There’s no place like home for the holidays, but when “home” is hundreds of miles from your apartment, that means locking up your second home for at least a few days. Before you hit the road alongside thousands of other holiday travelers, make a plan to keep your apartment safe and energy-efficient in your absence.
1. Give Notice
It’s smart to tell a few trusted people before you leave town, and in the case of your landlord, it might even be a condition of your lease (check your copy to be sure). Even if it’s not required, notifying your landlord of your departure and return dates is a good practice, just in case anything goes wrong while you’re away.
You may also want to tell trusted neighbors and local friends that you’ll be out of town. And unless you live in a large, secured, multi-unit building, it may even make sense to notify your local police of your travel dates. When officers patrol the area, they may be able to give your apartment a closer look for any signs of break-in or trouble.
2. Get a House Sitter
While there are plenty of ways to secure your apartment all on your own, it doesn’t hurt to have some help. If you have a neighbor or local friend who can stop by once per day to take care of things while you’re away, consider asking. You may even trust someone who would enjoy a “staycation” house sitting in your apartment for a few days.
You might be thinking about making a little money on the side by listing your apartment as a short-term rental on a website like Airbnb, but you should always check your lease first. It’s common for apartment leases to prohibit short-term subleasing, and even if it’s allowed, there are other risks associated with sharing your full-time dwelling — especially when you’re out of town.
3. Take Care of Plants and Pets
If you’re the only living thing in your apartment, there may be relatively little to arrange for while you’re away. But if you have pets or even houseplants, you’ll need to make a plan for everyone to be alive and well upon your return.
This is where it can really pay off to have a house sitter or a friend who can drop by daily. Otherwise, you may need to hire a pet sitter or board your pet at a kennel for a few days. If all you have is a few houseplants and there’s no one available to stop by and water them, you could load them into your car and drop them at a friend’s house for watering while you’re vacationing.
4. Delay Your Mail
If you don’t have someone checking on your apartment daily, place a stop on your mail, newspapers and any other daily deliveries. An overflowing mailbox and a pile of papers on your doorstep is a clear signal that no one is home.
5. Get Smart
Smart home technology makes it easier than ever to keep tabs on your apartment and make it appear occupied even when no one is home. While this does require an upfront investment, some smart home tools are very inexpensive — smart plugs, for example, usually cost less than $15. With a lamp plugged into a smart plug, you can set a schedule or control it from anywhere with your smartphone, giving the impression of a lived-in home.
For even greater control, upgrades like smart thermostats and smart water meters offer efficiency benefits and can help prevent household disasters when you’re away from home. Talk to your landlord about modernizing your apartment’s infrastructure with smart home technology.
6. Adjust Your Thermostat
If you don’t have the convenience and control of a smart thermostat, you should still adjust your apartment’s temperature before you leave. If you live in a colder climate and aren’t leaving pets behind, you can set the thermostat as low at 50 degrees without risking frozen pipes or other damage. If it’s warm year-round where you live, it’s safe to raise the thermostat to 85 degrees in an empty apartment, or 80 degrees if pets are left behind.
7. Clean Up
Nobody likes coming home to a messy apartment. In addition to tidying up a bit before you leave, take extra care to get rid of any perishable messes you might be leaving behind. Take out the trash, empty the coffee pot, clean the garbage disposal and remove anything that could be tempting for vermin.
Even if you have surge protectors covering your valuable electronics, it doesn’t hurt to disconnect them entirely if you’ll be gone for several days. Unplugging appliances and electronics is not only the most effective way to protect them from surge damage, it can also prevent them from drawing small amounts of electricity. Give yourself the gift of a lower electricity bill by reducing your apartment’s power consumption to the bare minimum before you leave.
9. Travel Discreetly
It can be tempting to document your travels on your social media accounts, but this can be risky. Public posts that show when you’re out of town can alert tech-savvy thieves looking for easy burglaries. Save your pictures and memories to share once you’ve returned home.
Between the crowded terminals and unpredictable weather, holiday travel is hard enough. Give yourself one less thing to worry about by leaving your apartment safe, secure and in good hands while you’re visiting with family and friends.