How to Get Ahead Before Going Away

Travelers can spend a lot of time planning their vacations, from booking flights to making dining reservations and researching must-see sites. Rarely does one spend a comparable amount of time prepping to come home, which could lead to returning to a mess, or if you leave the water on, perhaps an expensive disaster. At the very least, it can be a brutal wake-up call that the fun is over.

Here are some chores and errands to consider doing before heading out that can make coming home almost as pleasant as the vacation itself.

Make a list of things you need to do the week, day and morning before you leave. The essential to-dos should include taking out the trash, going through the fridge and putting things away. It’s a great time for minor deep cleans, like throwing out sponges and getting rid of expired condiments.

Instead of letting letters fill your mailbox or stack up, signaling your out-of-town status, the United States Postal Service will hold your mail for up to 30 days. (You can sign up for the service online.) Once you return, you can arrange to pick it up or have your mail carrier deliver it.

If you are going away for more than a week, stocking up on fresh food might not make sense. But having favorite nonperishables around — snacks, coffee, a couple of easy-to-cook meals — can help power the dreaded unpacking. For cities that have grocery delivery services, ordering as you get off the plane means you could have the week’s shopping waiting for you just as you get home.

Plenty of consumer electronics continue to draw power even when they are switched off. Unplugging things like televisions, garage door openers, coffee makers and video game consoles cuts off the power and can save you on your electric bill.

The biggest saving potential likely comes from your water heater, which takes up around 18 percent of a home’s energy use. When heading out of town, the temperature setting can be lowered. (If it’s gas unit, it can be set to “pilot” mode; if it’s electric, turn it off at the breaker.) Just make sure to return it to its normal settings at least an hour before you want hot water.

This isn’t a money-saving move, but you can help avoid coming home to catastrophic flood damage by turning off the main water supply. In most houses, the valve can be spotted in the kitchen, garage or a utility room, or near the water meter, or outside if you live in a warmer climate. (Apartment dwellers might need to contact the building’s super to get access.) Once the water is off, open a faucet on the other end of your home to drain whatever water remains in the lines. When you return, reopen the main valve slowly to reduce the risk of damage to your pipes and fixtures.

Have a friendly neighbor keep an eye on your home. This might mean having them water plants, check on the goldfish or monitor the house to make sure all is well.

Is there anything nicer than getting into your own bed with clean sheets, especially after being in unfamiliar sleeping arrangements? No, there isn’t.

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