People tend to spend a lot of time planning their holiday travel but not a lot preparing for their return home. But returning to a mess — minor bummers like an empty fridge or stinking garbage can, or major problems like frozen pipes — can make it difficult to savour the good times you had while away.
Some simple pre-departure tasks are crucial to a happy homecoming. These include: tidying up, putting your mail on hold, stocking up on frozen or non-perishable food (or scheduling a grocery delivery for when you get home), unplugging appliances, turning off the water supply, putting fresh sheets on the beds and giving a spare key to a friend.
“It’s awful to come home to a cold and messy home,” says Amy Panos, home editor of Better Homes and Gardens.
“It’s definitely worth it to clean up before you go. Think about what you want to come home to …. Take out the trash, and if there’s food in the fridge or on the counter that will spoil before you get back, get rid of it.”
Jacqui Gifford, editor-in-chief of Travel and Leisure, says she travels about once a month and has set routines before each trip.
Here are some tips from the experts:
Tidy up: Take out the trash and dispose of perishable foods, Panos says. Make sure your home looks neat and welcoming.
Make it welcoming: Make sure you have groceries on hand to make an easy meal when you return, says Gifford, who suggests things like frozen foods or pasta with sauce as easy fixes for the travel-weary and hungry.
Panos says it’s also nice to have freshly made beds waiting for you when you get home.
Safeguard your home: Program your lights to turn on and off at regular intervals. Have your mail and subscriptions placed on hold so things don’t accumulate at your front door, tipping off potential thieves that you’re away. Reinforce sliding glass doors, lock all doors and windows and leave your car in the driveway, Panos and Gifford say.
You might consider waiting until you’re home to post your travel pictures on social media so you’re not advertising to the world that you’re away and your home is empty, Gifford says. Letting your neighbours know that you’ll be away is also a good idea, says Panos, so they can keep an eye on things while you’re gone.
Shut things down: Turn off the main water switch if you’ve got finicky plumbing, says Gifford, and put together a checklist of things that need to be turned off or unplugged. Set your thermostat lower before you go and, if possible, program it to heat up again right before you get back, suggests Panos.
“The last thing I do before heading out the door is to unplug all my electric items,” Gifford says.
“It’s good for your pocketbook because it saves energy and can save your electrical items in case there’s a power surge. It’s also good for the environment.”
Leave a key: Give a spare key to a friend or neighbour, in case you realize on your way to the airport that you forgot to turn something off or need something checked on, Gifford says.
Consider extra security measures: In addition to the more basic pre-departure steps, there are other precautions to consider.
“Make sure your itinerary is left with a friend or neighbour not going on the trip so someone knows where you are in the world and how to reach you. It’s also a good idea to leave a copy of your passport and credit cards with a family member and also bring a copy with you that you can keep separately from your documents in case they’re stolen,” Gifford says.
If you travel frequently with children or someone with health issues, supplemental travel insurance may be a good idea, she says.
“One in 30 trips ends in a medical emergency and, particularly if you travel a lot, that extra sense of security is worth it.”