Preparing to leave the country for an extended time has been no small feat. There are seemingly hundreds of details to get worked out, especially given that I’ve decided to keep my house while I’m abroad.
Here’s what was on my to-do list
1. Get a group of friends who are willing to look in on the house.
This is critical – I’m so blessed to have a number of people who have volunteered to help keep an eye on my house while I’m gone. I already owe these folks a huge debt!
2. Make a list of relevant contact information for the friends.
I’m parking my US phone number while I’m abroad, so contacting people is going to get much harder. For my friends, I made a spreadsheet of all of the flight/hotel information that I know of now for my trip, and all of the house contact numbers – the pool company, lawn folks, insurance company, and a few others. Not to mention leaving details like the code to unlock my car door and the alarm code.
3. Get credit cards for a few friends.
If you raised your eyebrows on the last one and were thinking “gosh, she really trusts her friends” then get ready. For a couple of my friends who are close, I coordinated with the fine folks at American Express to get them credit cards billing my account. Yes, terrifying. Yes, I trust them absolutely. I’m trusting them with my most precious/valuable asset (my house) so I might as well trust them here too.
Also, given that there’s a big time difference, I don’t want them stuck in the position of something needing to be fixed and trying to contact me to wire them money. This way, they just have the ability to charge it and not worry about the money side.
4. Head to the doctor and dentist.
I wanted to make sure my health and teeth were in good shape before I head off. So I went to the doctor and dentist. This is also great for prescriptions so I can stay healthy when I travel. (Or when I need to fix the inevitable case of Delhi Belly.)
5. Forward my mail.
Luckily my mom is good for getting my mail over the summer – this way she can keep an eye on any random bills that might come in. But I don’t want to get sent to collections for forgetting a bill!
6. Pull out money for people I pay in cash.
I pay the lawn folks in cash, so I pulled out enough money to leave under the mat so that my friends can grab it and put it there easily.
7. Call my insurance agent.
With my car sitting essentially unused for four months, I wanted to see if I could save some money by reducing my insurance coverage. Spoiler: there’s not much money to be saved there.
8. Get travel insurance.
Don’t leave home without it?
9. Deep clean the house.
I don’t want to come back to a messy house, and I don’t want anything that might attract bugs while I’m gone. And of course… have a fresh set of sheets for the bed so that when I get back it’s ready to climb into!
10. Buy all sorts of bug repellants and baits.
I do live in Florida… bugs are inevitable. I’m leaving my house peppered with repellants and baits to kill anything that comes in.
11. Buy a camera to keep an eye on the house.
I finally got suckered into a security camera to add to my security system. I can dial in from WiFi abroad to check on things, and my friends can also log in if they want to check from their houses. And I upgraded my alarm system monitoring.
12. Buy water sensors for under the sinks
My alarm company sells water sensors that will go off if there is water detected – I’m installing them under my sinks so that if there’s a leak, it can be more easily found (hopefully before it does a crazy amount of damage!).
13. Unlock my iPhone.
I own my phone and it’s quite old, but I did need to make sure it’s unlocked so I can switch out SIM cards abroad. AT&T made the unlock permissions quite easy… now I just have to go reformat my phone!
14. Park my US phone number.
There’s no use paying for a phone plan I won’t use. You can pay AT&T $10/month to hold your phone number for you and reactivate when you get back.
15. Cancel my cable and Netflix.
Gasp. I’ll be a millennial without Netflix. Just for a few months. But again, no use paying the subscription and box rental fees while I’m gone. This amounts to nearly $90/month. I’m keeping my internet so that I can connect to my smart devices.
16. Install new weather stripping.
I hate bugs. The goal of this is to do a better job keeping them out.
17. Clean out the cupboards and fridge.
Anything that’s food and open is being trashed – it’s not worth the risk of bugs! (Do you sense a theme here?) I’m also filling my freezer with items and my refrigerator with gallon jugs of water. Full refrigerators are more efficient than empty ones, so I’m making sure to put something that won’t rot to fill it up.
18. Set up humidity and temperature control on my Nest.
I LOVE my Nest thermostat. You can set it to max temperatures and humidity while you’re gone (and then it will do that whether or not it’s in Away mode). Coming home to mold and warped furniture would be horrible, so I’m hoping this will keep everything running at a minimum level.
19. Get a second credit card.
Luckily for me, AmEx will issue a second card with the same name as the primary card. This has a different number than the primary card, so if one gets stolen, then I can cancel it and still have the other.
20. Get debit cards for every bank account.
You can have one debit card per bank account (even though each debit card can access all the others, it’s weird), so I went ahead and ordered extras that I don’t normally carry. Again, this is so that if one gets lost or stolen abroad I’m not without any means to get cash. For all of the extra cards, they won’t ever be kept in the same place as the primary cards. Praying this one works.
21. Order currency for the first country I’m going to.
Generally, I’m a fan of using ATMs in-country to get cash. It’s easier and faster and frequently cheaper. But I do like landing with cash in hand, so I always order some from the bank.
22. Get my car’s oil changed; add fuel stabilizer.
According to my brother, if my car is going to be largely unused, it definitely needs the freshest oils and whatnots possible. So I’m getting a fresh oil change, and then using a fuel stabilizer. My friends will drive it around the block every week or two just so that the tires don’t get flat spots and the battery lives.
23. Pull my credit report.
I want to have a pre and post trip look at my credit report just to be vigilant that my identity doesn’t get stolen abroad. (Or stolen at home while I’m abroad.)
24. Add schedules to my lights.
Yes, I’m fully bought into the smart home. So I have WiFi light bulbs. I’m setting these up on schedules so that they turn on and off to make sure someone looks like they’re home.
And there you have it… 24 things I did to prep before leaving.