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10 Things To Do Before You Leave For A Long Trip

If you’re planning a long vacation, check out these Things To Do Before You Leave For A Long Trip post first so you don’t miss anything that could keep your home safe.

For more vacation tips, check out all of our travel posts.

A woman standing in a doorway of a trailer with the words "Things To Do Before You Leave For A Long Trip" digitally written on top.

Years ago, when I was still pretty young, a family down the block went on vacation. It was during the school year and every day, my school bus would drive by and I would watch the newspapers accumulate on the driveway. After a few days, that was a big indication that the house had been vacant for a while.

That’s really unsafe.

One of my parents actually ended up driving down to the house (because the son was good friends with my brother), picking up all the newspapers, and hiding them away so you couldn’t see them from the road. I actually think my parents did this every day until the family came back.

The family should have put their newspaper subscription on hold. People don’t get newspapers delivered in the driveaway any more (our local paper comes with the mail), but there are still a list of things to do before you leave for a long trip to assure that your house is safe.

To help you, we put together this great to-do list to assure you have nothing to worry about when you’re on your next trip.

A man standing at the Grand Canyon with the words "How To Travel On A Budget" digitally written above him.

If you’re going away for a long time, you’re gonna need to budget. If not, you’ll run out of money before your trip ends. To help, we have a great post about How To Travel On A Budget with a bunch of money saving travel tips.

Things To Do Before You Leave For A Long Trip

Affiliate links are included in this post and Drugstore Divas may make a small commission if you use them.


Put your mail on hold.

When we used to go away to Florida for Christmas break, my favorite thing to come back to was a huge pile of mail. It would be awful when my parents would put the mail on hold and then we arrived home on a Sunday. It was a whole extra day to wait.

The post office will hang on to your mail when you’re gone and the mail carrier may even deliver it to you when you get back, depending on how much mail has accumulated. You also have the option to go and pick it up, which is what I always wanted to do. Now, as an adult, I’d rather just have it delivered.

Whatever you choose, having the mail stopped makes more sense than having it accumulate in your mailbox or asking a neighbor to get your mail while you’re gone.

A girl with Tug The Super Hero Dog.

Find a place to board your animals.

Chances are your vacation plans don’t include Fido. And that’s okay. You need a break from walking him a few times a day. That doesn’t mean he needs a break from being walked, though.

So make sure you make plans to board him somewhere or to have a pet sitter come check on him daily. It’s a good idea to make these plans early as pet sitters and kennels book up quickly.

Don’t forget to leave your emergency contact information with the pet sitter or kennel too. We had a trusted neighbor watching our cat when we were in Florida when I was young and the cat got sick. It was pre-cell phone days and we didn’t leave my grandparents’ phone numbers with the neighbors, so they had no way to get in touch with us. They didn’t know what to do and ended up taking our car to a very expensive emergency hospital (only for it to “run away” almost as soon as we got back from our vacation).

Leaving some phone numbers and emergency instructions would have been a simple step to assure my parents were reachable in an crisis.

Speaking of pets, if you decide to take yours on your trip, we have posts with Tips For Road Trips With Dogs and Tips For Road Trips With Cats to help make a long road trip comfortable for everyone.

Turn off your water.

You don’t want to come home to a disaster. Imagine a pipe bursting and flooding your entire home. That would be awful.

So figure out how to turn off your water — and figure out if that’s something you need to do — so that you can have some peace of mind. Ours is outside and above ground; my parents’ is outside, but below ground. If you’re not sure where your valve is, this video may help.

Just remember to turn your water back on when you get home.

A quarter on a top of frozen ice in a cup.

Put a quarter in your freezer.

This is a tip that circulates around social media when a hurricane is on the horizon, but it works for extended vacations as well.

Freeze a cup of water, then put a quarter on top. Put the cup back in the freezer. If you get home and the quarter is still on top of the ice, you know you didn’t lose power while you were away. If you come home and there has been an outage, the ice will have melted (either partially or completely), the quarter will have fallen, and it will be in the middle or the bottom of the cup.

If you find the quarter at the bottom, you know the power was out for an extended period, long enough to completely melt a cup of ice, and you probably need to toss the perishable food in your fridge. For more details, check out our full post about the quarter on a glass of ice trick.

A painted car at Rims On The River in Wilmington, NC.

Find your rides.

If you’re flying, you want to arrange airport drop off and pick up before your trip.

You want to book your car service or a friend before you actually need a ride, not at the last minute. The last thing you want to do, when you’re exhausted from your trip, is start calling everyone you know to see if anyone can pick you up from the airport.

When we went to San Antonio, we didn’t have anyone who could drive us to the airport to go home. But, we were lucky that San Antonio is a large enough city to warrant a “book ahead” option on Uber (Wilmington doesn’t have that). We booked our Uber to the airport the day we got to town and it was waiting for us the day we left.

Pay your bills.

You don’t want to come home from a long trip and realize it cost you late fees. So double check the due dates on your bills before you leave. If you have any bills that are due during the time you are gone, pay them before you leave.

If you don’t have the money in your account before you leave, set them to autopay when they’re due. You can cancel the auto-payment after you return, if you don’t like it, but it’s good to utilize while you’re gone.

A red classic car in a car show.

Get a tune up for your car.

We’ve had a few too many road trip nightmares. One was getting hit from behind and slammed into the car in front of us on our way to Washington, DC. Another was a pan of some sort rotting out and lubricant dripping all over when we drove to Charleston. Both of these happened in different cars.

A couple years ago, my aunt and uncle were driving from our house to Florida when their tire flew off the car. They were stuck on the side of the highway waiting for roadside assistance, then had to find a mechanic and a hotel by the mechanic. It threw off their entire trip.

Sometimes, car problems can be avoiding if you bring the car to a mechanic for a tune up before you hit the open road. It’s a good way to make sure that your car is safe and all your fluids are topped off. Plus, ideally, it avoids an emergency and the extra cost of bringing your car to a mechanic while you’re away.

If I’m going away for a blog trip, and it’s long enough but not that long, Pete will check my car’s tire pressure before I go and add air to my tires if they need it. I know you can stop and do this at gas stations along the way, but it’s easier to do it before an upcoming trip rather than on it.

And, it’s not a bad idea to make sure you’re set with a spare tire, in case of an emergency, and that your car’s emergency kit is stocked up. Better safe than sorry.

Call your credit card company.

If you’re traveling, especially if you’re going on an extended trip outside of the country, you should call your credit card company and let them know about your travel plans. Let them know where you’re going and your travel dates. That way, when the credit card sees unusual charges, your card won’t be flagged.

If you use debit cards, be sure to alert your bank too.

If you don’t tell them ahead of time, there’s a chance that your charges will be marked as fraudulent and your card will be canceled automatically. That would be a disaster if you were away in a foreign country, didn’t bring enough of the local currency to pay for things, and didn’t have another card.

An ecobee smart thermostat on the wall.

Adjust your thermostat.

We have a smart thermostat, so we can control it from anywhere. I can be on vacation and turn it off if we forgot to. It’s so convenient. 

If you have a traditional thermostat, you want to adjust it before you leave. Set it a little higher than you regularly would if you’re traveling in the summer and a little lower than you usually would if you’re traveling in the winter. That way, you’re not using your heat or air conditioner to regulate the temperature of an empty home, racking up high electricity bills for nothing.

A woman carrying a black trash bag.

Take out the trash.

This one feels like a given, but it’s amazing to me how many people don’t think about this. The last thing you should do before you leave on a trip is to take out your garbage. You can leave it in your large bins outside, but don’t leave it inside. You run the risk of coming home to a really smelly garbage filled with fruit flies. And your house will smell terrible too.

If you have a family member or close friends who you gave a spare key to check on your house when you’re away, you can ask them to take your garbage pails to the curb for you on trash day. But, honestly, the bags are probably fine outside an extra week. Just not inside.

What other things do you do before you leave on a long trip? Let us know in the comments.


Wednesday 18th of October 2017

Put lights on timer and don't post on social media that you're away. It's like an invite to robbers that your house is empty