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14 Things To Do Before Leaving For Vacation

By June 18, 2023May 26th, 202412 Comments

It’s summertime and many families are taking vacations. Instead of just packing your suitcases and leaving for vacation there are some things to do around your home before you go.

Vacations are wonderful. They give you time to relax, reconnect with family and friends, and have an adventure of some kind.

It’s always best to come home to a clean and tidy home. No one wants to come home to a sink filled with dirty dishes, a smelly garbage can, or laundry piled up and waiting to be done – you’ll probably be bringing some laundry home with you.

Here are 14 things to do before leaving for vacation

Start preparing for your vacation 3 – 4 days before you depart. This will give you time in which to get everything done without feeling overwhelmed.

A few of the things to do are precautionary tasks. You don’t want to advertise that you are out of town and make your home a target for vandals. Plus you can avoid some potential home problems when you do a few of these chores.

Mail: Either arrange with a friend or neighbor to pick up your mail every couple of days or arrange with the post office to stop delivering your mail. WHY?  A full mailbox is a sure sign to a would-be vandal that you are out of town.

Lawn: Mow your lawn and water your plants. WHY? This also gives the impression that you are around and taking care of your home. Additionally, you can wait a day or two after you return before having to do this task.

Alert your neighbors: Let one or two of your neighbors know that you’re leaving for vacation. WHY? Even if you don’t ask them to collect your mail for you, they can keep a weather eye out for you. If they notice someone lurking around your home, they can call the police. Be sure to also let them know when you have returned home.

Buy a few timers for lamps: If you have a smart home with lights you can turn on and off electronically you can skip this task. Get a couple of timers and attach them to lamps that may be strategically placed near windows. Have one in an upstairs window and one in a downstairs window. Set the timers to turn the lamps on at dusk and off just after dawn. WHY? Lights going on and off give the illusion that someone is home.

Shades: Instead of closing shades or curtains, leave them open or as you do when you are home. WHY? It may make someone wonder if you are home and discourage them from targeting your house.

Turn off the water: Turn the water off where it enters your home. WHY? The obvious reason is that you don’t want to have water damage. Think of it this way, if a pipe bursts and the water starts running it can cause significant damage since you are not there to notice it and to stop it before it has a chance to create a problem. Put an alert on your phone to turn it back on when you return home.

Check your smoke detectors: When was the last time you checked your smoke detectors? If you change the batteries when the time changes, then you’re good to go. Also, if your smoke detectors are hard wired, then there’s no need to check them. WHY? In case of a fire, you want those smoke detectors to work.

Adjust your thermostat: Prepare for vacation and take a couple of minutes to adjust the thermostats in your home. WHY? There’s no need to heat or cool a home to comfortable levels when you are out of town. Save some money and adjust the thermostat. You want the temperature to be tolerable – neither too hot nor too cold but it doesn’t need to remain at levels that are comfortable for you.

Wash the dishes: Run and empty the dishwasher. Put away any pots and pans. WHY? Dirty dishes can become odiferous when left to sit in a dishwasher. Avoid that problem. Run and empty your dishwasher the day or evening before you leave for vacation. Also, it’s nice to come home to a clean sink and counter.

Do the laundry: Get all the lingering laundry in your home done. Completely done. This means wash, dry, fold (or hang) and put away. WHY? You are going to come home with laundry. Don’t add to this task by having leftover dirty laundry to wash. Take care of the laundry before you leave town so you only have the laundry you bring home to do.

Empty the refrigerator: Remove all expired or almost expired food and leftovers from your refrigerator. WHY? When you come home from vacation, you want to keep your happy feeling. There’s nothing happy about opening a refrigerator and looking at or smelling spoiled food. Deal with it before you leave town.

Take out the trash: This follows the previous advice. After you empty the refrigerator, take out the trash. Get that expired food out of your kitchen all together. WHY? This lets you come home to a clean, tidy, and pleasant-smelling home.

Make the beds: You know the feeling at the hotel when you walk into the room and see the nicely made bed? Well, keep that feeling and make the beds before you leave for vacation. WHY? If you leave the beds unmade, you give yourself something to do as soon as you get home. Avoid that feeling. It only takes a few minutes to make the beds. Make it look like a room you want to return to.

Tidy the rooms: Take 10 minutes before leaving for vacation. Walk through your home and tidy each room. WHY? Just as making the bed tidies the bedroom, plumping pillows, tossing trash, and putting things away tidies other rooms in your home. Come home to a tidy home, not a messy one.

In conclusion:

This may look like a long list of things to do as you prepare for a vacation but, none of them take very long except maybe the laundry if you have let it pile up. Set yourself up for success and do a couple of these tasks each day beginning 3 or 4 days before leaving for vacation. You will feel good knowing that your mail is being taken care of, your home looked after, and that you will be returning to a clean and tidy home. Sign up for my newsletter for more tips like these.

Diane N. Quintana is an ICD Master Trainer, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, Certified Professional Organizer, owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release Repurpose Reorganize LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people challenged by ADHD, Hoarding and chronic disorganization.


  • Very timely and such great tips. Make your vacation great from the get-go with a little prep and organizing before you leave!

  • Julie Stobbe says:

    My list is the same as your list. I find it helpful to have it all written down. The one thing I have added to my list is to back up all my electronics before I leave. When I am not taking my laptop with me I have on the list to put it away. So if anyone breaks in they would have to look for it. I put it in an unusual spot. The other thing on my list is to email my family about how they can contact me while I am away. They aren’t always able to text or call me.

  • Jill Katz says:

    This is a great checklist and very timely for those going on summer vacation. I have a list of some of these items at the end of my summer and winter vacation packing lists. I don’t have some of the “tidy up” action items but I should! I think I just assume I will do it as common sense but since it’s not on the list, I often end up running around the house tidying up in the last few minutes before leaving and neglecting some of those chores. So I will add those! One thing I have on my list is to turn on my “On vacation” email and voice mail.

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    I forgot to mention how smart your tip about emptying the fridge was! About a decade ago, I was having some painting work done in my kitchen while I went away to a NAPO conference. It seems that the painter unplugged my fridge to move it (to paint the area behind it) and never plugged the fridge back in. I’d made the mistake of laying in a freezer full of foods before the trip so I wouldn’t have to worry about it on my return. (The apartment complex reimbursed me, but yuck!)

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    These are all great strategies for keeping your home safe in your absence and comfortable upon your return. I’m an apartment dweller, so I can’t really turn off my water, but that’s not something I’ve ever done, nor did my parents do, not even when we left town each year in December. I’ll have to ask my mom why we never did it; maybe it’s not a thing you do in Buffalo so the interior pipes don’t freeze?

    The only tip that confuses me a little is the one about smoke detector batteries, so I’m trying to envision all uses. I mean, obviously your batteries should always be up-to-date, but unless you have some kind of hard-wired system where the smoke detectors are linked to an alarm company system to alert the fire department, I’m not sure what good it would do having smoke detectors go off when everyone is away on vacation. Or maybe you meant for a smart home, so you’d get an alert on your phone and make sure to call the fire department in your home town? If my smoke detectors go off (which they do CONSTANTLY when I open the bathroom door after a steamy shower), my neighbors can’t really hear it in an apartment, so I imagine people in houses won’t hear their neighbors smoke detectors.

    You’re so right about doing all the laundry before going on a trip; it makes the post-trip laundry process so much easier!

    My favorite tip is about stopping the mail. I love arranging for the mail to be held and then delivered on the day (or day after) I get back. It’s always in a nice, tidy bundle and I don’t have to bother my neighbors or worry about them skipping a day, and it’s free! Plus, I have Informed Delivery so I can see what I’m getting each day before I ever get back!

  • Very timely, as we will be going on vacation in the near future. We’ve been in a rental apartment for nearly 20 years, and I’d forgotten about all the tasks on your list that we don’t have to worry about anymore!

  • Seana+Turner says:

    This is such a great list! I’ve had things go wrong on vacation, and most of them could have been averted by a bit of planning. I’ve never turned off the water, but if I were going away during winter, I would. I know friends who have had the pipes freeze while they have been away and they came home to a mess. Another thing we do is put out cameras around the house, so we can keep an eye on things while we are away. Might seem paranoid, but it gives us peace of mind. I also learned that it is a good idea to leave your closet doors open to keep air circulating around your garments. Maybe a good idea?