Get road trip ready: How to prepare your home before you leave

Did you remember to turn off the stove? What about your pets, plants, and mail? These handy tips will give you peace of mind during a longer road trip

When you’re leaving home for an extended period of time, the last thing you need is the sudden suspicion that maybe you left the stove on, or forgot to throw out that carton of leftover lo mein. Without thorough road trip preparation, these things can sneak up on you many miles down the road. 

First things first: You’ll want your home to feel organized and clean. A tidy home makes it easier to pack and recognize if you’re forgetting something important—and your return will feel much more relaxed. 

Try to keep your house organized and clean for the week or two before you leave. Then do a deep clean as close to your departure day as possible. Take out all the garbage, ditch any perishable food, and go through that stack of unopened mail. It’s always a bummer when a fun road trip comes to an end—don’t make it worse by putting off un-fun chores until your return. 

Mail, plants, and appliances 

Make a list of the things that need taking care of when you’re gone, including your mail, lawn and garden, and house plants. 

Do you have a neighbor who can pick up your mail and water your plants? If not, you can put a hold on your mail and pick it up at the post office when you return. If you’re leaving for a longer period of time, you may also want to consider pausing cable, WiFi, electric, and gas services. 

Whether you’ll be gone two days or two months, it’s a good idea to unplug various devices that use a lot of energy. TVs, DVD players, clocks, and phone chargers are all devices that can contribute to racking up that electric bill even when you’re not home.

As for your plants, consider bringing them to a friend’s house while you’re gone or investing in a drip irrigation system with a timer. If you don’t have a way to keep plants alive for a prolonged trip, consider giving them away as gifts. 

What about the pets? 

Pets require a bit more planning. If your pet isn’t coming with you, you’ll need to find a pet sitter, have someone regularly check in on them, or bring them to a kennel or pet hotel. Kennels and pet boarders will require that your animal’s tags and vaccinations be up-to-date. Plan a vet appointment well in advance to confirm Fido is all set for a little vacation. 

If a furry companion will join you, how will you keep them safe and comfortable on the road? Are the stops you’re making pet-friendly? 

There are lots of places that pets can’t go, like certain hotels and national parks. Bringing a pet on a road trip can be a lot of fun, but you’ll need to research your destinations and their pet policies. is a popular website for finding dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, parks, and more. 

Securing your home before vacation

If you’re worried about your home sitting empty for an extended period, it might be wise to take some extra precautions. Installing a home security system before you leave can offer peace of mind. But there are cheaper options for decreasing the likelihood that anyone will enter while you’re away. 

Keep a light or two on, or keep them on a timer, and maintain any house services, like lawn care or pool upkeep. An overstuffed mailbox is a sure sign that a home is unattended, so you’ll definitely want to avoid that. 

An outdoor sensor light is an inexpensive and generally effective deterrent to would-be snoopers and thieves. You can find them for under $20, they’re easy to install, and you won’t have to worry about deactivating them or having the police called, like you would for an interior alarm system. 

To ward off even more potential threats, be mindful of what and when you post on social media about your trip. You don’t want to tell potential burglars who might be scanning local posts when your house will be empty.  

Even if you don’t have someone coming by to check on your place regularly, it’s helpful to know that a neighbor or someone nearby has a key and can get in, in the event that something goes wrong—or you just remember that carton of leftovers.