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, board 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. Even if you live in a resort community in Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach, you may still want to get away for a vacation; maybe a road trip to historic Charleston or up to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.
Rest and relaxation might be on your mind, but 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 high-rise, condo or master-planned community, 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 association 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. Manage Energy Wisely.
There are many ways to save energy while you are on vacation, which will do wonders for your summer electric bill. 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. Keep your air conditioner on but set 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. You may want to turn off your automatic ice maker too!
2. Be Subtle About Being Gone.
Nothing ruins a great trip like coming home to a home that’s been broken into. The FBI reports that about 37,000 homes and businesses were broken into in South Carolina in 2014. Thankfully, there are several ways to discourage potential criminals who might be lurking near the neighborhood, observing people’s behaviors for clues that residents are away. Pack your car in the garage to limit the number of people who will know you are planning to be away. You should also consider stopping mail and newspaper services while you are gone, so that it doesn’t pile up. You can quickly arrange for mail to be held by going to www.usps.com and by calling your local paper’s circulation office. Don’t order anything online during the last two weeks before your trip unless you can guarantee it will arrive before you leave; in addition to risking the package being stolen or damaged by weather, it broadcasts that your home is empty.
Have a landline? Set your answering machine or voice mail to answer quickly, and lower the ringer volume as far as you can. A ringing phone is a good indication no one is home. 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. Also, if many neighbors are traveling at the same time, residents can contact the local police department and your community manager so extra eyes can be on the neighborhood. If you have a Neighborhood Watch, alert them to your vacation plans and to any landscapers or pet sitters you will have coming by while you’re gone.
3. Keep Your Property Well-Maintained.
Schedule lawn mowing, pool cleaning and other landscaping to be kept up while you’re gone. A suddenly unkempt home is a sign that no one is home. If you are close to your neighbors, ask one of them to park a car in your driveway and bring you mail or newspapers inside (if you haven’t suspended these services), so they don’t pile up and indicate that you’re gone. 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. If you don’t know anyone who can do that, several websites now connect homeowners with background-checked, reliable pet sitters, which may be less strain on Fido or Fluffy than a kennel stay, as well as ensuring some level of activity in your home.
4. Ask for Help from Friends and Neighbors.
Having a friend who you can trust on your block or in your building can go a long way toward helping you relax while you are gone. Leave a key and alarm codes with that neighbor, plus an emergency contact number in case you need to be reached while you’re on vacation. Ask them check on your home occasionally 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 they are not sitting on the curb past collection day. Return the favor when your neighbors are away, and be sure to thank them with a small gift from your trip or other token of appreciation for their help. Good neighbors build a reliable network, form stronger friendships, and know that they can rely on their communities when they are out of town for any period of time.
Following these simple tips can bring you peace of mind by keeping your property safe and saving you money and energy while you’re enjoying time off.