26 Smart Ways to Prep for Holiday Travel

Whether you’re traveling for Thanksgiving (the holiday weekend has long been one of the very busiest travel times of the year, with tens of millions of U.S. citizens hitting the road), or going away for December or New Year festivities, getting ready can be stressful.

With packing, arranging for pet care (we love Rover!), getting to and from airports, train stations or bus depots, renting a car or having yours serviced for a road trip, it can be an exhausting experience long before you even leave home.  

We’re here to make it a bit easier with a handy checklist.

Prepared (not paranoid) holiday travel checklist

Safety first
Unfortunately, criminals are very aware of how many people leave their homes vacant around the holidays. Best to be prepared!

-Be careful about broadcasting your travel plans and itinerary on social media.

-Make sure you have reliable ways (phone, email) to contact your neighbors, and vice versa. 

Suspend mail delivery (and newspapers) and ask someone to collect any packages left on your doorstep. Some delivery companies offer you the option of selecting a later date, too.

-Do you hide a spare key outside? Move it. Or consider upgrading to a smart lock. Not only are they convenient, they give the impression that you take home security seriously.

-If you have a contract with a security company, let them know the dates you’ll be away.

-Put some lights on timers (manual ones, smart plugs, or a timer switch) and if you have a television visible through windows, put it on a timer as well.

-Don’t do anything different with your window coverings. If they’re usually open, leave them that way.

-Find a safe hiding place for valuables, important papers, passports, anything showing social security numbers, credit cards, checkbooks, and cash.

-If you usually park on the street, continue to do so. If a neighbor can drive or simply move your car a couple of times, even better. Take valuables out of your vehicle.

-Install a motion-sensitive light or two, near the main entryway, back door, and garage. It’s a dark time of year, and burglars don’t like well-lit areas.

-Consider putting a security camera near the front of your home. There are many options available that are easy to install and check remotely.

-If snowfall is predicted during your absence, arrange for someone to shovel your walkway so it looks like someone is home.

-Make sure all doors are locked—every door to the house, any garage doors, and the pet door, if you have one.

Beyond security
In addition to anti-theft measures, there are other things to keep in mind before leaving home for a few days or longer.

-Set a travel alert with your bank and credit card companies so legitimate charges don’t get denied.

-If you’re traveling outside the country, decide in advance what roaming service you will need from your cell provider or turn off cellular data to avoid getting a big charge.

-Clear perishables out of the refrigerator. Even if you’re not worried about food spoiling during a brief absence, an electrical outage could mean you come back to a nasty surprise. 

-With the freezer, either leave it very full to retain the cold or completely empty to avoid issues during a power outage. Putting a coin on top of an ice cube tray will tell you if a thaw-and-refreeze happens (the coin will be encased in ice).

-Pour a cup or two of white vinegar down the kitchen sink drain and/or run it through the garbage disposal.

-If a severe cold snap is predicted during the time you’re away, consider leaving a tap or two running to avoid frozen and burst pipes. For even greater peace of mind, turn off the water supply at the outside source.

-If you don’t have a smart thermostat that can be controlled remotely, consider turning the temperature to between 50- and 55-degrees F to save on your heating bill.

-If you have a traditional tank water heater, turn the temperature down a few degrees or switch it to “pilot” or “vacation” mode.

-Unplug small appliances and electronics, such as stereos, iPads, and charger cables.

-Put fresh batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

-Consider a self-watering system for plants.

-Take out the trash and composting.

-Put clean sheets on beds and make sure there are plenty of clean towels for a fresh return.

And lastly: have a wonderful trip!