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How to Prep Your House for a Trip Out of Town (So It’s Not Gross When You Return)

Going on vacation? There’s plenty to do to prepare for the trip. But you should also prepare for your return home. Do the tasks in today’s post in order to smooth the transition home from your next vacation.

There are certain things I do before I travel out of town that makes my return so much easier.

While I love going away, coming home can be a wonderful feeling, too.

With a little pre-planning, you can always come home from vacation to an organized home. Learn what you can do at home before you go on vacation, that makes coming home easier.

Read on to see all the tasks to do:

  • A Week or so Before Leaving on a Trip
  • Two to Three Days Before Departing
  • The Day Before You Leave
  • On Departure Day

I’m headed to Chicago tomorrow morning (for a conference). Then I’m going from there to Louisiana (to see my son – I haven’t seen him in months!).

I’ll be gone for ten days, so it’s a decent-length trip.

Today is a busy day because, in addition to planning and packing for travel, I always aim to plan ahead for my return home.

I’m going to organize my home before I leave, to make my return so much more relaxed and smooth!

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suitcases in bedroom, organized because she prepared for her return before leaving on vacation

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Why Organize Your Home Before You Go on Vacation?

It may seem counterintuitive to plan for both the trip and the return at the same time, but it’s worth it to have peace of mind during my trip.

I like knowing that I’ve taken care of so many details that won’t be waiting for me when I come home, happy but tired.

My organized home will be ready and waiting to welcome me back. I find this relaxed mindset so beneficial whether I am traveling for business, vacation, or to see family or friends.

So what are some of the activities I knock out in the days prior to a trip?

Well, of course, I plan the trip and pack. But that’s not what this list is focusing on.

In addition to trip prep, I like to do the following in preparation for coming home again:

Things To Do A Week Ahead of Your Vacation

Put mail on hold

I do it quickly through the post office website.

Pay any current bills

I actually just set them up to auto-pay while I’m gone.

Avoid ordering anything online

There’s nothing that screams “this house is empty” like packages on the front porch. You also don’t want the risk of having anything get damaged due to exposure, or worse, getting stolen.

Plan ahead for a few days of frozen groceries

On my last regular grocery run before a trip, I like to purchase a couple of easy dinners to make for the nights right after I get home. This isn’t the time to worry about nutrition, but more about staving off exhaustion, so I go for the easiest things to make like frozen pizzas or boxed mac and cheese.

I know I’ll get back into my healthy groove soon enough.

I also like to buy (or sometimes even bake) and freeze some simple breakfasts like bagels or muffins, and I’ll grab a quart of milk for coffee (milk will stay fresh for several days after the sell-by date if the carton is not opened.)

Trader Joe’s is my go-to store for easy yet tasty frozen dinners.

Let Trusted Neighbors Know You’ll Be Gone

Generally, if I’m out of town for longer than two or three nights, I will notify one set of trusted neighbors.

I don’t generally leave a key with them, just let them know the dates I will be gone and make sure they have my cell number, in case they have any concerns (which has never happened, but, hey, better safe…)

“The magic thing about home is that it feels good to leave, and it feels even better to come back.”

Things To Do Two or Three Days Before Vacation

Clean the house

I’m not talking about a top-to-bottom scrub-fest. I just take enough time to straighten up the basics, vacuum the floor, and scrub the toilets and sinks (I don’t want to return to moldy toilets, do you?)

Those first few days back I anticipate being jet-lagged, so having the house in decent condition can be a huge advantage. I can come home and nap away from the jet lag and time change!

Put clean sheets on the beds and clean towels in the bathrooms.

Ideally, wash the dirty sheets and towels if there’s time.

Wash clothing

I have a long-standing family rule that any clothing that will get packed for the trip must be in the laundry basket three days before traveling anywhere. This ensures that I have time to get it through the laundry cycle and ready to go in a suitcase.

Water plants, both inside and out

If I will be gone for a long time (more than a couple of weeks), I set all of the smaller pots (if they have drainage holes) in the bathtub and add a few inches of water.

They can then soak water up over time, which keeps them fresh and healthy.

I place larger plants in shade (indoors and out) so they will dry out more slowly. (Alternatively, if you live in a region that gets good rainfall, which I do not, you may want to place your pots in areas outside that will take advantage of the free watering.)

Things To Do The Day Before You Leave

Empty the kitchen of any food that will spoil

Remove spoilable foods from the refrigerator, pantry, counters, and fruit bowl. Eat or freeze any food that can be eaten or frozen. Dump the open milk carton – no one, but no one, wants to come home to spoiled milk!

Take the dog to the boarding facility

Usually, I take early morning flights and there is just not time to drop my dog off before heading to the airport. But even when I have a later flight, I still take him in a day early so that it’s a low-stress event.

Dogs are fantastic at reading human emotions, and I want him to feel safe, confident, and calm when I take him in for boarding, which won’t happen if I’m in a rush to get him there because I’ve got a plane to catch.

Also, I never know what last-minute disasters are awaiting me on departure day, so this is just one more activity I can cross off my list ahead of time.

Wash the dog’s food and water bowls after he’s at the boarding facility

They will be fresh and ready to use when he comes home.

Refill any bird feeders and birdbaths

You’ll want your feathered friends to be cared for while you’re away. (Reminding myself that I need to do this today – as soon as I finish writing about it)

Maybe that’s the best part of going away for a vacation-coming home again.     

Madeleine L’Engle

Things To Do on Departure Day

Empty all trash cans in the house

Take the garbage and recycling out to their respective bins.

Clean the kitchen sink and run the disposal.

Fill and run the dishwasher.

Decide which lights to leave on, and set the automatic timers.

Lock all windows and doors.

Close curtains and blinds as appropriate.

Relax and Enjoy Your Vacation, Knowing Your House Is in Great Condition for your return

And now it’s time to go…with no worries about what awaits you on your return.

You know your home is clean, your bills are paid, and your return promises to be as relaxing as your trip!

This does seem like a long list, doesn’t it?

You’ll have to do all of these things either before or after your trip, so you might as well knock them out ahead of time.

I really do feel that the payoff on the back end is so worth it.

What do you think – do you plan ahead for your return from traveling? Will you try it out now? Do you love coming home to a clean house?

I hope you see the benefit of planning ahead, and if so – you may want to save this pin for future reference.

Read More:

shadow of airplane over ocean and beach, returning home to an organized home

4 thoughts on “How to Prep Your House for a Trip Out of Town (So It’s Not Gross When You Return)”

  1. I love that I found another person who gives so much thought to this issue:) I am obsessed with living the house clean and put together before we leave. I empty the laundry baskets, change all the sheets clean out the fridge as you said. It’s hard work before go, but coming back to a clean, nice smelling house after traveling is such a great feeling. I also think about the way I pack on the last day of vacation. I have vacuum-sealed bags with me where I put all the laundry separated into dark, white, bright, this way I have the loads ready to be put int the wash the minute I come back:) (my husband think I’m a little nuts but it saves me lots of work once I get back.) Great tips in this post, thank you for sharing.

  2. This is SO helpful! Thank you for sharing this! I always forget at least half of these before I leave for a trip, I’m always so unprepared for coming back. And it feels horrible coming back to a house that’s left in a rush :”) I’ll save this article for my next trip, thanks!

    1. Thanks so much! I actually forgot to run the dishwasher before I left for a trip – the day AFTER I posted this! Ugh! Mold everywhere, and I had to run it twice and handwash some things when I came home from vacay! Lesson learned! I’m really glad you found this article helpful!

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