Getting ready to leave your home for a longer trip can require significant preparation.
If you have time to spare on the days before your journey, you can make both the transportation, the stay on the destination and the homecoming more enjoyable.
Clean the house. You will find it much nicer to come home to a clean house, and it makes things easier for anybody checking up on the place.
Clean out the refrigerator. What you need to use up in advance, freeze, or discard depends upon the length of your trip. Raw meat should not be kept in the refrigerator for more than a few days. Most fresh produce and milk will last about a week. Eggs (uncooked in the shell) and hard cheeses can be kept for approximately a month. Many condiments, such as mustard and mayonnaise, will last for several months. If your refrigerator is entirely empty, switch it off to conserve energy and leave it open to prevent mold developing inside. On the other hand, if you’re going to be gone for a shorter period of time, then there may be things that you normally keep on the counter and should consider putting in the refrigerator or freezer to preserve them and keep them away from pests, such as onions, apples, butter, and coffee beans. Some products, such as garlic and honey, may be better preserved cool than cold, and some are sensitive to the humidity in the fridge.
Empty your trash cans, especially the one destined for the organic waste. Finding a kitchen full of flies and stinking to high heaven when you return will not be pleasant, to say the least. If you have to take the trash bins out to the curb for pick-up, and you’re going to be gone longer than one pick-up cycle, then ask a neighbor or friend to put them out and bring them back in for you.
Wash the dishes and put them away. If you leave them in the drying rack, they may be dusty by the time you return. If you turn on the automatic dishwasher as you’re walking out the door, then you may come home to a moldy dishwasher full of dishes that need to be washed again.
Wash the laundry. You may need many of these clothes for packing anyway. When you get home, you will also want some clean clothes rather than a pile of laundry – possibly stinky, moldy and mildewed laundry, if any of it was damp when you left. This might also be a good time to send out bedding and household linens for dry cleaning. Many cleaners dispose of unclaimed items after a month or two, so if you’re going on a long trip, then check with your cleaners about their storage limits or have somebody fetch them for you.
Check your home insurance policy. You may need to tell the insurance company if you are away for a longer period (in some cases more than one month), or they may impose conditions like leaving the heating on in winter.
You may need to arrange for someone to cut the grass. In winter, you may want to ask someone to clear any snow, or to walk across it. Check the timer on your irrigation system, if any.
You also have to care for the indoor plants if you will be away for more than a week. A thorough soaking will hold most houseplants for a week, and slow-drip bottles can extend that for up to another week or so. For longer periods, you may want to consider an automatic watering system that is designed for long-term irrigation of indoor plants. If you travel only occasionally, it’s probably easier to ask a friend or neighbor to water the plants when they stop by to make sure that everything’s okay. Don’t forget potted plants on the patio; they will dry out faster than plants in the ground or those located inside. Some plants will be more likely to survive if moved to a less sunny place (such as from the window to the table).
Contact your post office to have your mail stopped, or arrange for a trusted neighbor to collect and perhaps check it (which may be necessary anyway to get rid of junk mail). If you get some other deliveries (such as newspapers or subscription boxes) or have memberships (such as to a fitness studio), then take care of them also.
Figure out how to pay your bills while you are gone. If you can, you may want to pay your basic utility and tax bills in advance. Other services, such as cable television, should be suspended on a vacation hold or cancelled completely. The companies or your bank may have standard arrangements for approving the bills in advance to get them paid on time. Many banks offer online bill payment services, which can be used to pay anyone. You may be able to get bills sent to you via e-mail, but if you’ll be gone longer than a month, it’s probably a good idea to have someone sort through your mail to see if any unexpected bills have arrived during your absence.
You may want to have someone come to your house occasionally to check for water leaks or other problems. There may even be some friend or relative that could stay at your home part of the time you are away.
If you have a car, think about looking after it too. Make arrangements for anything that will need to be done when you are away: annual tests, insurance renewal, etc. If you are leaving it parked in the street, consider what will happen if the parking is suspended, e.g. for roadworks. If it is not locked in a garage, security may also be an issue. Older cars may benefit for being started every so often – maybe you can make arrangements for a friend to drive it occasionally. If you are away for much longer (six months?), think about selling it before you go.