My mother couldn’t leave the house without making sure that all the lights were off, the stove wasn’t on, a load of laundry was put in the dryer and the washing machine, and the dog had been let out. It’s a big reason why she was late to everything. She had to get the house in order before she left.
When an extended trip away from home approached, she was extra attentive that every little detail was seen to before she left home. And she insisted that she not come home a mess.
As a child, I didn’t really get it. As an adult, I realize she’s absolutely right.
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No one wants to come home from a nice vacation (or time with family in another state) to a giant to-do list. You don’t want your vacation to end as soon as you step in the door because you didn’t properly prep your house before you left. You don’t want to clean before you can unpack.
My husband and I have tested this out over the years, both the tidying up before we leave, and the “oops we forgot to tidy up before we left” and the former is much nicer to come home to.
If you are heading out on a trip or extended stay away from home soon as its holiday season, I highly suggest that you do the following before you leave. It’ll make you less stressed on your trip, make the return home sweeter, and life more organized.
If you’d like a handy checklist of what to do before you leave so you won’t dread coming back from vacation, as well as road trip food and drink recommendations, and vacation packing checklists for the whole family, then sign up in the box below for a handy FREE editable family vacation checklist!
16 Things to Do Before You Leave on a Vacation
1) Clean and Tidy
Pick up toys off the floors, wipe the counter tops, organize your flat surfaces, sweep and mop.
You can do as much deep cleaning as time allows, but just make sure the main areas at least look presentable before you leave and not like the tornado-blown zone they usually are, courtesy of your kids. If you are open to it, you could also think about hiring a maid service to come and clean your home a day or two before you leave and not have to do it yourself!
2) Do and Put Away Laundry
Don’t leave dirty clothes in hampers, or clean clothes out of drawers and off their hangers.
When you come home from your trip, you really only want to wash the clothes you took with you, not those plus some. This also insures that your nicest clothes are clean and ready for your trip too. I always do my laundry over a 3 day process, but if heading out on a trip, would try to get it all done in just one day.
3) Change the Sheets and Towels
After spending time traveling, whether driving or flying, you just want to jump into bed and rest as soon as you get home.
But after staying in hotels where your bed is impeccably made every morning with fresh linens, who wants to snuggle up in a bed with dingy and stinky bed sheets and bedding? The same is true for your bath towels. No one wants to use bath towels that have hung around for an extra week or two.
Make sure you have fresh, clean towels hanging for you before you leave and your sheets are fresh.
4) Take out the trash
Even if you only have a little bit, throw it out! Gather up all the trash from all the receptacles in the house. No one wants to come home to that stank!
5) Run the Dishwasher and Unload it
The kitchen is the life-blood of the home. Make sure it’s cleaned up and the dishwasher is sitting empty while you’re away.
6) Address the Perishables
Go through your fridge and inspect those Tupperware containers and take-out trays. Throw away everything that won’t keep for the time you are away. Eat up all the fresh produce you have as well as bread and other things before you leave. If you can’t eat them in time, ask a friend or neighbor if they would like them.
Save some energy and prevent any accidental fire and electrical surges by unplugging your appliances like the toaster, computer, phone chargers, night lights, stand mixers, TV, etc. Really, just unplug anything you won’t need to keep going while you’re away (which means keeping things like clocks, fridges, and freezers plugged in).
8) Put your mail on hold
If you are going to be gone a while, and tend to get a lot of mail, put your mail on hold with USPS. It’s super easy to do online.
9) Lock all Windows and Doors
Cause, well, don’t make it easy for potential burglars!
10) Close Blinds
Conserve energy and keep prying eyes from seeing in. If you have any broken mini blind slats, here’s a great tutorial on how to fix blinds.
11) Set Thermostat
Depending on the time of year will determine what you set your thermostat at, but save yourself some money on your electric and/or gas bills and turn it way down (just warm enough to prevent pipes from freezing) or way up.
12) Schedule bill payments
You may not be in front of your electronic devices as much while traveling on vacation or have great access to the internet, envelopes, or stamps. Be sure all your bill payments are scheduled or paid early via the mail.
13) Pause memberships/subscriptions
If you have monthly subscriptions that are delivered to your home, things like Amazon Family, monthly kids educational subscription boxes, or something where you have large boxes delivered to your doorstep (as opposed to subscriptions that just show up in your mailbox – those will be waiting for you if you put them on hold at Post Office while you are gone).
If you are going to be gone for a full month, you may want to see if you can pause a membership or subscription for a month (like at your local gym) so you don’t waste money.
14) Contact your credit cards or banking institutions
Your credit card companies and banking institution may flag your account if they start seeing all of these new charges from Timbuktu. Let them know you are traveling and you won’t run into locked cards and finding yourself suddenly without cash. Your bank may also have daily spending limits or withdraw limits that you may want temporarily lifted while you are on vacation as well.
15) Arrange Animal and Plant Care
If you have a pet you aren’t taking with you, you’ll need to make arrangements for its care, whether that’s a shelter, a friend coming over a few times a day, or someone taking the pet into their care while you’re away. The same is true of your lawn and any plants you have that will need mowed, watered, or weeded.
16) Let neighbors know.
If you know your neighbors, let them know you will out of town. They can keep an eye out for suspicious behavior happening at your home and alert you. They can also be a point of contact should something happen.
*Bonus: Get a Light Timer.
My husband has talked about getting a light timer of these every time we are about to leave on a trip. If your lights are on the evenings, it can give the impression (to potential thieves I suppose) that someone is actually in the house.
Get the Before Vacation Checklist Printable to make it easier for you as you plan for vacation. Just fill out the form above and it will be sent to you for free.
If you are taking a road trip, be sure to check out my post on What Food and Drink to Pack for a Long Family Road Trip, as well as my post about What to Pack for a Family Vacation.
Do you clean up and tidy before you leave on vacation?
Chelsea @ Life With My Littles says
This is so smart! We are leaving for almost five weeks at the end of the month, and I am DEFINITELY doing all of these things!!!
Katelyn Fagan says
Five weeks! Wowie! Yes! These will definitely come in handy! Hope you have a great time.
These are all great tips. The only thing I’d add to the list is to consider whether or not you need travel insurance. Keep in mind that if something goes seriously wrong (like, makes the nightly news wrong) the travel insurance company may not come through for you (my husband was airlifted out of Beijing during the Tiennamnen Square massacre and the insurance company reclassified the event so they wouldn’t have to pay for it) but for more mundane, every-day problems, travel insurance can save you thousands.
Barbara B says
After doing the laundry, turn the faucets off, and turn the washer on to push the water in the hoses into the washer. This will prevent bursting hoses from constant pressure…in case your hoses are old. It’s suggested to replace them every year or so depending on usage anyway.
Linda S says
this is a great checklist! We are usually so excited about the vacation, and I get tired and distracted trying to keep all the loose ends tied up, so having this handy would be a big help. Thanks!
Lisa J O'Driscoll says
Great post! My favorite is cleaning the house beforehand…I hate coming how to a mess!
Katelyn Fagan says
For sure!! I cannot either.
karyl henry says
I do a lot of these already. Never thought about changing sheets/towels till my most recent trip a couple of weeks ago. Makes such a big difference!
frugal hausfrau says
Great list! It doesn’t hurt to turn off the water, too. Just in case!
Thanks for sharing with us this week at Throwback Thursday!