Preparing for a Long Trip - or, How to Avoid a Smelly Mess When You Get Home
When I was little, my family regularly took The Great American Road Trip. We were gone for what seemed to my young eyes to be the entire Summer. One thing that I clearly remember (probably because I despised it at the time) was Dad's insistence on cleaning the house before we left. The reason was always the same - we don't want to come home to a mess, and have to clean it up after a long and tiring trip!
I guess that approach stuck, because that's what I do before every trip, and it is a huge relief at the end!
For trips of a week (or sometimes even two), a normal cleaning is sufficient. But longer trips bring special considerations.
Besides the surface stinks, you want to avoid other messes:
- Food care - About a week before you leave, start shopping for the short-term. Two or three days before, sort through your fresh and refrigerated foods to see what you can use up and what you can preserve. So I am not overwhelmed, I start the prep then, and put them in the fridge. Many vegetables can be frozen and used when you get back. I chop, ziplock, and freeze these: onions, carrots, celery, green beans, and broccoli. I do the same with raw meat, cooked meat, and cheese. I tried freezing scrambled eggs; they were OK microwaved for our first breakfast back, but not thrilling. I have frozen cooked rice, cooked squash, orange juice, spaghetti sauce, and milk, but half-and-half just doesn't thaw right. The morning you leave, put all prepared foods in the freezer and throw out all non-preserved perishables (or give them to a friend or neighbor). And don't forget to take out the garbage!
- Right before you walk out the door, run the garbage disposal and (even though it won't be full) run the dishwasher.
- If you have plants or pets, arrange for their care*.
- Make sure your bills will be paid on time (speaking of a putrid pile!). You can usually take care of this electronically, but for some of ours, we have to pay in advance.
- See if someone can housesit or periodically check on your place. They can alert you to plumbing problems and their ilk, and also deter crooks.
- Back up your computer. Sort through your wallet and leave behind anything you won't need on your trip.
- Arrange with the post office to stop or forward your mail. If you will be gone for many months, contract with a mail forwarding company - they will scan and send you your important mail.
- Fill your car's gas tank, and clean out the interior. While you're at it, this is a good time to check fluids and wipers. If your non-car trip is longer than a couple of months (or if you expect below-freezing temperatures), disconnect the battery. Parking it in a garage is ideal; otherwise, cover it and park it out of the way (e.g., don't take up the most-sought-after spot in the shared lot.
- If you have kids in school, arrange with their teachers some way to keep their studies on par with their classmates.*
* of course, you could just get rid of them =:-O
I don't think that's much of an option for most people...