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11 Steps to prepare your home before leaving on vacation

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Image by Moyan Brenn used under Creative Commons License

Image by Moyan Brenn used under Creative Commons License

It's finally that time of the year when all of your hard work pays off with some well deserved time off. You're taking the family to a beach vacation where your only concern will be which bathing suit to wear and what restaurant to dine at. Perfect. Here are some key steps to prepare yourself before leaving on vacation.

  1. Create an inventory - No one wants to think about theft or fire while they are away but it is a possibility. I recommend you perform a full inventory of your house before you leave. Take digital pictures of each room clearly showing everything of value. For more expensive items like jewelry, make sure you take individual closeups. For electronics, make sure you also take pictures of the back with model numbers and serial numbers. I recommend you create individual password protected archives for each room and store it on a cloud service. My preference is an encrypted 7z archive.
  2. Backup your PC - Read my article about properly backing up your PC (link). It is critical that you ensure your data is protected in the event of theft or fire.
  3. Backup your financial data  - It is a good time to make sure you have backups for all critical personal and financial data. I recommend you scan your credit cards, insurance policies, passports, birth certificates, etc Like step 1, zip everything into an encrypted archive and store online just in case. It may also be a good time to read your health insurance policy and make sure you understand your coverage during your trip.
  4. Unplug any appliance you won't be using - Some devices and appliances still consume electricity if they are plugged in (even if they are off). Whatever you can easily and safely unplug should be unplugged,
  5. Pre-pay bills - Leave your financial worries at the door by pre-paying the bills that will come due during your trip. 
  6. Notify your financial institutions - Most banks have sophisticated threat models that attempt to minimize fraud. Make sure your cards aren't deactivated during your trip because of fraud concerns. Notify the issuing banks that you will be travelling along with the dates and locations of travel.
  7. Stop the mail - Work with your mail service to temporarily hold all mail during your trip to ensure your mailbox doesn't fill up. Also make sure you don't order items from online stores that will attempt to deliver orders (via UPS, Fedex or DHL) during your trip. Plan your online shopping to ensure everything shows comfortably up before you leave. 
  8. Wemo your house  - Make your house look lived in by adding a couple WEMO power plugs to your house and programming them to turn on at different times using IFTTT (link). Wemo light switch (link) or Wemo power plug switch (link).
  9. Keep an eye on your home - Ask a friend to checkup on your house while you are gone.
  10. Notify the alarm company - Make sure your alarm system is activated and test it. Make sure all sensor batteries are replaced. Make sure the monitoring company knows you are on vacation and how to get a hold of you (or another contact) during your absence.
  11. Don't announce it on social media - Do not announce your vacation on social media. Never ever ever. Doing so invites thieves.