Protect Your Home While Away
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Going-Out-of-Town Checklist To Keep Your Home Secure

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Protect Your Home While Away
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A Lone Home

Summer is a time for vacations and relaxing, but there's so much more to taking a trip than just picking up and heading to a sunny destination. There are a few things to organize ahead of time, and you need to make sure your house and belongings are safe while you're gone. So here are 25 things to do before you leave to ensure your home is secure and you can spend your vacation worry-free.

Related: Don't Let These 12 Hazards Ruin Your Summer Vacation

Incoming Mail
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Stop Mail Delivery

The U.S. Postal Service makes this really easy now. You can check your ZIP code online to see if Hold Mail Service is available in your area and select the dates (up to 30 days). If you're expecting any packages from FedEx, you can put a vacation hold on with FedEx Delivery Manager. Both services are free.

Buy Insurance Through a Corporation
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Pay Bills in Advance Online

No one looks forward to paying bills, but you'll feel relieved knowing everything is covered while you're away. You don't want to miss a payment while you're traveling. This is especially important for any utilities and companies that don't offer online payment. Drop those checks in the mail before you leave.

Set Lights on Timers
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Set Lights on Timers

It's always a good idea to put lights on timers so it still looks like someone is home. You'll want lights to turn on and off periodically, because if they're just constantly on, that's a giveaway too (and expensive). Simple timers for predetermined intervals sell for $5 to $13. Smart plugs let you control your home lights from wherever you are.

Related: 25 Smart Home Products That Are Worth the Money

Open the Blinds
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Open the Blinds

You want to make sure folks outside can see when the lights turn on. Open the blinds a crack, but not too much, because you don't want passersby scoping out your stuff either. There are now smart-home blinds that let you adjust the shades from your phone.

Arrange for Someone to Check the House
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Arrange for Someone to Check the House

Even with everything set up in advance, nothing beats the human touch. If you have a reliable friend or nearby family whom you trust to keep an eye on your home, then you can check in with them to confirm everything's okay. Give them a copy of your itinerary, too, so they always know where to reach you just in case.

Don't Put It on Social Media
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Don't Put It on Social Media

You might feel compelled to share everything with your circle of friends, especially happy family memories, but you don't want to advertise that you're not home. Make this the one time of the year where you focus on your family and keep to yourselves. You can always share photos when you return.

Stop Newspaper Delivery
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Stop Newspaper Delivery

If you're one of the people who still prefers to hold the paper in their hands, be sure to stop delivery while you're away. You don't want to come home to a heap of old newspapers on your lawn, and that's a sure sign to burglars that no one's home.

Set Up Pet Care
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Set Up Pet Care

If you're not traveling with your pets, you'll want to make sure they're taken care of before you leave. For large dogs, that may mean boarding. For cats and small animals, that may mean asking a friend to come over for daily feeding and interaction. A pet camera lets you check in with your phone and distribute treats personally anytime.

Have a House Sitter
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Get a House Sitter

If you don't want to leave your house completely unattended, arrange for a house sitter to stay there while you're away. You may need to pay someone to move in temporarily, although the right person might do it just to stay there (especially if you have a really nice house). Perhaps they could help with chores, but it's more about just having a living body milling around.

Water the Plants
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Water the Plants

If you've got a green thumb, you'll want to make sure your floral friends survive without you. That used to mean having someone come in and water the plants every day, but now there are a host of self-watering planters.

Set 'Away' Messages
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Set 'Away' Messages

Set an automated reply to advise contacts that you won't respond to emails until you return, but be vague enough so strangers won't know where you're going or that you've necessarily left the house. Similarly, if you have a landline, set an outgoing voicemail message so callers don't expect you to call them back anytime soon.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines
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Stop Online Orders

You don't want all those Prime packages piling up at your door while you're gone. It's a good idea to hold off on any online orders and postpone Amazon Subscribe & Save or similar deliveries until you're back, or at least have them delivered to an office, or perhaps even your destination. Don't even use Amazon Key (for in-home delivery). You can go a week or two without ordering online.

Turn Down the A/C
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Turn Down the A/C

You don't need to pay to cool an unoccupied house. If you have pets, of course you'll want to keep the house relatively cool for them, but furry friends don't need as much air conditioning as humans. There are Wi-Fi-enabled smart thermostats now, and you could program your thermostat to turn back down before you arrive home.

Consider Shutting Off Water and Gas
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Shut Off or Turn Down Other Utilities and Appliances

Your water and gas could be shut off while you're gone, to prevent any leaks. If your fridge has adjustable cooling, you can turn it to a milder setting to save power and avoid short-circuiting while you're away. Turn off your refrigerator's ice maker, too.

Clear Out the Fridge
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Clear Out the Fridge

If you don't want to waste food, try to eat everything perishable before you leave. If there's a little fruit or some veggies left over from the night before, toss 'em in the trash before you leave, so they don't get funky in your absence.

Unplug All Unnecessary Electronics
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Unplug All Unnecessary Electronics

These days every room in the house has something plugged in: computers, TVs, speakers, coffeemakers, you name it. You won't be using any of that while you're gone, so pull the plugs simply to avoid a fire hazard. A bonus is you'll save money on your electric bill, as some devices still consume a little power while turned off.

Do the Dishes and Take Out the Trash
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Do the Dishes and Take Out the Trash

We know, you're ready to relax and enjoy your vacation, and take time off from the daily chores. But when you get back, you'll be glad you did the dishes and took out the trash before you left. You don't want dirty dishes in the sink or garbage festering while you're away. Run the garbage disposal to make sure no crud is lurking in there either.

Do the Laundry
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Do the Laundry

Another thing that's easy to overlook while you're getting ready for a big trip is laundry. This is one time you don't want to forget a load in the wash. Make sure you dry all your laundry, because soaking-wet clothes can get mildew. That would be a bummer to encounter then you return home.

Baking Soda in the Bathroom
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Baking Soda in the Bathroom

One suggestion you might not have heard before: putting baking soda in the toilets and sinks. This is to prevent the smell of stagnant water, another way you could come home to a stinker.

Replace Smoke Detector Batteries
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Replace Smoke Detector Batteries

To be extra safe from fire, put new batteries in all your smoke detectors. You won't be there if a fire starts, so you want to be absolutely sure the smoke detectors work and get the fire department out ASAP in case of emergency. Or, upgrade to a smart smoke alarm, and you can keep tabs on batteries, smoke, and carbon-monoxide detection.

Leave a Car in the Driveway
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Leave a Car in the Driveway

Another good way to make it look like someone's still home is to have a car parked in the driveway. If you are traveling by car or driving yourself to the airport, it could be worth asking a trusted neighbor to park their car in your driveway for the time being. If you're leaving a car at home, just pull it out of the garage.

Bring in Outdoor Decor
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Bring in Outdoor Decor

If you have valuable lawn furniture or decorations, better bring them inside just to be safe. Not only do you want to keep them away from any thieves, but if it rains while you're gone you don't want to leave your outdoor goods to soak.

Hide Noticeable Valuables
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Hide Noticeable Valuables

If there are thieves lurking around, you don't want to have your valuables in plain sight. While large TVs may be hard to hide, you can put away jewelry, laptop computers, or other electronics you're not taking with you.

Notify Your Security Company
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Notify Your Security Company

If you have an alarm system, tell the company your travel dates. That way, if the alarm goes off while you're gone, the company knows it's probably not a false alarm. Don't forget to set it when you leave, too. Some systems actually let you watch security footage or even speak to visitors through your phone.

Lock Everything
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Lock Everything

The one thing you don't want to forget before you leave is to lock your doors and windows. Sensors from ZWaveProducts or Notion let you monitor your doors and windows from your phone, and set off an alarm if anyone who's not you tries to come in.