Pre-Vacation Checklist

Make sure your home looks lived in and uninviting to burglars while you’re off jet-setting.

Three Days Before

  1. Check Suspend mail and newspaper delivery.

    Contact the post office ( to hold your mail; you no longer have to do this in person. Do the same for your newspaper delivery. Or have a trusted neighbor collect mail, packages, and newspapers while you’re away so they don’t accumulate at the front door, a sure sign you’re not home.

One Day Before

  1. Check Set timers.

    To keep your house from sitting dark all evening, install plug-in timers ($4 to $10 each at home-improvement stores) on lamps in several rooms. Set them to turn on and off at different times. Consider putting a radio and a television on timers, too (use the same plug-in timer models).

  2. Check Discard perishables.

    Don’t return to a smelly refrigerator. Toss dairy products, cold cuts, and produce, or donate the food to a local shelter.

  3. Check Adjust the refrigerator temperature.

    Make sure the thermostat isn’t on the supercool setting. This will keep the refrigerator from blowing a circuit while you’re away. A closed-up house can raise the kitchen temperature, thereby increasing a refrigerator’s energy use by up to 50 percent in summer.

Three Hours Before

  1. Check Adjust shades and blinds.

    Leave them partially open so your house looks lived-in. You also want to be sure passersby can see that the lights are on at night.

  2. Check Leave a car in the driveway.

    If you’re taking yours with you, ask a neighbor to park her car there while you’re away.

  3. Check Set the air-conditioner.

    If you have central air-conditioning, raise your thermostat so that it’s set about 10 degrees below the average outside temperature. But don’t turn it off. Without the help of air-conditioning, mold and mildew can develop in houses in humid climates.

  4. Check Unplug appliances.

    Your toaster, coffeemaker, dryer, radios, televisions, and phones not connected to an answering machine can be unplugged. You’ll save electricity and also eliminate the risk of a power surge blowing out a machine.

  5. Check Turn off water and gas.

    If you use gas, turn off the pilot light and shut down the water heater. Shut off the water to the dishwasher and the clothes washer, too; pressure surges while you’re gone could otherwise burst a hose.

  6. Check Empty trash cans.

    You don’t want ants and flies feasting while you’re away.

Fifteen Minutes Before

  1. Check Lock all doors and windows.

    Believe it or not, people often forget to lock their doors after loading up the car. If you have an attached garage, lock the inside door in addition to the garage door.