Learn how to prep your home before winter vacation

Summer may be the classic time for vacation travel, but lots of people travel in the winter too. Travel for winter vacation requires different preparation from other times of year. Cold weather can damage pipes and other structures in your home when water freezes, melts and refreezes or just freezes. Follow our steps to make sure that your home is safe and cozy when you return.

Smart home tech is helpful during winter vacation.

Protect your pipes from freezing.  

If you live where the mercury drops below freezing, it’s important to keep your pipes from freezing when the temperatures dip while you’re enjoying your winter vacation. Water damage from a burst pipe can lead to serious mold problems and be very expensive to repair. In high-rises, water damage is the most commonly filed insurance claim. If you don’t know how to protect your pipes, call a plumber and ask for advice or an evaluation. Your property manager should have a list of plumbers and other contractors you can trust to help.

If you’re going away for a longer period of time, turn off your main water valve, then run each faucet to make sure your pipes don’t have any water in them.

You might be tempted to save on your energy bills by turning your heat off, but a little bit of warmth goes a long way toward protecting your pipes. This is especially important if you don’t have anyone checking on your home while you’re on your winter vacation. Turn your heat down, but not off. Consider using smart home technology to help manage this based on how cold it gets while you are away. You can adjust the temperature to be lower during the day and bump it up at night or turn it up if a storm is expected. Pro tip: opening all your cabinets in the bathrooms and kitchen will allow heat to better reach the pipes inside the walls.

Plan for winter vacation snow removal.

Plan for snow removal while you’re away.

Sometimes snow removal can be tough to plan. Heavy snowfalls are common in the Northeast, Midwest and Canada, but there are places in the Mid-Atlantic region that may have a white Halloween one year and no snow until January the next. But snow piling up on the driveway and walk during your winter vacation makes it obvious no one is home, and that’s the last thing you want.

Either find a reliable neighbor or neighborhood kid you can pay to remove snow after each storm or contract a snow removal company to do the job. Try to find one that will only bill you for work that is done rather than a monthly fee even if the grass stays green until New Year’s Eve. If possible, ask them to check your gutters for ice blockage, too. Your regular landscaper may offer what you need, and your community manager may have a list of options for you to check.

Don't let packages pile up while you're on winter vacation.

Make sure it looks like someone is home.

Overflowing mailboxes, a stack of newspapers or packages piling up at your front door and lights that are always on or always off are dead giveaways that no one has been home for a while. Place a temporary hold on all mail and newspaper deliveries or recruit a trusted friend or neighbor to stop by every few days to retrieve your stuff and make sure everything looks okay. If you’re going away for a longer time, make sure your alarm company and local police and fire departments are aware and have your contact information.

No matter what kind of community you live in, let your security team and management office know that you’re away for a long time and how to reach you. If you live in a high-rise, make sure your front desk knows you’ll be away, for how long and how to reach you. They may be able to hold packages until you return or deliver them inside your unit, depending on your building’s level of service.

Again, consider using smart home technology to play music and manage your lights from anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection. Random patterns of lights and sound make it seem like people are coming and going. You can make that happen through smart light switches or even Wi-Fi light bulbs! Smart home tech can allow you to see anyone who rings your doorbell, and smart security systems and keypad-controlled locks make it more difficult for people to break in.

Getting away from home is always a welcome break. Using these simple tips will keep your home safe and secure while you are away.

Feeling Inspired?

Get our free recurring email with The Elements of Living's most inspiring
decor ideas, delicious recipes, and more.