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Vacation Planning and Your Home and Pets

Lisa Tabachnick
Jan. 11, 2010

Home security and pet care while you're away.

It's vacation time! We all deserve a break from the ordinary to relax, unwind and come home refreshed. But, like it or not, prepping for a significant vacation is vital -- more so if you've got a house, pets, children, mail, a garden, appliances -- in short -- a life! Whether you're having friends help out or you've hired a house-sitter and/or pet-sitters, here's the list of basics you need to prep before you go.

House

  • General house prep for vacation involves cleaning, tidying and paying any bills that will be due while you're gone.
  • If you have an alarm system, make sure to set it for "vacation mode". Read the alarm manual or speak with the company representative if you don't know how to do this.
  • Talk to your insurance company and find out the protocol for accidents or break-ins that occur when you're away from home. Keep these tips in mind:
  • Sliding doors are a real target for break-ins - make sure yours are secure while you're home and away.
  • Invest in automatic motion sensors that turn lights on and off.
  • Keep your car in the driveway. If you need it for driving on your vacation, ask a neighbor to park in the driveway.
  • Don't set your automatic lights to go on or off at the same time each day and night; it's a sure sign that you're away.
  • Make sure newspapers and mail do not pile up in your mailbox or front porch.
  • Arrange for lawn service if you'll be gone for more than a few days.
  • Make sure your doors and windows are properly secured.
  • Ensure that all of your smoke detectors are working properly.
  • Tell one or two trusted neighbors that you'll be away, but don't broadcast it to the whole neighborhood.
  • If you're employing a house sitter, have a task list ready plus contact numbers in case of accidents, emergencies or questions.

Mail

  • Ask a trusted neighbor to collect your mail and newspapers every day so it's not piling up on your front porch or in your mailbox - this is a sure sign that no one's home!
  • If you can't get a neighbor to assist while you're away, you can temporarily stop your mail through your local post office; ask for the appropriate forms at least a week ahead of time. The post office will hang on to your mail for you to pick up when you return.
  • If you're hiring a house sitter or pet sitters, ask that person to bring in your mail and leave it in a neat pile on the table.
  • Generally, collecting mail is a task that does not require payment. But if someone's coming to your home solely to collect your mail, a small tip or a gift is always appreciated.
  • Call your credit card company and let them know when and where you'll be traveling. They can note this on your account, so there won't be any doubt when you're purchasing items or renting hotels far from home. Likewise, if your credit card gets charged locally while you're away, the credit card company will know something is up. You can also have them call you before processing any payment that they deem suspicious.

Garden

  • If you're going to be gone for more than a few days, you'll want to ask a neighbor or hire someone to water your plants or garden for you.
  • If you're going to add this task to a house sitter's or pet sitter's task list, you may want to pay him extra depending on the size of your yard and the amount of work that needs to be done.
  • With conservation on everyone's mind, the consensus is that in-ground plants and grasses should be watered in the morning no more than twice per week. Potted plants may need more frequent watering, especially if it's very hot or sunny outside.

Pets

  • If you're not taking your pets on vacation with you, you need to think of coverage in these main areas: food and water, exercise, medical, shelter, etc.
  • Whether you hire a pet-sitter or have a trusted friend help you, they need to know:
  • How often and how much to feed your pets (and where to find the food)
  • How often to change and refill water bowls, kitty litter, etc.
  • Where and how often to exercise and play with your pets
  • How to exercise your pet: daily walks, running in park or backyard, etc.
  • All medical and veterinary contact names and numbers, should there be a medical emergency. If you're pet is taking medication, be sure your sitter knows how and when to administer the appropriate dosage.
  • The type of shelter you expect for your pet. Is there a doggie door for the pooch which needs to be unlocked during the day and then locked at night? Does your pet sleep in a cage? Should the pet left outside or inside at night?
  • What type of grooming your pet needs in your absence
  • Leave enough time for your pet-sitter and your pets to get acquainted before you leave.

Lisa Tabachnick Hotta is the mother of two young children and a freelance writer, editor and researcher.

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