Pre-Trip Preparations

Eiffel Tower from the Northwest

Whenever I go on a vacation somewhere, my priority is figuring out the itinerary. Once that is determined, I start thinking about packing. Other trip preparations are often ignored or left to the last minute. These preparations are important and forgetting about them can lead to problems – sometimes serious ones.


If I am going to be away for more than a couple days, I contact the post office to have my mail held. I live in a rural area and have a mailbox at the end of my driveway. Stuffing two weeks of mail into the box doesn’t work. Important items left unattended for that long is very risky. A couple years ago, I was expecting a large check to arrive while I was gone. Having my mail held ensured the check was safe.

Castle Katz, Rhine River , Germany

My daughter lives in a city and has a small box attached to the outside of her house. This box would be overflowing with even a couple days of mail, indicating to passersby that no one is home. Mail hanging out of the box is an invitation to theft.

Submitting a mail hold request is simple. One way is to visit your local post office and fill out the request form. The easiest way, though, is to visit the USPS web site. On the site, you are asked to fill in your name and address. If mail hold is available for your address, you will be asked for the dates of your trip. Submit the request and you are finished.


Mail is not the only thing that can be stolen when you are away. If thieves determine you are gone, they may break in to your home. I’m not trying to scare you, but to warn you and encourage you to take precautions.

A Beautiful Day at the Lake

It’s exciting to share your travel plans with others, but it’s best not to tell the world you will be gone. Sharing on social media can be the biggest problem. I’ve often see photos on Facebook or Instagram of friends in the airport, in a foreign country, or on vacation at the lake. If a friend comments on your picture, your friend’s friends might see that you are not home.

If you want to share vacation pics, be sure your privacy settings will not let your photos be shared with strangers. Check the settings before you leave.

Another way to share photos safely, is to wait until you get home to post them. Since I have a public website, I rarely share the dates of any of my trips before I leave. When I return home, however, I’ll tell you all about the wonderful time I had.


Another way to deter theft when you are away is to have a neighbor check on your property while you are gone. They can drive by or they can show their presence by doing other chores for you.

First Look at Mont Saint Michel, France

I’ve often heard stories of thieves coming in a moving van to empty your house while you are on vacation. If your neighbors know you are traveling and not planning to move, they can alert local law enforcement of suspicious activity.

If you do not have a neighbor or friend you can trust to check on your house, talk to the local police. They are usually willing to drive by occasionally to make sure nothing seems out of order.


As furry members of the family, pets are not usually forgotten. However, care must be taken to ensure they are safe and well-cared for while you are away. One, option – the most expensive one – is to give your pets a vacation. More than a kennel, pet vacation businesses offer exercise and pampering that could rival what they receive at home with their families. Would your pet enjoy an indoor heated pool?

My First Glimpse of the Swiss Alps

A regular kennel or pet boarding service is a less expensive option. Although not luxurious, licensed kennels provide complete care for your pet while you are away. My daughter used a service like this several times with her dog. He was well-cared for and they were able to relax without worry.

Recently, however, my daughter’s dog started to experience anxiety when he visited the kennel. He would get so worked up that he became sick. Another option was needed. My daughter found a local dog-sitter. Dog-sitters can live-in or they can visit your home. It is important that the dog-sitter is a person you know and trust or one who can give references and carries insurance, since they will be given keys to your house.

The last – and least expensive – option is to have a neighbor stop in to care for your pet. They could simply feed and walk your dog once a day, or provide more care if needed. Even a child could take on this responsibility. Your friend might prefer to take care of your pet at their house. That works, too, if it’s okay with your pet.

Plants and Lawn Care

If you normally mow your own lawn in the summer, you will need to find someone to take care of it while you are away. Mowing an overgrown lawn when you return makes a mess and will take double or triple time to clean up. Asking a  neighbor or friend is the easiest solution. If no one is available, you may be able to talk to a lawn service, but they might charge extra for a one-time job.

For Rent – Beach Chairs and Umbrellas

Keeping up with your lawn not only makes it look neater, but it can also deter theft. Thieves are more interested in checking out a home whose lawn is not cared for as that is a clear indication the owners are not home.

If you have flowers on your porch or in flower beds near the house, they will need to be watered while you are away. You could use a neighbor for this task, too. Automatic water systems are another option – just set them and the system does the watering. I like to relocate my hanging baskets to one of my flower beds while I am gone. That way, if it rains, they will be watered with no effort.

Interior house plants also need water. If you have a trusted neighbor, you could ask them to come into your house to water them once a week. If the plants are small, you could bring them to the neighbor’s house – they can water them and enjoy them at the same time. Automatic waterers are available for houseplants, too.


If you will be gone long you will want to adjust the temperature in your house – turn it warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter so your furnace and air conditioner are not working overtime. Do not turn the furnace or AC completely off, though, as other problems can arise from extreme temperatures in the house. This is especially true in the winter, when pipes can freeze and burst, causing water damage.

The United States Capitol Building

You might also want to consider turning off your water main. Once, we returned home from a weekend away to find that our hot water heater had burst. Our water pump continued to run, trying to fill the appliance, but instead it pumped four inches of water into the lower level of our house. I still don’t turn the water main off each time I leave the house, but I would consider it if I was going to be gone for a month or more.


Preparations beyond an itinerary and packing need to be made for a trip. It’s easy to forget these when you are focusing on the trip itself. Hopefully this reminder will help.

Complete your preparations, so you don’t worry while you are away. Have a great vacation!


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