Prepare for a Family Vacation with This Pre-Trip Checklist

Family Travel on 03.29.11
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I often feel like I earn a vacation in the few days leading up to one. Tying up loose ends and packing for a whole family can be a Wonder Womanly task. Then there's worrying about the empty house.

Believe me, I've had my share of homecomings with newspaper landslides, crackly plants, and overstuffed mailboxes. Now I use this simple checklist, so I can relax and start acting like I'm on vacation.

1) Find a caregiver for your pets and make sure they are set with favorite toys and treats.

2) Suspend newspaper and mail deliveries.

3) Ask neighbors to water plants, or use a self-watering system (like a bottle of water with holes in the top turned upside-down).

4) Inform teachers and after-care providers if your child will miss days.

5) Supply the fridge and pantry with enough to get you by for a few days upon returning.  For longer absences, think of frozen and canned food and shelf-stable milk.  (Apples also hold well in cold storage.)

6) Extend that vacation glow when you come home by getting the house clean before you leave, including the laundry.

7)  Before stepping out, lower the heat to 55 degrees (any lower and the pipes could freeze). In summer, turn the air conditioning off or, if pets are staying, keep it at a low level.

8) Turn down the temp of your water heater. Mark where you had it before (120 degrees is considered safe and energy-efficient), and make a note to turn it back up as soon as you get home.

9) Leave a few lights on inside and out, and consider leaving the television on (a good deterrent to thieves).

10) Turn off or unplug valuable appliances such as computers and stereos to protect them from power surges and to save energy.

11) Lock all doors and windows and set any alarms.

12) Give your house key and cell number to a trusted neighbor, in case there should be an emergency.

13) Finally, if you're taking a road trip, check on your car's oil, tires, fluids, and battery. And don't forget to pack your tank with gas. If you are so lucky to have a carful of sleeping kids, a pit stop could break the spell.

And now that you've done everything . . . rest, and know you'll come home to an organized and peaceful home.

Bon voyage!

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