Leaving the House for 3 Days or 3 Months? 5 Must-Dos Before Your Trip

An empty living room is on display with a couch and upside down furniture such as a table and potted plants.
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Whether it’s a quick weekend getaway, an extended trip abroad or a military deployment, you’re packed up and ready to go.

Before you lock the door behind you, have you considered additional opportunities to save when leaving your house unoccupied?

By following these pre-travel tips, you can avoid wasting money on a vacant house and enjoy your trip without a financial worry.

5 Things to Do Before Going on a Trip and Leaving Your House Unoccupied

When leaving the house unoccupied for an extended period, you should:

  • Adjust your thermostat.
  • Stock up your refrigerator to help it run efficiently.
  • Turn off your water.
  • Unplug energy vampires.
  • Protect your house and deliveries.

Check out these easy ways to keep more money in your wallet when you leave your house.

1. Adjust Your Thermostat — But Not Too Much

Why heat or cool your home when you’re not there to enjoy it? You can save big energy dollars by adjusting your thermostat a few degrees before you leave, according to Duke Energy spokesperson Ana Gibbs.

“A few degrees cooler, a few degrees warmer can have a significant impact. And adjusting your thermostat by 3 degrees every day can save you 30%,” Gibbs said. She notes that if you have a programmable unit, it’s as easy as setting it to vacation mode.

When it comes to your fan, “Auto” is the way to go, especially when you leave for longer trips, Gibbs said, noting that leaving the fan in the “On” position can cost you up to $25 per month.

And while you may be tempted to turn off the thermostat entirely in extreme heat or cold, that may end up costing you more in the long run.

Leaving electronics to bake in your house can actually decrease battery longevity, and Gibbs noted that in colder weather, turning off a thermostat increases the danger of coming home to frozen pipes. Plus, who wants to return from paradise to a miserably hot or cold home?

2. Stock Up Your Refrigerator

This one seems a bit counterintuitive — right before you leave, you clear out all the takeout containers so you don’t have a stinky fridge, right? Well, yes, but a fully stocked refrigerator will actually keep your refrigerator running more efficiently, Gibbs said.

“If you don’t normally keep it full, use containers of water and ice cube trays,” Gibbs said. The exception to this rule, she added, is if you’re away for four weeks or longer; in that case, you should empty the fridge and unplug it.

Here are three more to-do's to check off your list before traveling: Budget your fun money scout out ways to avoid high car rental fees and plan out how to save on food while traveling.

3. Turn Off Your Water

You went on vacation to hit the pool, not to come home to one. Shut off your water at the main supply before you head out the door to avoid the unwelcome surprise of a burst pipe or an overflowing toilet.

But be sure that this money-saving technique doesn’t cause other problems.

“Turning off the main water supply without turning off the electric water heater could cause the heater to ‘dry fire’ and burn out its heating elements if you’re gone for a long time,” said Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Drain Services director of public relations, Paul Abrams.

And if you have a regular tank water heater, you’ll want to turn it off at the breaker; if you don’t, it will keep heating and reheating the water in the tank, Abrams said.

Feeling wary about shutting off the water entirely? Consider turning off the water valve leading to your washing machine. “Doing so reduces the chance that your home will flood due to a burst washing machine hose — the single greatest cause of accidental home flooding,” Abrams said.

4. Unplug Energy Vampires

You need neither garlic nor sharp stakes to ward off the vampires that want to suck your energy.

Vampires are those electronic devices that continue to use energy — and money — even when they’re in the off position. Vampires include TVs, DVD players, game consoles, coffee makers and even rechargeable toothbrushes.

Is it a bit of a hassle unplugging everything? Sure. But those energy suckers can account for up to 20% of your monthly electricity bill.

5. Protect Your House and Deliveries

Nothing ruins a vacation like returning home to find it ransacked. Besides the basics — lock your doors and windows before you leave — consider the signs of absence that could make your place inviting to thieves, particularly if you’re leaving your house for a month or longer.

Your Amazon Prime deliveries and regular mail piling up on your front stoop scream, “I’m not home,” so hold your mail delivery through the US Postal Service or ask a friend to pick up packages.

A dark house every night also invites unwelcome attention. Set timers for lamps throughout your home or if you have smart home controls, use them to turn on the lights for a few hours each evening.

Vacations are supposed to be about relaxing and recharging your senses so you can return refreshed to your workaday life. By planning ahead and sticking to a few savvy suggestions before you head out the door, you can enjoy your down time with less stress — and with enough money leftover so you can start planning that next trip.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.