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9 Things You Need to Do at Home Before You Leave for Vacation

Headed out of town for Thanksgiving? Handle these housekeeping items first.

A clean kitchen with shiny counters
You'll want to come home to a clean residence.
Josh Miller/CNET

As you're packing for your upcoming trip and quadruple-checking your luggage, it's a good idea to prepare your home for your absence. From throwing away soon-to-expire food to making sure everything is safe and secure, doing some simple chores ahead of time can make a world of difference when you come back from vacation. 

Here are nine things you should do around the house before you leave on your next vacation. (For more pre-travel tips, here's how to cut down on your air conditioning bill while you're away on vacation and what you should know about travel insurance).

1. Tidy up your home

The last thing you'll want to come home to after a nice, relaxing vacation is dirt. You might not need to deep clean everything before you leave. But walking through the door to a dirty house after a long day of travel will rip you out of relaxation mode.

That said, cleaning your home before vacation isn't just for your own sanity. It's also to help prevent things from going awry, such as fruit flies taking over in your absence. Scrub the sinks and toilets, vacuum and toss or eat any fruits sitting out.

2. Clean out the refrigerator

While you're at it, take a peek inside your refrigerator. Freeze, eat or toss any foods that will spoil while you're gone. This is pretty self-explanatory. No one wants to come home to a fridge full of rotten, stinky foods.

Read also: How Often You Should Clean Your Fridge (and How to Do It the Right Way)

3. Take out the trash

To be fair, taking out the trash is part of cleaning. However, if you clean out your refrigerator, it's worth reiterating that you should definitely make sure to take out the garbage before you leave. If you don't, you run the risk of coming home to all sorts of rancid smells and pests galore.

4. Double-check the laundry

While frantically running around packing and cleaning the house, it's easy to forget the obvious things. That last load of laundry you forgot to put in the dryer, for instance.

Before you leave, check the washer. Coming home to a full load of laundry that has had a week to sit and sour is less than ideal, to say the least.

5. Take precautions for fire

Before you leave, make sure to unplug electronics around the house that don't need power while you're gone. Not only will it save you on your energy bill, it will lower the risk of an electrical fire. Unplug things like routers, televisions, computers or unused chargers.

Read also: Turns Out Unplugging Your Appliances Really Does Save You Money

6. Program your thermostat

Another way to save on energy while you're on vacation is setting the thermostat to an away program. Many newer thermostats -- especially smart ones -- offer a feature like this that will adjust the temperature setting when you're not home. In the summer, it will raise the temperature for cooling and, in the winter, it will lower the temperature for heating.

Just be ready to wait for your home to return to a comfortable temperature when you return. That said, if you have a smart thermostat, you can disable the away mode hours before you arrive home and can walk into a perfectly cooled (or heated) house.

7. Put lights on timers

One simple step you can take to deter break-ins is to put lights around your house on timers. You can do this the old school way with analog outlet timers. But if you want to upgrade the effect, use smart bulbs. Not only will you be able to control the lights remotely, you can put them on a different schedule each day while you're gone to even better simulate someone being home.

You can also take things one step further by putting your entire smart home on vacation mode. For instance, put a television or radio on a schedule with a smart plug. Not only would you have lights on a schedule, but you could have the TV playing for a few hours at night to really make it more convincing.

A hand holding a remote control

Put your lights on timers so they come on and go off while you're away, making it look like someone is actually home.

Josh Miller/CNET

8. Ask a neighbor to gather your mail

This isn't technically done at home, but putting your mail on hold with the post office will keep your mail from piling up -- a telltale sign that the place is vacant. Oddly, so is the mail person skipping your house every day for a week. Sometimes, it's better to ask a friend, neighbor or family member to stop by every day and gather the mail for you.

9. Check all the windows and doors

Right before you leave, it's wise to check all the possible entry points around your home. Make sure you haven't left any seldom-used doors or windows unlocked or cracked open. It's easy to forget about that side door that rarely gets used, which is also the first place a would-be thief would likely check. For more, read about these 10 home security tips to keep your house safe and secure. 

For more tips for travelers, try these 8 Google travel tips and seven things that should always be on your packing list.