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printable checklist for preparing your home before travel

What To Do To Prepare For Travel Departure (& Free Printable)

Summer is the time of travel, which can be great, but also a bit trying.  So over the next week or two, we’ll be featuring ways to increase the fun, decrease the stress.  Kicking us off today is Annie with tips for getting your home and life set for your return before you leave.  Plus, there’s a free printable – so be sure to read all the way to the end!

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to planning for travel. All too often, the focus is solely on packing for trips and travel itineraries, and the poor house gets neglected. Making sure your home is taken care of before you leave will ensure your time away is even more enjoyable, and your return home is much closer to stress-free (as close as it can ever be when rejoining the real world after having escaped into the blissful ignorance of vacation-mode anyway).


So, here’s what you should do to prepare for your departure:

  • Arrange for child care/ pet care
  • Arrange for care of garden/ lawn – Make arrangements to have your garden watered and maintained and your lawn mowed. A well-kept yard will communicate an active household, thus discouraging burglars.
  • Arrange for mail to be held at the post office / collected by a neighbor – Nothing screams, “Hey, we’re out of town– have at it!” than a big old stack of mail. Not to mention your mail carrier will likely begin to struggle with delivering if there’s no room left in the box. If your trip is short-term, the easiest solution is to ask a neighbor to collect your mail for you (you might pick something up while you’re away as a little thank you). If you’ll be gone for multiple weeks or months, it’s wisest to have your mail held at your local post office.
  • Pay bills due over vacation – The last thing you’ll want to have to worry about while you’re away is that pesky energy bill. Mail in payments in advance, or ensure online billing is set up to alleviate the responsibility of bill paying while you’re gone.
  • Set outgoing “on vacation” message for email/voicemail – If you know you’re likely to be out of touch while you’re on vacation, it may be wise to alert callers and emailers of your absence. A simple message containing details such as the duration and dates of your trip, whether or not you’ll be checking messages, and how and where to reach you in the event of an emergency can help to avoid confusion, frustration and anxiety.
  • Dispose of/ freeze/ donate perishable food items – Any food items that won’t keep until you return should be disposed of, transfered to the freezer, or if possible, donated to a local shelter. There’s nothing quite like the “welcome home” of moldy, smelly, drippy messes to convince you of the fact  that you need another vacation.
  • Ensure kitchen is stocked with some non-perishable food items – Next to spoiled food, returning to no food at all ranks pretty high on the sucky scale. If you’ve ever arrived at home after a 12-hour long day of travel only to discover there’s not even a morsel in the pantry, and then been faced with the dilemma of how to acquire food most immediately, (do I run out to the grocery store right now? Do I order carry out? Who delivers?) then you’ll know that, in a pinch, a box of macaroni noodles/ a granola bar/ a frozen meal has the power to preserve weary travelers’ will to live.
  • Set the thermostat – Regardless of the season, make sure the thermostat is set to a reasonable level for pets, plants, and pipes.
  • Set lights on a timer/ leave on a few lights – A dark house, multiple nights in a row, is a sure indicator that the house is empty. Leaving a few strategic lights on is a good way to dissuade would-be thieves.
  • Unplug appliances and electronics as you see fit to conserve electricity – As merely having things plugged into outlets uses electricity, (whether or not they’re actually on) unplugging appliances and electronics is an easy way to conserve energy. Don’t go throwing out your back trying to unplug hard-to-reach cords or electronics that take a while to reboot, but unplugging accessible and smaller appliances (think coffee makers, hair dryers, etc.) is a reasonable way to be energy efficient.


  • Check washing machine for wet laundry – This one depends greatly on the duration of your trip; if you’re ducking out for a weekend, then leaving wet laundry is just fine. If you’ll be away for a couple of weeks or more, wet laundry left sitting in the washing machine will almost certainly turn into a moldy clump of clothes.
  • Lock all doors and windows – Conduct a quick tour of the house, checking to make sure all window latches are secured and doors are locked.
  • Take out the trash – This falls along the same line as the perishable food note above, as returning to a rotting garbage can is strictly putrid. Make emptying the trash cans one of the very last things you do before departure and you’ll ensure you return to a fresh space.
  • Make beds – Made beds make even the messiest rooms appear more orderly. Just do it.
  • Generally straighten and tidy all rooms and surfaces – Let’s be real: returning home is often times rather less than thrilling, and sometimes (if the vacation was exceptionally splendid) it can be downright depressing. Coming back to a messy, dirty house is a sure way to make “The Re-Entry” that much more bleak. On the other hand, if you take the time to pick up the many items of clothing you’ve tried on in haste and then decided not to pack, wipe down the counters, sweep/vacuum the floor, make the beds, and take out the trash, then coming back home can feel just as nurturing and fulfilling as your time away.

And because that was a lot to keep track of, here’s a free printable Pre-Departure Checklist just for you.


printable checklist for preparing your home before travel

Good luck with the list and safe travels!



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Annie Traurig is a professional organizer and the founder of Live Simply. She works with clients locally in Seattle, as well as worldwide through virtual services, teaching them to expel the extraneous and instill their lives with lightness, laughter, and ease. She believes complication is avoidable, the clarity of priorities is freeing, aesthetics are paramount, and humor is the ultimate necessity.