6 things to do before you leave on vacation


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Planning a vacation is exciting, but the lead-up can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. From managing mail delivery to ensuring home security, there are several steps you can take to make your time away more relaxing. Let’s dive into some practical tips to help you prepare before your next getaway.

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1 6 things to do before you leave on vacation

A woman carrying packages (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Tip #1: Set up a vacation hold with the USPS

You can easily set up a vacation hold with the USPS, allowing them to hold onto your mail at the post office while you’re out of town. You can request one online directly from USPS, and you can even see photos of your mail in your email before it arrives with USPS’ Informed Delivery.

2 6 things to do before you leave on vacation

A person uses the USPS app. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Tip #2: Set up a Wi-Fi thermostat

If, like me, you live somewhere where the temperatures shift greatly depending on the time of the day, a smart thermostat can make your life easier at home and when you’re away from home. A Wi-Fi thermostat will allow you to keep your house warmer or cooler hours before you return from vacation. They also allow you to prepare for inclement weather events that might occur back home while traveling, such as heat waves or deep freezes.

Wi-Fi thermostats are cheaper than smart thermostats and only cool or heat the room based on your prompts. A smart thermostat can track your temperature settings and automatically adjust them for efficiency. If you need something for when you travel, a Wi-Fi thermostat is the more budget-conscious way to go.

3 6 things to do before you leave on vacation

A Wi-Fi thermostat (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: ANOTHER HOME THERMOSTAT FOUND VULNERABLE TO ATTACK

Tip #3: Setup security cameras outside your home

If you enjoy having the peace of mind that your property is safe while you’re gone, look into putting up security cameras around the entrances and exits of your home. We have a list of our top picks to amp up your home security here.

4 6 things to do before you leave on vacation

A doorbell camera (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: 5 BEST LIGHT BULB SECURITY CAMERAS

Tip #4: Sign up for delivery services for groceries

A wide variety of grocery delivery apps are available to download for those moments when you need groceries promptly — whether it’s after returning from vacation or during a trip. Nearly any grocery delivery app allows you to customize your order, including the date and time of drop-off. 

Often less expensive than resort food options, ordering groceries on vacation could save you money. Also, returning home to an empty fridge after an extended amount of time away? Online ordering ensures you will have groceries to make dinner with right when you get home from vacation.

5 6 things to do before you leave on vacation

Groceries delivered at a person’s front door (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: BEST TRAVEL GEAR FOR 2024

Tip #5: Set up a security camera inside your home

Setting up a security camera inside your home allows you to monitor activity and provides peace of mind. If you have pets at home, you can use it to check in on them while you’re away. Leaving them in the care of others can be stressful, and a camera allows you to ensure their well-being. I often travel with an inexpensive camera to watch my vacation rental when away from home. And about the only time I feel comfortable using a camera inside my home is while I’m away. It’s promptly relocated away from the interior once I return as I’m not a fan of using inside cameras while I’m at home.

6 6 things to do before you leave on vacation

A home security camera (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Tip #6: Create an auto-reply for email in Gmail

If you handle your emails through Gmail, you can set an out-of-office response to all emails you receive. This will let anyone emailing you know you have received the message but cannot respond. As a tech journalist, I need to stay in communication with everyone, and auto-reply makes this easy. Here’s how to set up a vacation response in Gmail.

Gmail

  • Open Gmail
  • In the top right, click on Settings
  • Click See all settings
7 6 things to do before you leave on vacation

Steps to create an auto-reply for email in Gmail (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

  • Scroll down to Vacation responder and turn it on
  • Fill in the date ranges, subject and the auto-reply message
  • At the bottom of the page, click Save changes
8 6 things to do before you leave on vacation

Steps to create an auto-reply for email in Gmail (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Yahoo Mail

  • Log in to your Yahoo Mail account
  • Click on the gear icon (Settings) in the upper-right corner
  • Choose More Settings
  • On the left, select Vacation Response
  • Toggle on the switch next to Turn on Vacation Response
  • Underneath where it says, “Show vacation response during these dates,” specify the start and end dates for your vacation response
  • Enter your custom message to let contacts know you’re away
  • Click Save to activate the vacation response

Outlook

These Outlook instructions are based on the January 2024 update for Microsoft 365 subscribers. If you encounter any differences, make sure to check for any further updates or specific settings.

  • Open Outlook
  • Click on File in the top-left corner
  • Select Automatic Replies
  • Check the Send automatic replies box
  • Set the date range for your vacation response
  • Craft your out-of-office message
  • Click OK to enable the auto-reply

AOL Mail

  • Log in to your AOL Mail account
  • Click on Options (gear icon) in the upper-right corner
  • Choose More Settings
  • Click Vacation Response
  • Toggle on the Turn on vacation response switch
  • Select the dates for your response
  • Enter your customized vacation message
  • Click Save to activate the vacation response

MORE: BEST TRAVEL ADAPTERS OF 2024

Bonus tip: Make your home look lived-in

While security cameras and holding your mail are great deterrents, there are other ways to make your home look occupied while you’re away. Here are a few ideas:

  • Lights on a timer: Set timers for some lights with smart bulbs in your house to turn on and off in the evening, mimicking your typical routine.
  • Car in the driveway: If you have a neighbor you trust, ask them to occasionally park your car in the driveway to make it seem like someone is home.
  • Radio on low volume: Playing music or talk radio softly can create the illusion that someone is inside.
  • Pause deliveries: If you have any non-essential deliveries scheduled for your vacation time beyond what we discussed earlier with USPS, consider pausing them to avoid piling up boxes outside your door.

By following these tips, you can create the illusion of occupancy and deter potential burglars.

Kurt’s key takeaways

Vacations are a great way to get away from work, unwind and spend quality time with friends and family. However, they can also be a headache if you come home to a stack of overflowing mail and emails and a house that is too hot or too cold. These six tips I use anytime I go on vacation give me greater peace of mind and help keep everything organized when I get home. Auto-reply emails, in particular, have saved me a lot of stress.

Security concerns can vary depending on location. Have you ever had a close call or learned a valuable lesson related to home security while traveling? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips & security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

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