Pre-Vacation Home Checklist For The Winter Months

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey
Credit: Shutterstock / Kostikova Natalia

Taking a vacation in the winter is a perfect way to thaw out and brighten up your disposition. Trading in long nights and freezing days for sunshine and warm tropical breezes is the ultimate remedy for the winter blues. Before you rush out of your home and start chasing the sunshine, however, there are several steps you need to take to ensure your home is safe in the winter while you are away.

Before you leave home for a winter vacation, turn off your water supply, empty the trash, and eat or toss any perishable food in the refrigerator. Remember to contact the post office to hold your mail, and alert your security company of your upcoming trip. You should also tell a neighbor you will be away, and consider putting lights on a timer to make your home look lived in.

There are many important tasks to accomplish before you head out into the sunset on your winter holiday. This is why having a checklist with all the necessary responsibilities is so helpful. As you start getting ready for a winter vacation of your own, take the time to read through this checklist for those leaving home for an extended period in the winter. It will save you on your electric bill, keep your home safe, and even prevent potentially catastrophic damage.

12 Tasks To Complete Before Leaving For A Winter Vacation

1. Adjust Your Thermostat

One of the easiest things you can do before leaving on a winter trip to help save money on your electric bill is to adjust your thermostat. Before you take a trip, you need to set your thermostat so that it keeps your home in a safe temperature range, but uses the least amount of energy possible.

When taking a vacation in the winter months, you should set your thermostat no lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Most experts recommend somewhere between 50 and 55 degrees, to be safe. The reason you don’t want to go lower than this is as you get closer to freezing (32 degrees), you significantly increase the risk of frozen pipes and other cold weather damage.

2. Clean Your Home

You might find yourself in a rush to leave your home and board a plane somewhere far away from your winter life, but make sure you clean up first. There are several reasons it is crucial you clean before a trip. First, it gets rid of dirt, dust, and food particles that attract and provide breeding grounds for insects and other pests.

Additionally, you should clean your home before a trip because it is much better to arrive home to a clean and tidy home rather than a disaster. Usually after a trip, there is lots of laundry and unpacking to do. The last thing you want is to also have to clean your entire home in addition to all the rest before returning to your normal routine.

3. Notify Your Home Security Company Or Neighbors

Communication is important when you leave your home to go on a vacation, especially on a trip that is longer than a few days. Remember to speak to your security company and alert them of your travels. This way they have a note of it if any alarm is triggered.

If you have a neighbor watch over your house, make sure they are in the loop. Let them know if there is anything specific that needs attention (picking up newspapers, etc.), and also inform him or her of your departure and arrival times.

4. Shut Off Your Water

One task that is unique to traveling in the coldest months of the year is shutting off your water supply. While it is a safe idea to turn off water when you are gone for longer than a week (you never know what can happen), it is critical in the winter. Cold weather and stagnant water in pipes can lead to freezing. When pipes freeze they expand, and they can also burst.

Therefore, you want to drain all the water from your pipes and cut off the water supply at the source. This will prevent pipes from bursting, or causing any new leaks while you are away. Remember that even a tiny dripping leak can result in massive damage if left untreated for weeks.

5. Empty All Your Trash

Emptying trash is part of your normal routine, but it is often easy to forget to empty all your trash before you go on a longer trip. If you leave without emptying the trash, you can come back to horrible odors, as well as insect infestations.

Make sure you empty every trash bin in your house before a trip. The trash in your outdoor barrels should also be disposed of so they don’t fester. Double bag them if you must, or bring trash to the local dump before departing on your trip.

6. Contact The Post Office And Newspaper Service

You don’t want strangers to know you are on vacation. One way to prevent this is to have the post office hold your mail, and if you receive a newspaper daily, have that held as well. This prevents mail and newspapers from piling up, which makes you an easy target for burglars.

Further, when a mailbox fills up, the post office can no longer deliver mail, and newspapers left outside are almost sure to get ruined over time.

7. Unplug All Non-Essential Electronics

It’s easy to forget how many devices we plug into our electrical sockets at all times. Remember that even when a device isn’t actively in use, it is still using energy. This means your electric bill will continue to reflect this energy usage, and there are potential fire hazard risks as well.

Therefore, make sure you unplug all devices that are not essential. This means lamps, televisions, kitchen appliances, and anything else that doesn't need to run in your absence.

8. Turn Down The Temperature In Your Hot Water Tank

In addition to turning off the water source, you can also lower the temperature in your hot water tank. This will keep your tank on and functioning, but it will use less energy. When water doesn’t need to be heated to such a high temperature, the savings can be significant over time. Just remember to turn the temperature back up once you get home and before you shower.

9. Use A Timer For Exterior And Interior Lighting

Another great way to keep burglars away is to use a timer for some essential indoor and outdoor lights. Making your home look lived in is a great way to keep your home from looking like an easy target for burglars. You can have the timer on so it just lights certain rooms and the exterior during crucial hours, so you still save energy.

10. Purge And Clean The Refrigerator

One task that should begin several days before leaving on a trip is the purging of the refrigerator. “Eat the fridge” is a term some people use when preparing for a trip. Once you leave the house on a winter vacation, much of the remaining food in your fridge will spoil. Therefore, you must freeze or eat anything perishable like fruit, vegetables, and animal products.

11. Water Your Indoor Plants

Many indoor plants require little upkeep, but they still need some basic attention. Before you go on a winter vacation, give all your plants a thorough soaking. If you have plants that require specific attention, see if a neighbor or friend can care for them in your absence.

12. Ensure All Windows And Doors Are Locked And Sealed

Lastly, you must ensure all of the openings in your home are sealed shut and locked. You want to make sure no drafts come into the home, as this can be quite costly, even with an adjusted thermostat.

Make sure everything is locked, so you can rest easy knowing your house is secure while you are away, and you can just enjoy your vacation.

Wrapping Up The Pre-Winter Vacation Checklist For Your Home

Escaping the winter is one of the best reasons to take a vacation. A trip to a sunny destination can be so exciting, that thinking about it might make you want to quickly pack your bags and run out the door. Before you leave your home, however, you need to follow a winter checklist of tasks to ensure your home will be safe in your absence.

Alert your neighbors, security company, and post office of your absence. Put lights on timers, so your house looks lived in. Turn down your thermostat, make sure all your entrances are sealed and locked, and unplug all non-essential electronics to ensure your electric bill is not higher than necessary.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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