The Ultimate Guide to Preparing Your Home Before Vacation

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There are a million things to remember before leaving on vacation. In the midst of tracking down sunscreen and squeezing in that last outfit (you never know what you might need!), it’s easy to give home security short shrift.

But don’t despair – we’ve come up with the ultimate checklist for preparing the house for vacation to ensure your home and belongings remain just as you left them. 

Keep an eye on it

Security Cameras Guide

Admit it, you’ve wanted eyes in the back of your head ever since your mom bragged about hers. With remote monitoring, you’ll do your mom one better by keeping an eye on every nook and cranny of your home, no matter where you are.

The best security cameras for the job allow you to stream live video or review recorded clips right from your smartphone or other mobile devices. As long as you’ve got the Internet, you’ve got a link to your home.

And remote monitoring doesn’t stop with cameras; with lighting and appliance control and remote locking features you can even fulfill those OCD tendencies and triple-check that all the doors and windows are locked, the lights are off, and yes, even that the iron is unplugged.

Perfect for your vacation rental too

Don't forget to set up cameras to secure your vacation home or rental as well.

Get rid of hidden spare keys

Take away spare keys while you’re out of town. No matter how clever you think you are, serious crooks have already been there and done that when it comes to getting into your home and availing themselves of your hard-earned belongings.

Even better — swap out your regular lock for a smart one. That way you can get alerts if the door opens while you're gone or remotely grant access to house sitters, dog walkers, and anyone who needs inside when you're away.

Advertise your security measures

Let the ne’er-do-wells know your home isn’t one to mess with. Yard signs from your security company make a bigger difference than you think, but beware of using fake security signs as they may work against you if spotted by a savvy burglar.

And don’t close the blinds or drapes on every room, keep things like they normally are. Blocking the view into your house can work in a bad guy’s favor, allowing him privacy while he makes himself at home. 

Keep it bright too. Exterior lights and cameras also deter crooks from looking for the perfect place to plunder.

Timing is everything

Best Smart Home Hubs Buyers Guide

A house that looks lived in is less likely to become a target.1 So use home automation and timers to make your house come to life while you’re getting a massage or scuba diving in the tropics.

Set timers on lights and noise-producing appliances like radios or TVs to give the appearance that someone is coming and going. With Vivint home automation, you can even remotely turn the lights on and off as suits your fancy.

Make sure your timers are random and come on and off in an unpredictable pattern from day to day in order to keep potential poachers on their toes.

Stop the mail and newspaper delivery

Nothing is a bigger giveaway that you’ve split town than newspapers and/or mail piling up in front of your house. It’s easy to contact your newspaper and have them put delivery on hold during the dates of your vacation. And the post office can hold your mail for you when you’re out of town and all you have to do is go in to pick it up when you return and let them know to resume your delivery.

Prepare for any weather

Regardless of where you live, there is always the unpredictable risk of temperamental weather to contend with. Take a look at your yard, patio, and other exposed areas on your property before packing your suitcase. Secure any items that could run amok given a hefty gust of wind.

If you live in a cold region and are vacationing in the winter you need to protect your pipes from freezing; insulate exposed pipes and leave a tap trickling to avoid a burst pipe if the temperature suddenly drops while you’re away. There are even water leak sensors that can alert you in the event of a leak.

A smart thermostat can give you the ability to heat up your home to prevent pets from freezing without calling the pet sitter or house sitter.

Be prepared for winter weather

Winter weather is unpredictable, but it helps everyone in the family if you talk about what to expect in advance.

Stay on top of the latest winter weather advisories, watches, and warnings and check out our advice for how to weather those warnings and keep your home and loved ones as safe as possible.

Stay energy conscious

Best Smart Thermostats

As previously mentioned, using home automation devices is a good way to keep burglars away. Just don’t forget that your energy bill is just as capable of robbing you while you’re out of town.

To mitigate unnecessary energy costs, you might also want to consider unplugging high energy consumers that do not need to stay plugged in, like the 70” plasma TV. It also protects these items from the havoc of power surges that might occur while you’re basking in the sun.

Take care of the yard

Even if you stop the mail and don’t have newspapers piling up on the front step, accumulating snow or leaves, and overgrown hedges are just like leaving a calling card for potential thieves.

Call in a favor or go pro

Remember when you kept an eye on the Jones’ house last spring? It’s time for them to return the favor; ask a trusted neighbor to pay attention to your home while you’re away. If you can afford it, and have someone willing, a house sitter is even better.

Remote monitoring from a home security leader like Vivint is like having a virtual house sitter at your beck and call 24/7. But we also like Abode for the occasional traveler because you can pay for professional alarm monitoring in small batches—3 or 7 days at a time—if you'd like to self-monitor your security system the rest of the time.

With the right security system and/or home automation package you’re never in the dark because your cameras, thermostats, lighting, locks, and more are all just a touch away on your smartphone, laptop, or other web-enabled devices. 

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  1. Randy Travis, FOX 5 Atlanta, "We Asked 99 Burglars 20 Questions--Their Answers Could Make You Safer," February 2018. Accessed December 7, 2023.
Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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