calls your house. Um, hello, I’m not there, I’m on vacation! Thanks for stopping by!

  12. This is such a great post. We are constantly having to do this and now you have just taken all the work out of me making a checklist. I owe you for that next time in Chicago. 😉

  13. This is a very comprehensive list, Kirsten – a must bookmark. The only other thing I would add would be to put one’s email on autoresponder just in case someone needs you urgently while you are away.

  14. These are all great trips. We live in a rural area with only one neighbor. So we make sure to alert them if we are going out of town. They do the same.

  15. This is a fabulous list and the last one about the passport is something someone told me just in the nick of time before I was going away. I’d actually never heard that you needed a six month window for some countries to be allowed in…and that it was at the discretion of the custom official. Having just traveled for five weeks away from home, I feel grateful that I had my daughter here to pick up the slack on all the things I normally have to be concerned about when we travel together. You obviously had lots and lots of experience traveling and this list is outstanding. It sounds like a lot to do before you leave, however, so worth the effort to make sure you come home and don’t have unexpected things to deal with. Thanks for the wonderful and comprehensive list!

  16. We do not get to vacation. We are however trying to leave state for a few days this coming Christmas. Glad I saw your tips. It is a little harder for us because we live in apartments. I feel like our home won’t be so secure. Thanks for sharing on #HomeMattersParty

  17. You are welcome! I figure this list will come in handy for you. Be sure to pin it!

  18. Vatsala, why didn’t I think of that? Perfect suggestion!

  19. Chrystal, I love having neighbors you can count on! You are so lucky to have each other.

  20. I’m exhausted just reading this amazing list. I know we do many of these tasks, just never itemized them. The hardest is watering plants.

  21. What a greta check list. I don’t travel much anymore, but this is very thorough. Another option might be a housesitter. I have done that a lot and sometimes people wanted me to come even just part time to make sure the home was looked after.

  22. These are great tips. We are traveling soon and I’ll be keeping this as a reminder. I’ve made the trash mistake and leaving fruit on the counter by mistake! That was NOT fun to come home to

  23. A great list! I travel a lot and have lots of pets to consider when gone. One thing I do is notify my vets and pet food suppliers I will be gone, so in case the person caring for our pets needs something there is no problems.
    On another note, a timely reminder about the dishwasher, I came home today to find my dishwasher had leaked, this has never happened, good tip to run it before you leave.
    Excellent list!

  24. Your list is already so complete, Kirsten, I don’t think I’d add anything to it! I want to stress out the importance of making sure your alarm is set while you’re away, it’s such peace of mind. If you can, invest in a modern system that also has apps you can use to trigger the alarm from anywhere (just in case you forgot). What a great invention!

  25. Rachel, too funny. The flowers are pretty, but it’s not my house, it’s a stock photo. Definitely use a light timer. Super helpful!

  26. Thanks Beverley. I didn’t have any idea about the 6 month rule until we were planning a recent trip and a travel agent asked me about expiration dates. The weird thing is that countries aren’t consistent which can be very frustrating. Of course I took care of the outlier passport as soon as we returned from our trip just so we can avoid those problems in the future! Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your weekend.

  27. Kristin, we really love having a fire proof safe. It’s nice to have for peace of mind not only when we travel, but every day. Highly recommend.

  28. Angela, the light timer could be helpful and I forgot to list leaving a radio on. Maybe you could have a friend come by and check on your place at random intervals. I know it is hard to leave, but hopefully you can feel safe by taking some precautions.

  29. Roslyn, the plants are almost more difficult than pets! I can hardly keep the plants alive when I am home, so keeping them alive when I travel is a real chore. I always keep my fingers crossed when we leave.

  30. A house sitter is a great option. We have used one before to come take care of our dog and that was extremely reassuring to know someone was not only watching our pet, but taking care of our house as well. Definitely a great way to go if you can find the right person to help out.

  31. Oh no! I can only imagine how disgusting that would be to clean up. We’ve had one too many “forgotten” refrigerator tupperware items. I will not make that mistake again!

  32. I am so sorry to hear about your dishwasher. That is a bummer. I can’t imagine having to take care of multiple animals. That must be a lot to organize before a trip. Good tips to notify the vets and food suppliers, I imagine that is quite helpful.

  33. Delia, those alarms with apps are very helpful and definitely add to your peace of mind when traveling. Wish I had invented that app!

  34. Oh Kimber I have been there done that. Isn’t that the worst? And the ice storms aren’t your fault. I try to pay as far in advance as I can when I’m going on vacation. Nothing like a little added expense when you return from vacation. Painful lesson, but I bet you won’t let it happen again. : )

  35. Thanks for the great set of tips. I love sharing things like this with my followers. Keep up the great work.

  36. Thanks Shawn. I appreciate your words of encouragement. Have a great week!

  37. Thanks! Happy to help.

  38. These are great tips! I always make a list but I ALWAYS forget something and it’s the worst when we have already been on the road for 3 hours. Thanks for sharing this at Totally Terrific Tuesday!

  39. Sharon, that is the worst! I always try to leave a key with a friend or neighbor, just in case.

  40. Good list! Have you considered turning it into a printable checklist? I would add one thing to it. We always turn off our water entirely before we leave home for more than a day or two. I’ve known a couple of people who came home to floods when toilets or other appliances malfunctioned during their vacation.

  41. Allison, I really need to do that! Thanks for the push. Those lists always intimidate me, but you’re right. I need to do this! Thanks for the tip on the water. That would be a disaster!

  42. I’m so guilty of leaving the trash half-full when we travel. Or letting food rot in our fridge. It’s so bad!

  43. Yikes! That is the worst to come home to!

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