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How to Prepare the Home Front for an Extended Time Away

LEWISTON – Let’s face the facts–when you’re planning a long travel trip, there’s inevitably something you’re going to forget.

Maybe it’s toothpaste or travel-size shampoo. Other times it’s something more substantial, such as making boarding reservations for your dog or renewing your passport or an important prescription. Whatever it may be, forgetting something adds stress to an otherwise exciting time. Prepare for extended time away with help from AAA.

Whether it’s your first extended vacation or you simply need a refresher after spending the past couple of years at home, it’s good to brush up on the numerous factors and preparations to consider before you leave on an extended vacation.

So, what constitutes a “long trip?”

“If you’re going to be gone longer than a week, start to consider long-term prepping,” said AAA Oregon Vice President of Insurance Jim Ignozzitto. “It’s best to start by thinking about what should be done that homeowners often forget.”
According to Ignozzitto, these are some of the common mistakes homeowners make before they skip town.

Don’t post travel plans on social media. “Just don’t do it,” Ignozzitto said. While it’s important that a few family members or friends know where you’ll be and when it’s best to keep your trip plans off public forums.

Don’t hide your house keys. According to Ignozzitto, trying to conceal your house keys in a publicly accessible place is never a good idea. “Thieves know where to look and will find them,” he says. Consider leaving a spare key with a friend, neighbor, or family member instead.

Don’t overlook the yard. An overgrown yard is a dead giveaway that you’re out of town, Ignozzitto says. If you’re going to be gone for more than three weeks, having someone look after your lawn and garden not only makes it look lived-in but gives you one less thing to worry about when you return.

Before you go

Reservations are made, bags are packed, and you’re ready to hit the road. While you might not have to tackle all suggested preparations if you’re gone only a week or two, Ignozzitto said, it’s good to have a comprehensive list to consider. Here is what to think about when you are prepared for extended time away:

1. Place your valuables in a safe.

Even if you have a friend or neighbor checking in, it’s a good idea to place some of your most valuable belongings in a fireproof safe. This could include anything from your passport (if you don’t need it) and important legal documents to expensive jewelry and family heirlooms.

2. Unplug appliances.

While this isn’t always a necessity, unplugging your small appliances—such as toasters and microwaves—helps save electricity and increases the longevity of the appliances themselves.

3. Take out the trash and clean out the fridge.

If you’re going to be gone for an extended time away, take out the trash and clean out your fridge to prevent food from going bad. Consider cleaning your garbage disposal with a mixture of vinegar and water as well.

4. Place your lights on a timer.

While this isn’t an absolute must, having lights turn on for short periods of time will create the impression that someone is home. This can be helpful when you prepare for extended time away.

5. Turn off your water.

In order to avoid burst pipes, water heater leaks, and carpet replacements, turning off your water is an essential step before you hit the road. If it’s an option, you can also switch your water heater to vacation mode.

6. Set the temperature.

For the majority of the year, it’s best to set your indoor temperature to something relatively close to the outdoor temperature while you’re gone. If you’re traveling during the winter, however, make sure you properly winterize your home.

7. Check your smoke detectors and house alarm.

In case of a fire or break-in, it’s important to have both your alarm and smoke detectors working properly. It’s also a good idea to notify your home security company that you’ll be out of town.

8. Contact your credit card company.

In most cases, notifying your credit card companies that you’ll be traveling is a good idea in order to avoid purchases being flagged as unauthorized. This can often be done by phone, in person, or even online.

9. Make arrangements for any pets.

No matter how self-sufficient your pet is, it’s best to leave animals in a boarding facility or find someone who can look after them while you’re away.

10. Put your car on a trickle charger.

Unless someone is going to be driving your car while you’re gone, a trickle charger is the best way to keep your vehicle’s battery from being depleted. Note that this is only necessary if you’re going to be gone for months at a time.

11. Let a neighbor know you’re away.

If you have a nearby friend or neighbor that you trust, consider asking them to swing by your house every few days to check on the home and collect mail and packages. Hiring a house sitter is a good alternative. Alternately, put a hold on your mail services when you prepare for extended time away.

On the road again

As COVID-19 cases ease and people become more comfortable hitting the road again, last-minute weekend getaways are likely to be replaced by longer, planned trips. While it may be easy to get overwhelmed by all the preparations, it’s time to bring that planner out of retirement, find someone to look after your house, and take that big trip you’ve been dreaming about.