10 things to do before taking an extended vacation

Say you’re lucky enough to take a long vacation — a really long vacation, like 6 weeks or more. In your haste to get the heck out of Dodge, don’t overlook the many important details that’ll make your absence less painful and your return less disastrous.

Take care of the lawn.
The rest of your yard may be OK for a few weeks, but the grass? It just keeps growing — or, if it doesn’t rain, it dies. Find someone to mow and water the grass a few times. If you have a sprinkler system, you don’t need to do anything other than make certain it’s on and scheduled for a watering every other day (or less, depending on your city’s watering codes).

Don’t forget the houseplants! They need someone to come water them, talk to them, and play them classical music. A friend or family member is great, or you can pay a service to handle this. Alternatively, you could leave them in a water-filled tub for the duration of your vacation.

Take care of your work.
I don’t know how your workplace can spare you for six weeks, but if they’re able to, you need to have other people cover for you. Or, maybe you can take work with you (but then it’s not really a vacation, is it?).

To manage the work-flow, try to schedule some tasks to be completed just before you leave, and plan for others to start up soon after your return. For everything else, make sure someone else can handle it. Brief them well and give them all the necessary paperwork, contacts, etc. Tell your customers who they should contact… and by “who” we mean “which of your co-workers.” Remember, you’re on vacation.
Take care of the pets.
If you have pets, you need to have them cared for while you’re gone. Leaving them with a trusted friend or family member is great. You might even pay a neighbor’s kid to feed and look in on them daily. If you can’t do either of these, you’ll have to pay to board them. That’s not too difficult with dogs or cats, but it could pose a problem if you have fish, birds, or exotic pets.

Take care of the e-mail.
Maybe this one is easy, if you receive e-mail on your phone — or if you plan to take your laptop with you. But if you’re really getting away from it all, the e-mails will pile up at home.

Tell your friends and family you’re leaving and ask them to stop forwarding all those funny emails. Find lists you subscribe to that can be disabled temporarily. (This is a great opportunity to unsubscribe from things you are tired of receiving anyway.) This way, you won’t come home to several hundred e-mails waiting for you.

[Ed’s note: I don’t know what job you have, but if I were out for 6 weeks, I’d have several THOUSAND emails waiting for me.]

Take care of the mail and newspaper.
You shouldn’t have mail, newspapers, or any other deliverables piling on your doorstep while you’re gone. It’s a dead giveaway that your place is vacant — and this invites thieves. Moreover, it’s expensive to pay for newspapers no one will ever read. Solution: Cancel deliveries of newspapers and catalogs, and ask the post office to hold your mail. They have a form just for this online at the US Postal Service.

Take care of the bills.
You really don’t need a bill arriving in the mail or online that sits there unpaid for a month … or two … or three. It’s bad for you and for your credit rating.

Consider paying some bills in advance to make sure they’re covered. Alternatively, make arrangements with some creditors to hold bills until your return. Of course, if you pay online and take your laptop with you, you’re all set.

Take care of the homework.
If you or any of your kids are attending school, you’ll need to cover the coursework while you’re gone. Find out what the instructor intends to cover, obtain any necessary handouts, and pack the class books with you. Then, of course, find some time to actually do the homework and reading while you’re away. You’ll probably need to be ready to take a test when you return!

Ouch, the word “test” is a sure-fire buzz-kill.

Take care of the lights.
A house with lights out for several weeks is another clear sign of vacancy. Consider buying some inexpensive timers and plugging in several lights. Or you may use a programmable controller to time your lights. Either way, set various lights (or the TV) to come on and turn off at different times to simulate real activity in the house. This is not so much of a problem in an apartment where you may not be able to see windows easily from outdoors.

Take care of the money.
You’ll need to spend money on this vacation — probably lots of it. If you’re one of the few people still using travelers’ checks or cash, take enough for the trip.

If you use a debit card, make sure the account has enough funds, or ensure the account will be replenished regularly. If you use debit or credit cards, make sure you have the PIN with you for access to ATMs. Also, check with the bank to make sure your card can be used in a foreign country, if that’s your destination: some cards are unusable in some places.

Take care of the reservations.
This should go without saying, but in the hassle of taking care of everything else, you may forget the vacation!

Make any reservations you need and take a copy of all necessary paperwork with you. Program any essential phone numbers into the phone you plan to take with you. (You may want to consider writing down the most important numbers, too, just in case.) Bookmark any important websites on the laptop you take with you. This way, if you need to look anything up, you’ll have it handy and can avoid international Internet rates.

Finally, don’t forget to read up on your destination … and to plan to have fun!