On the Road Tips + Tricks


It’s time for your well-deserved vacation and you’re busy packing all of the necessities for a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But don’t rush out the door too fast! Here are nine things you need to remember before you head off for your vacation destination…

1. Turn off any breakers that won’t be needed while you’re gone. This can save you a pretty nice little chunk of change. Sure, you could just leave everything in the “off” position, and you’d still save some money, but many modern electronic devices still draw power even when they’re “off”. By turning off your breakers, you’re also doing a lot to lower the risk that your electronics will be hit by a power surge while you’re gone. Of course, don’t turn off the breaker to your fridge, air conditioner, or security system. You’ll still need these things (among a few others) to be running while you’re gone.

2. Clean out your refrigerator and pantry. Many people rush out the door dreaming of sandy beaches and not thinking about what their house might look or smell like when they get back. Before you leave, clean out any perishable items that might go bad while you’re having your fun in the sun. That way, your house doesn’t smell like a garbage dump when you walk in the door upon your return. Take the perishable food over to your parents’ or even a local food bank.

3. Clean, bleach, and plastic wrap your toilets. Yep, you read that right: plastic wrap. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, clean your toilet with your normal cleaning supplies to make it nice and clean. Who wants to come back home to toilet bowl rings? Then, pour in some bleach. This helps prevent mildew, which is part of what creates that musty smell in your house while you’re not there. This last (and strangest) step is optional, but great for people in warm, humid climates taking extended vacations. Tightly wrap plastic wrap over the bowl like you’re trying to seal up leftovers (that is, air-tight). You see, in warmer climates, water can evaporate from the toilet bowl and allow sewer/septic gas to leak into the house. You don’t want that. It’s smelly and can even be dangerous.

4. Set your air conditioner to a reasonably high temperature. Just bumping your temperature up a few degrees will allow you to save a decent amount on your power bill. However, setting your AC to 80 degrees (that’s about 27 Celsius for our metric friends) or more will cut your energy bill down significantly. Just remember that if your AC isn’t running much, it’s not taking the humidity out of the air, so be conscious of what the things in your house can tolerate. For example, musical instruments made from wood (guitars, cellos, pianos) don’t tolerate high heat or humidity very well, so if you have a high-end instrument, set your AC at the point where it will kick on every now and then to keep the temperature and humidity in check.

5. Turn off the water. Well, turn if off to whatever extent you’re comfortable. This is a matter of personal preference and may depend on how long you are leaving your house. Some people shut off water to their entire house while they’re gone. This takes the pressure out of your plumbing and ensures you won’t spring any costly leaks. Of course, turning it back on underneath the house right after a long car or plane ride isn’t exactly fun, so you could just hit the shutoff valves at each of your water-using appliances. The most vital are the washing machine, any leaky faucets, toilets that run constantly, etc. Of course, fixing these things before you leave would be nice, but not everybody may have that kind of time.

6. Buy timers for a couple of the lights in your house. These create the illusion that your house is still occupied, even when it’s not. Some timers even allow for different settings for different days. This is the kind of timer you want to buy. If all of your lights come on at the exact same time every night, it’s going to be rather obvious that they’re on a timer. Set each of your two (or more) timers to come on and turn off at different times each day. You might even set them to turn off or on near the same time to simulate someone coming home or going to bed.

7. Try not to order anything for delivery while you’re gone. Or, if you do, have it delivered to a friend or neighbor. There are two reasons behind this: 1) You don’t want whatever you ordered to sit outside for weeks on end. 2) Some professional criminals follow delivery trucks around to see if anybody answers the door when the driver knocks. This, along with leaving the packages on your doorstep while you’re gone, leaves the impression that you’re not around.

8. Remove any hidden keys. If no one is home and your neighbors aren’t extremely nosy, a burglar has virtually unlimited time to look around your house for keys. Make sure he doesn’t find any.

9. Recruit a friend to go by your house from time to time. You don’t really need to give them a key, either. All they need to do is pull in, make sure there aren’t any packages at your door, grab your mail, and ensure nothing looks broken or vandalized.

Do you have any helpful tips to add to the list? Let us know in the comment section!

Suitcase photo found here. Plastic wrap photo found here. Toilet found here. Light timer photo found here. Slight altered key rock photo found here

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  • Reply
    Leslie's Day
    June 30, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I always set up a mail hold through USPS’s website when we are gone. It won’t do anything about UPS/Fedex packages, but then no one has to bring in our mail for us.

  • Reply
    June 30, 2011 at 11:10 am

    If possible, get someone to house-sit. Every summer my husband and I go on a family vacation with his family, so I always ask my sister to house-sit for us.

    Oh, I also got one of those handy-dandy signs to stick in your window that lets people know you have pets inside in case of emergency.

    • Reply
      June 30, 2011 at 11:26 am

      I’ve never heard of signs for windows that alert people that you have pets. That’s a great idea. Did you make it? Or did you buy it somewhere?

    • Reply
      Pia N
      June 30, 2011 at 11:29 am

      The pet signs are a great idea!

  • Reply
    June 30, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Great ideas! Some of them I’ve heard, but that plastic wrap on the toilet is a new one for me. I really like the light timer idea especially.

    • Reply
      January 5, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Plastic over the toilet and bleach is a great idea. Close the lid too. I live in a hot and humid climate, and didn’t do anything to the toilets in our vacant rental property. The water evaporated and rats crawled up from the sewer thru the toilets and we had an expensive problem that the exterminator had to take care of.

  • Reply
    Pia N
    June 30, 2011 at 11:26 am

    We always take out the trash before we leave! We forgot once…was not a pleasant homecoming!!! 

  • Reply
    Juanita P
    June 30, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I always have our neighbor’s son come and water our plants while I’m out of town.. Of course I pay him a few bucks and he is happy to do it:)

  • Reply
    June 30, 2011 at 11:37 am


  • Reply
    June 30, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I love the luggage you have pictured!!!

  • Reply
    Angela Wilson
    June 30, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Great tips.

  • Reply
    Lauren @ Hungry Child in the City
    June 30, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    I was going to add the mail hold suggestion as well. Whenever I go on vacation, I have the US Postal Service hang on to my mail for the duration of my trip and pick it up when I come home!

  • Reply
    June 30, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Call the police station and let them know you will be out of town. They should send someone down your street to check things out at least once a day while you’re away.

  • Reply
    July 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Put a few icecubes in a small dish in the freezer. If you come back & they’re still cube shaped the power either didn’t go off at all or didn’t go off long enough for things to thaw & refreeze. However if you come home & the ice in the dish is flat (like you just put a dish of water in the freezer) than the power was off long enough for things to thaw out & you need to throw away the contents of the freezer.

    • Reply
      January 5, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Good idea about leaving a few ice cubes in the freezer. I usually totally empty it, but this is a great idea to let you know what happened, if anything, to the electric while you are gone.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    here is an odd one that my paranoid father used to do (and now my husband and I find ourselves doing as well):

    tuck your car keys someone slightly hidden. If you’re house is going to get broken into while you’re gone, you might as well make sure they dont steal your cars as well πŸ™‚ we did this when we left for our honeymoon and it took a year to figure out where my darling hubby hid them!

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