Protecting Your Home While On Vacation - 6 Preparation Tips

Oct 27
family of four walking away from their home to go on vacation

Imagine you’ve planned the best holiday vacation, and it’s been in the works for months. After returning home, you find that your basement is flooded.

While this nightmarish scenario may feel unbelievable, It’s actually a common issue in the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average household’s leaks can account for nearly 10,000 gallons of water that go to waste every year with 10% of homes that experience leaks wasting 90 gallons or more a day.

Homeownership shouldn’t be filled with unexpected headaches. Proatively prepare your home before the holidays, and your next trip, with our travel checklist.

1. Help prevent break-ins, theft, and vandalism

When you leave your home unattended, it can signal an open invitation to intruders. 

The violation of your personal space, the loss of belongings, and the lingering fear after these incidents can hinder any homeowner’s vacation experience. Your home is one of the most important financial assets you’ll own so it's important to stop potential problems before they happen.  

Actions to take:

  • Install security systems, like motion detectors, door and window sensors, and surveillance cameras. These devices help deter intruders and provide you with real-time alerts and remote monitoring capabilities.

    Passive infrared motion detectors are the most useful for intruders because of their heat and motion-detecting features. These detectors often come with adjustable sensitivity settings, so pet owners can help avoid false alarms.

    Magnetic reed switch sensors are useful for doors and windows. These sensors have two parts. One part attaches to the door or window frame, and the other attaches directly to the door or window. The sensors will trigger an alarm when the connection between the exterior frame and the door or window breaks.


  • Ensure that valuable items, like electronics, jewelry, and expensive gadgets, are not visible through windows. Close curtains or blinds to conceal the contents of your home.

    Alternatively, you can opt to frost your windows with frosted window film. You can easily apply this film over your windows from the inside with a pair of scissors, a spray bottle of water, and a smoothing tool.

    Cut the film into your window’s proportions, generously spray the window with water, apply one coat of the frosted film, and smooth out air bubbles using a smoothing tool. 


  • Reach out to a reliable neighbor or friend and ask them to keep an eye on your property. Request that they collect mail, newspapers, and packages on your behalf to prevent them from piling up and signaling your absence.

2. Avoid water damage

homeowner sitting on the floor in her bathroom working fixing the sink

Water-related incidents, such as leaks, burst pipes, or flooding, can quickly wreak havoc on your property in your absence. Undetected water damage can lead to costly repairs, structural issues, and mold growth. 

While nature is precariously difficult to gauge, you can take measures to identify water leaks with plumbing maintenance, regular gutter and downspout cleaning, and water leak detection devices.

Actions to take:

  • Inspect your plumbing system for leaks or weaknesses. Key areas to look for:

  • Faucets and fixtures: Turn on all plumbing fixtures and turn them off. Your fixture may show signs of a leak if it forms water droplets at the spout or the handle two to three minutes after you shut them off.

    If water droplets continue to form, it’s likely due to internal damage, which requires cartridge and O-ring replacements. Cartridges are the internal valves in faucets that control water flow and temperature. O-rings form the watertight seal around the spout of faucets and fixtures.

    In most cases, you need to contact your fixture’s manufacturer for the precise replacement parts. Alternatively, plumbers can evaluate the condition of your faucets and fixtures and order the parts accordingly.

  • Toilet tanks:  Flush your toilets, and if  you can still hear the sound of running water after one to two minutes, you may have a leak.

    You can potentially stop the sound by adjusting the flapper valve, the plastic component that covers the valve seat (the hole at the bottom of the tank). Push the flapper valve into the valve seat and confirm it forms a watertight seal.

    If you can still hear running water, this may suggest a deeper issue within the pipes. To avoid worsening the damages, contact a plumber to evaluate them and offer you a professional solution.


  • Ensure your gutters and downspouts are debris-free to allow rainwater to flow away from your home effectively. Clogged gutters can lead to roof leaks and water infiltration, especially during heavy rainfall.

    Gardening trowels are useful for digging out the bulk of debris from gutters and downspouts. After removing bigger chunks, use a water hose to flush out the residual debris.


  • Install water leak detection devices and smart sensors that can alert you of any unusual water activity in your home. These devices can send notifications to your smartphone for immediate action.

    Water leak sensors are small battery-operated devices you can attach to leak-prone areas of the home, like bathrooms and kitchens. Their moisture-sensing probes detect high moisture levels and send alerts to your phone.  

3. Inside the home

homeowner adjusting smart thermostat inside their home

While you can turn off your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems while you’re away, there are some essential appliances you’d want to leave on, such as your refrigerator and freezer. 

Unplugging appliances and devices can help preserve energy while you’re away, but there are also alternatives, like smart plugs, that you can schedule to adjust power levels while you’re away.

Maintaining energy efficiency may boil down to turning off nonessential appliances and devices. While there are obvious ones, below are some not-so-obvious actions to take regarding your appliances.

Actions to take:

  • Unplug nonessential electronics and appliances or use smart plugs to cut power to devices that don't need to remain active. Some appliances and electronics consume power even when turned off if left plugged in.

    Smart plugs enable you to adjust the power supply to any appliance you connect to them. Smart plugs are especially useful for their scheduling features. You can time your plugs to bring power supplies down to zero when you leave for vacation if you often forget to unplug your devices.


  • Use LED bulbs in your lighting fixtures when you leave your lights on to give the illusion of occupancy. LED bulbs are more energy-efficient than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.

    A19 LED bulbs are the most versatile, and you can apply them to most fixtures, like lamps, ceiling lights, and pendant lights. For outdoor lighting, PAR38 LED bulbs are waterproof and can light entire driveways and pathways.

4. Get ahead of electrical and fire hazards

Protecting your home while on vacation includes eliminating electrical and fire hazard risks. Electrical faults, overloaded circuits, and appliance malfunctions can spark fires, especially in homes where these issues go unnoticed. 

Some essential devices, like refrigerators, security systems, HVAC systems, and sump dumps, need to remain plugged. For these essential devices, you should ensure their wiring is in good condition and pose little risk of electrical faults.

Actions to take:

  • Look for frayed wires, exposed cables, and signs of overheating. Ensure your circuit breakers or fuses are in good working condition.

    Overheated cables and wires will emit a burning smell and be visibly discolored. The smell and discoloration can also extend to the outlets. Cables and wires hot to the touch and outlets that spark are more obvious signs your electrical systems are overheating.

    You can also install Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI), which are circuit breakers that help prevent electrical fires from arc faults. Arc faults are electric discharges from frayed and damaged wires and cables. Due to the complexity, you should contact an electrician to install it before your vacation. 


  • Equip your home with smart carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in key areas like bedrooms and hallways. Make sure your detectors are connected to the internet, allowing remote monitoring and alerts through a smartphone, app, or a web interface.


  • Store flammable materials and liquids away from ignitors, like lights, electric outlets, and stoves. While fabrics and cleaning supplies are the first that come to mind, dust and debris can accumulate in larger piles, which travel more freely in the home.

    Do a thorough cleaning of dust and debris before you leave. Vacuum hard-to-reach corners, especially in areas with many ignition sources, like the kitchen, washer/dryer room, garage, etc.

5. Keep out pests

Pest infestations, whether it's rodents, insects, or other critters, can lead to property damage, health hazards, and substantial nuisance. Vacant homes, especially those with no preventative measures, can become prime targets for pests seeking shelter and sustenance. 

While pest and animal control services are available, you can also take preventative measures to help shield your home from them. 

Actions to take:

  • Check your home's exterior for cracks, gaps, or openings that pests could enter. Use caulk to seal the openings, weather stripping to seal the gaps in windows and doorways, and mesh screens for windows and vents. Pay attention to areas around doors, windows, utility penetrations, and the foundation.

    Silicone caulk is durable and weather-, mold-, and mildew-resistant, meaning you can expect all-year usage for this sealant to work. Adhesive-backed weather stripping is easy to apply and ideal for sealing gaps in windows and doors. Fiberglass window screens are convenient as they effectively keep insects out while allowing ample airflow.


  • Remove all perishable food items from your pantry before leaving. Place pantry items in airtight containers, and clean all dishes and kitchen appliances. Empty all trash cans and dispose of waste before departing.


  • Turn to professional services if you have a history of pest problems or infestations. While preventative measures can help pest control, they cannot help existing problems. Pest control professionals can inspect your property, implement removal measures, and provide ongoing monitoring to keep pests at bay.

6. Reinforce your home against severe weather

window with black window shutters on the side of a home

Natural disasters, like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and extreme storms, can strike unexpectedly and inflict significant damage on unprepared properties. Reinforcing your home against severe weather is not only a matter of protecting your home but also helping to ensure the safety and well-being of your neighbors should your property become a risk itself.

Actions to take:

  • Install shutters or impact-resistant windows to block high winds and flying debris as a deterrent if your home is in an area prone to wind. You can also attach accordion shutters to help protect against hurricanes. When choosing your shutters, opt for steel, which is the most durable and corrosion-resistant.

    Accordion shutters will usually have a wind rating in its product documentation. A wind rating measures a product's capability to withstand harsh winds. The wind rating will show the miles per hour (MPH) of wind the shutter can withstand, with 145+ MPH ratings the most reliable. 


  • Trim overhanging branches and remove dead or weak trees near your home to help prevent them from falling onto your or your neighbor’s property during storms. For the larger hazardous overhanging branches, pole pruners give a long range and precise control for pruning. 


  • Install a temporary roof cover, such as a tarpaulin as a temporary measure to protect your roof from leaks or damage during your absence. Roof covers can be installed by securing them over vulnerable areas where leaks are likely to occur.


  • Install a sump pump in your basement to help prevent water buildup if your area is prone to flooding. Sump pumps are vacuum-like devices that remove excess water from the lowest point of a building.

    The key considerations for finding the ideal sump pump are:

  • Submersible vs. pedestal sump pump: Submersible is more expensive but quieter, and pedestal pumps are cheaper and louder.

  • Pump capacity: Capacity is measured by gallons per hour (GPH). The higher the capacity, the faster it can pump out excess water.

  • Material: Iron pumps last longer than plastic but are more expensive.

visual and list of areas to secure in your home before you leave for vacationYour hard-earned vacation time should be free from the perils of what can happen to your home while you’re away. Take extra precautions with these crucial to-dos to enjoy your trip. Personalize your measures further by downloading our Hippo Home app.

Download our homeowner’s vacation preparation checklist

To make your preparation time for vacation smoother, see our checklist below to help protect your home while you’re on vacation.

mockup of a checklist of tasks to do in your home before leaving for vacation

download checklist to protect your home while on vacation


YourHaus, Inc. ("Hippo Home") is an affiliate of Hippo Insurance Services. Services (including all repair or maintenance services) provided to customers through affiliated and unaffiliated third-party contractors. Your use of Hippo Home is subject to Hippo Home's terms and conditions and privacy policies. Use of unaffiliated third-party vendors is subject to the terms of service provided by such third party. Hippo Insurance Services is not responsible for your use/non-use of Hippo Home or any service vendor. @ YourHaus, Inc. 2023

Hippo Insurance Services ("Hippo") is a general agent for affiliated and nonaffiliated insurance companies. Hippo is licensed as a property casualty insurance agency in all states in which products are offered. Availability and qualification for coverage, terms, rates, and discounts may vary by jurisdiction. We do not in any way imply that the materials on the site or products are available in jurisdictions in which we are not licensed to do business or that we are soliciting business in any such jurisdiction. Coverage under your insurance policy is subject to the terms and conditions of that policy. Coverage and coverage amounts selected are the decision of the buyer.

This guidance and advice is not error-proof and not applicable to every home. You are responsible for determining the proper course of action for your property and neither Hippo nor Hippo Home is responsible for any damages that occur as a result of any advice or guidance.

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