Home prep for holiday travel (STEP BY STEP GUIDE)

You’re going away for vacation…yay! But what about your home when you’re traveling for the holidays, sitting empty? We’ve all heard horror stories: the pipes froze and burst…the mail piled up, enticing theft…we really didn’t leave our home secure. Home prep for holiday travel isn’t hard. Here’s how to prep your house for holiday travel, to ensure your home is safe, energy efficient, and secure while you’re gone.

prep your holiday home

10 steps to prepping your home for holiday travel:

1. Make plans for the pets.

When we travel, our dogs go to their ‘doggie hotel’, a local boarding kennel we trust. It took us a while to find one we liked, and we have to make sure to book well in advance. Other options: a pet sitter who comes to your home, or a friend or relative who wants to temporarily adopt your fur babies.

2. Talk to the neighbors.

Let at least one trusted neighbor in on your plans. A good neighbor can keep an eye on your house and pick up any packages that might be delivered. Consider giving him or her a house key to check pipes and heat occasionally.

3. Place a hold on your mail and regular deliveries.

Go to your post office and place a hold on your mail until your return. Pause all regular deliveries such as newspapers, milk, or eggs. If you know you’ll be receiving a package during your absence, have a neighbor pick it up.

4. Reset your thermostat.

Depending on whether you will have pets in the house, set the heat or air conditioning accordingly. Even lowering (or raising, depending on your climate) the temperature by two degrees will save you money.

5. Unplug non-essential appliances and computers.

I’ll admit we skip this step when going away for less than a week, but for longer trips, it’s important to unplug. Your home will be safer as well as more energy efficient. Give that desktop monitor a rest!

6. Set your water heater to ‘vacation mode’.

Almost all newer water heaters have this mode, which will lower the temperature just enough for savings without freezing any pipes.

7. Be smart about home security.

Ideally, families spending significant time away from home during the holidays should have a home security system in place, or a home video monitor in use. You want to maintain that ‘lived in’ look. At bare minimum, it’s essential to decide which lights to leave on in your absence.We opt to leave on porch lights and one light in the entry hall. We set what lights we can on a timer, so they’re no continually on, day and night. Any consistent setting, such as lights always on, curtains always drawn, or a car always parked, will signal to potential burglars that no one’s home.

8. Make sure smoke detectors are in order.

Of course, they should always be in working order, right? Carbon monoxide detectors, too.

9. Insulate pipes if living in a cold climate.

After insulating, consider asking that trusted neighbor to stop in a few times during your absence to run the water at the tap in the kitchen. If water only trickles out or will not come out at all, the pipes are likely frozen.

10. Don’t announce your vacation on Facebook!

This is sometimes the toughest step! Given my job as a travel writer, I usually cannot avoid ‘announcing’ where I am (and that I’m not at home), so I always make sure neighbors are watching my house (and say so). However, if you can avoid telling everyone on social media that you’re away, all the better. It’s more fun to post about your trip when you’re back home and can show off those travel photos anyway, right?

Non-essential but helpful upon return:

We do the following before leaving home to make our ‘return landing’ less bumpy:

  • wash and put away all dishes
  • do any unfinished laundry (you’ll have enough when you get back!)
  • clean out the fridge of food that may spoil during the trip

Have tips of your own? Share in the comments!

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.




  1. If you live in colder climates, arranging for snow removal is a must. Not only will it give your house a lived-in look, but you won’t have to worry about whether you’ll be able to get into your house when you get home! 🙂

Leave a Comment