Festive House

Holiday checklist – What to remember before going away

For many years I used to be sad that I lived in the Southern Hemisphere during the festive period. I dreamed of the quintessential snowy white Christmas with hot chocolate by the fireplace! Nowadays I have learnt to accept (and enjoy) the glory of a summer holiday. This is the time of year that many of us migrate to our favourite beach spots all over the country. We camp… we braai…we laze next to rivers, dams, lagoons and beaches. It is meant to be a time we rest, relax, recalibrate and reconnect with friends and family. This article will set out a few important things to remember before going away, such that we can truly soak up the sun and enjoy our holidays away from home without any unnecessary stresses.

The checklist:

  1. Pool pump

A day or two before you go away on vacation it would be wise to give your pool a proper clean. It may be that you expect loads of rain during the period that you are away and may want to backwash to lower the water level to accommodate the additional rain water. Alternatively, you may expect high temperatures and may wish to top your pool up to compensate for the evaporation of your pool water.

We opt to turn our pool pump off while we are away – the reasons being that the pool pump chows electricity and, if the creepy gets stuck or the pool level drops too low, the creepy will not work. We leave an additional floaty in the pool to keep it as clean as is reasonably possible.

2. Garden

It is always a good idea to mow the lawn just before you leave on holiday. If the lawn is unkept (when it is usually neat) it may signal that you are away which could be a safety issue. Furthermore, it could be that your scheme gives fines for gardens that are unkept. We usually cancel our garden service while we are away, but that can carry the risk that you are publishing the house being vacant. I only recommend this if you trust your garden service or gardener.

3. Irrigation system

It may be that you have an irrigation system made up of sprinklers that operate on a timer. This is useful to ensure your garden is regularly watered while you are away. Something we have struggled with is that loadshedding disrupted our timer. That is something to take into consideration when setting your timer before you go away. I recommend checking the weather such that you can gage how much watering the garden needs.

4. Outdoor furniture

If you have any outdoor furniture, it may be wise to move it to the garage or to a sheltered spot. Any excessive sun, wind or rain may damage the furniture while you are away.

5. Pot plants

I usually move all my pot plants to one spot that is sheltered and gets watered by the irrigation system. Alternatively, you may want to place them in an area that a neighbour has easy access to them.

6. Indoor plants

I usually water all my indoor plants just before we go away. There are options for instruments that incrementally water plants. Alternatively, a neighbour or house sitter can water your plants.

7. Geyser

We always switch our geyser off when we go away – that is unless we have a house sitter watching our pets and home. Geysers use up a lot of electricity and we also obviously want to avoid the risk of it bursting and causing water damage while we are not home to mitigate any damage.

8. Fridge and freezer

An important task before going away for an extended period is purging all perishable goods. We generally eat, pack, freeze or throw away all items in the fridge that can go off. Then we consolidate or freezer items and switch off the garage freezer to further conserve electricity.

9. Plugs

It is wise to switch off all unused plugs while you are away. This is especially the case when it comes to television plugs. It avoids any possible damage due to power surges from loadshedding and conserves electricity.

10. Lights

The switching off of lights is a personal preference. Obviously is conserves electricity. However, leaving a light or two on may avoid sending the message that the house is vacant. Security lights outside should obviously also be left on. Having one or two lights on a timer may avoid the necessity for the lights to be on all the time.

11. Pet care

We choose to make use of a pet sitter while we are on holiday. We feel our doggies are more comfortable at home in their usual routine. It serves to further ensure the safety of our house by having our guard dogs protecting our home even we are not present. Other options obviously include sending your dogs to overnight doggy daycare facilities or to kennels.

12. House sitter

We use a house sitter as our pet sitter when we travel. She loves our pets, waters our plants and takes care of our home while we are away. It ensures extra security in that our house stays looking lived in.

13. Give a trusted person your itinerary and contact details

We give our trusted house sitter our itinerary, contact details and emergency contact person while we are away such that in the case of an emergency someone is aware of where we are supposed to be, and the details on how to get in touch with us.

14. Scheduled deliveries

Unless you have a trusted house sitter, I recommend that you do not order anything online that will only be delivered while you are away. No answer at the door or parcels lying at your door will serve as a security risk. If you must order something online then make use of the click and collect option. That way you can collect the parcel on your return.

15. Neighbours

I suggest you tell a trusted neighbour that you will be away. That way they can be on the lookout to see the comings and goings at your home to maximise security. It may also be that the neighbour waters your plants or feeds and walks your pets for you.

16. Spare keys

We always leave a spare key with our house sitter and our parents that live locally. A neighbour could just as easily keep a spare set of keys to have access to your home in an emergency.

17. Alarm codes and passwords

The same persons who have a set of spare keys may need to have alarm codes and passwords for security company calls.

18. Service alarm

It is always wise to keep your alarm system serviced such that all the beams and sensors are in working order. A good time to schedule such a service is just before you go away. That way you can be sure that your alarm is in optimum working order while you are on vacation.

19. Armed response

Some people inform their armed response security companies that they will be away from the home. Others feel that they would rather not publicize the fact that the house will be vacant. This is personal preference, and you should do what gives you the most peace.

20. Clean house

I obviously choose to leave my house neat, clean and tidy for my house sitter, but if you do not have one then doing so means you come home to a lovely home on your return from holiday.

21. Do all laundry

We accumulate loads of laundy when we are away. The worst thing would be to come home to additional pre-existing dirty laundrytoo!

22. Empty bins

It goes without saying that you do not want stinky trash rotting in your home while you are away. It is also important to plan for you bins to be taken out on trash day by a neighbour or your house sitter.

23. Freeze a meal for when you get home

After a long day of packing, travelling, unpacking and laundry the last thing you feel like is cooking (and you may be over fast food too). I always make a Tupperware of frozen food such that I have a hearty home cooked meal ready to heat and eat on my homecoming.

24. Lock up

Before you leave on holiday lock up your home. Make sure all windows, doors and security gates are properly closed and locked before you leave your home. We also lock all internal doors that we can to add additional security within the house.

25. Email notification

Don’t forget to put on your out of office email notification! We all need to be offline for periods of time to switch off, unwind and disconnect from stress.


I hope this checklist helps you prepare for your festive holiday away from home. Travel safe wherever you may go. We wish you a lovely holiday and a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Written by Dr Carryn Melissa Durham

December 2024

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