Simple Tips to Help Community Members Plan for Vacation Travel
Summer is the time to hit the road! With school out and beautiful weather, it’s a great opportunity to go to beaches, camp, escape on a cruise and more. There are tons of options to choose from and lots of details to plan for a great summer vacation for everyone. Whether you’re leaving Wilmington for a road trip to Rehoboth Beach or leaving on a jet plane, it’s just as important, as a homeowner, to think about the state of the home you’ll be leaving behind. Whether you live in a townhouse, condo or single-family home, it’s important to know how to prepare your home for an extended time away.
If you work with a community association management company, you can reach out to your community manager for specific vacation preparation tips. No matter where you live, here are some simple tips to help ensure your home is safe and well maintained while you are off enjoying the summer sun.
1. Ask for Help from Friends and Neighbors.
Having a friend that you can trust on your block or in your building can go a long way toward helping you relax while you are gone. Make sure you leave a key with this person and an emergency contact number in case you need to be reached while you’re on vacation. Have them check on your home now and again to make sure everything is in order. If you leave before trash day, ask them to put out your trash and retrieve the cans, so it is not sitting outside. Be willing to return the favor when your neighbors are away, and bring them a gift or token of your appreciation for taking time out of their schedule to give you peace of mind. Being able to trust and rely on your community helps you form stronger friendships, and to know that any time you have to leave town, you don’t have to worry about what’s going on around your home. If you have security guards or a Neighborhood Watch program, let them know your travel plans and anyone you have authorized to be at your home while you’re gone, including pet sitters and landscapers.
2. Be Subtle About Being Gone.
Nothing ruins a great trip like coming home to a burglarized property. FBI statistics record about 5,800 burglaries in Delaware in 2014. There are several ways to discourage potential criminals who might be lurking near the neighborhood and observing people’s behaviors for clues that residents are away. Pack your car in the garage if possible so that no one can tell you’ll be leaving. If you’re going to be gone more than a week, think about stopping mail and newspaper service while you are gone, so that it doesn’t pile up. Getting mail held is easy at www.usps.com. Call your local paper’s circulation desk to get service stopped temporarily.
If you have a home phone, program your voicemail or answering machine to answer on the second ring, and turn down the volume. Be very careful about broadcasting your travel plans on social media such as Facebook or Twitter, regardless of your account privacy settings. That’s a giveaway you are out of town and are unable to respond to a crime at your home. If several neighbors are traveling at the same time, residents can contact the local police department and your community association manager so extra eyes can be on the neighborhood.
3. Reduce Energy Use - and Costs.
There are many ways to save energy while you are on vacation, which will do wonders for your summer electric bill. Keep your air conditioner on but set it at a higher temperature (unless you are leaving pets at home). Your compressor will kick on when temperatures rise, which makes it appear that someone is home. Consider turning off the circuit breaker or gas valve to your hot water heater, or simply turn it to a lower setting so it isn’t working when it doesn’t have to be. If you’re leaving for an extended time, and it’s empty of sensitive perishables bump the temperature of the fridge up by a degree or two if possible. Turn off your automatic ice maker too!
You don’t want to leave your home completely dark, because that’s an obvious sign you are away. But you also don’t want lamps, TVs, and other appliances running unnecessarily. Instead, set your lights and TVs with a timer so that they are on at appropriate times and turn off when you would be going to bed. Many smart home devices can be controlled via smartphone app now, allowing you to vary the schedule while you are on the road. Leave your blinds slightly open so that lights and flashing TVs inside the house shine out.
4. Plan Ahead for Pet and Property Needs.
If you are traveling without your pets, consider asking a friend or neighbor to pet sit in your home, rather than boarding them in a kennel. Not only is that less stress on your animals, it looks like people are coming and going regularly. If you don’t know anyone who can pet sit, there are websites that connect pet parents with reliable, background-checked pet sitters and dog walkers – or ask your vet for a recommendation.
If you plan to be gone for more than a few days, make sure you arrange for your lawn to be maintained, your bushes and landscaping to be tended to, and your pool cleaned. Grass that’s too long or hedges that obviously need a trim let others know that the house is empty. If you are close to your neighbors, ask one to park a car in your driveway and bring in your mail or newspapers (if you haven’t suspended these services) so it looks like there is regular activity at your home.
These simple tips can help you save money and energy, keep your property safe and bring you peace of mind while you’re enjoying your time away from home.