Travel Tips: Part 1 – Things to Consider Before You Take a Trip

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Travel Tips: Things to Consider Before You Take a Trip

Travel Tips: Things to Consider Before You Take a Trip

Travel Tips: Part 1 – Things to Consider Before You Take a Trip
By Dan Dudek

You want to have personal safety as you travel, but “safety when traveling” also includes ensuring your home and possessions are safe as you travel.

Lights and Radios on Timers

  • Use timers to control interior lights and radios
  • Use timers with random On/Off times; and/or Weekly Settings

Telephone Answering Machine

  • Use one to ensure phone is answered after a few rings
  • Do not state you are traveling
  • Have one with a code you can use to retrieve your calls from a remote location

Mail and Papers

  • If you travel a lot, it is recommended you do not have home delivery of newspapers (use the Internet)
  • Stop papers and mail only if you are going to be traveling for an extended time
  • Best to have a trusted neighbor get paper and mail for you; and to check for any packages that may be left at your front door
  • Consider installing a mail box that holds a couple of weeks of mail in a locked compartment if you frequently take trips of two weeks or less


  • Turn off the main water supply to the house before leaving on any trip. If you will be away during cold weather, drain as many water lines as possible.
  • Turn off the main gas supply as well (unless you will be away during the winter and your house is heated by gas), be sure you understand the procedure for turning the gas back on when you return. Turning off the main gas supply may extinguish pilot lights that are constantly on; turning on the main gas supply could result in gas entering the house if the supply to the pilot lights are not turned off as well.
  • Be sure your house is heated to at least 55 degrees; thus if you leave in cold weather, and get your heat from gas, you obviously cannot turn off the gas supply (allowing the house temperature to fall below 55 degrees will increase the possibility of water pipes freezing and bursting, and may cause mildew to form on walls and ceilings).
  • Open all kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors that contain water pipes; this allows the heat from the house to better access the pipes.
  • Mildew can form if any inside area of the house gets too much moisture, lacks ventilation and is too warm; you need some heat in the winter as heat helps reduce the moisture level (you need to keep the relative humidity below 50%), but do not let the house stay above 75 degrees for long during the summer as such temperature promotes the growth of mildew and mold; keep internal doors open and run a fan if necessary to provide ventilation; use a dehumidifier if moisture in your area is a problem.
  • Hot water heaters should be turned off before any trip of a week or more. The saving in electricity alone justifies this action.
  • For extended absences from your home, you should turn off and drain all electric and gas hot water heaters. It is usually recommended that you drain hot water heaters annually as part of the normal maintenance process. This removes any build-up of debris and rust on the inside of the tank. For electric hot water tanks, it is also the time to remove and check the electric coils (usually two of them). Your maintenance guide will explain how to do this, and how to determine if the coils should be replaced.
  • If you have a sewage system that drains to a holding tank, then a grinder pump is used to pump the sewage to the local system, it is recommended you “flush” the holding tank. You do this by running a good bit of water into the holding tank just prior to leaving on the trip. This will reduce the odor from the sewage sitting in the bottom of the tank for a long period of time.

Note: If you have a sewage holding tank as described above, it is recommended that once a year or so you remove the top of the tank and use a hose to “clean” the tank from any build up of grease or other substances. Usually there is a manual switch to let you override the “float”, so you can turn on the grinder pump. This allows you to lower the level of the contents of the tank more than normal. After you spray off all elements and the sides of the tank, you can fill the tank with water and again use the switch to drain the tank of the loosened dirt and grease. Filling the tank with some clean water will not only allow your grinder pump to last longer, but it is an excellent way to prepare the system as you prepare to vacate the house for a period of time.

General Items

  • Make the house appear to be occupied in any way possible
  • Tie down any items required to remain outside while you are gone
  • Arrange for lawn maintenance
  • Consider having a monitored security system installed and/or one that allows you to remotely access and view the images from your in-house security cameras
  • Either park a car in your normal parking spot or ask a neighbor to park his/her car in your spot
  • Ask trusted neighbors to watch your house while you are away; and give them a telephone number and/or an e-mail address where they can reach you in an emergency
  • Do NOT post anything about your future or current travels on Facebook or other social media sites, wait until you return from your trip; otherwise you may inadvertently be notifying thieves of your absence


Read More in Dan Dudek’s Travel Tips Safety Series:

Travel Tips: Travel Safe and Smart

Part 1 — Things to Consider Before You Take a Trip

Part 2 — Traveling by Airplane

Part 3 — Hotel Safety

Part 4 — Security & General Suggestions for International Travelers


Dan Dudek travels extensively and has been to most U.S. states and Canadian provinces; and about 30 countries. He has a private pilot’s license (now inactive) and currently enjoys RV camping, sailing and many outdoor sports. As an Eagle Scout, he practices the scout motto to “Be Prepared” for all situations and confesses to being a person who likes “electronic toys”, especially those security related.


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