As cold weather sweeps over much of the northern United States, many Americans are planning to head south for the winter. If you’re like other snowbirds, you’re looking for peace of mind when you’re away. The following tips can help you prepare your house and belongings for extended-stay travel.
Tell the Police
Start by notifying your local police department if you’re leaving for longer than a week. Many officers will go out of their way to check on your house while on patrol.
Get Help From a Friend
Ask a friend, neighbor or family member to look in on your house while you’re gone. Leave a key and your alarm code with them in case they need to go inside. IndependentTraveler.com recommends providing the police and your alarm company with your friend’s name and contact information in case of an emergency.
Set Timers on Your Lights
Attach some lamps to timers so they turn on and off automatically to make passersby think someone is home. Set a lamp in your living room to turn on at a time that you’re often home, like after work, at 5 or 6 p.m. Then set it to turn off around bedtime. Timers can be purchased at home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot or discount department stores like Wal-Mart and Target.
Hold Your Mail
Stop your mail and newspaper delivery. A buildup of mail or newspapers is an indicator to criminals that no one is home. You can stop your mail online or by visiting your local post office. Contact your newspaper to hold delivery.
Protect Your Pipes
To prevent your pipes from freezing, Allstate.com recommends keeping your house temperature at 68 degrees or higher, even while you’re gone. In addition, keep your pipes warm by insulating outside walls and unheated areas, sealing your window, and heating your basement. Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow heat from the home to circulate and cover or close open-air vents to prevent freezing temperatures from combining with wind drafts. Finally, you may want to ask your friend to check your faucets for water flow and pressure while you’re gone. If the flow is reduced, your pipes may be frozen.
Ship Your Luggage in Advance
Once your house is safe and sound, you can travel with confidence. To make packing easier, Kristina Scuoteguazza of Luggage Forward, an international luggage delivery service, recommends shipping your luggage to your vacation home in advance of your travel. “Travelers who are packing for months don’t have to worry about packing lightly or hauling numerous bags to the airport,” she said. “They can ship all of their bags ahead to their destination and walk through the airport with ease.”
Inform Your Bank
Finally, before you go, call your bank and credit card companies to inform them of your upcoming trip. Tell them where you’re going and when so they don’t suspect unusual behavior when you use your accounts out of town.
Now that your house is secure, you’ll be able to kick back and relax without worrying about what’s going on back home. And that’s true peace of mind.