10 tips to packing up a house before long term travel

Congratulations, you’re all set for a change in lifestyle which means you are off on a long term travel adventure.  Here’s the scenario.  You’re planing your long term travel trip and you’re wondering what to do with your house.  Here’s 10 tips to packing up a house before long term travel and other things to consider as part of your planning.   These tips are for people who are leaving their house unoccupied whilst they’re away on their adventures.  

Packing up a house for travel - Bags
Packing up a house for travel - Bags

Start to plan packing up a house as early as you can

As soon as you know you’re going to be travelling you should be putting these following tips into action.   You should be making lists and really getting a feel for the task ahead.  If your property is large then the task is going to be so much more time intensive than if you’re in a small apartment but the steps and suggestions are the same, just on a smaller scale.   In our case, we are thinking about it along the lines of packing to move but we’re not moving.   So initially, start to think about how things will be packed: boxes, bags, storage bins.  There’s lots to choose from and you may need to budget for some new storage solutions.  Start to think about what you want the house to look like the day you depart and plan a strategy on how to get there.  Mark specific dates in your diary with regards to informing suppliers or deadlines when you want certain tasks complete.  Get everyone involved and make sure everyone plays their part. Packing up a house isn’t easy but with a little planning the job will be done in half the time.

Utterly de-clutter

We’re always constantly told to de-clutter our lives and give ourselves room to breathe and there is no better time than planning a long term travel trip to give you the opportunity to do just that.  You can start the process of packing up a house months before your trip and whilst planning our South American trip Chris and I started to de-clutter about 2 months before we were due to depart.   We probably should have started earlier but that’s what we had and we made it work.

In true Marie Kondo style we started with clothes & shoes and our local charity shops benefited from any item of clothing that we hadn’t worn or even thought about in the past year and of course, in true Marie style, anything that didn’t bring us any joy any more was earmarked to go.   We were strict and my gorgeous shoe collection took a hammering but I came to the realisation that I’d never really wear half of my lovely high heeled shoes again, so off they went.   I’m not saying everything has to go but its a good opportunity to be a bit ruthless and have a right good sort out.   Will I wear this again, when did I last wear it, why am I keeping it?

For the clothes we were keeping, and would be here waiting on us, on our return, we invested in some heavy duty storage bags keep our clothes free of mould, moths, and dust, whilst we were away.   We’d be using these bags for bedding and any other soft furnishings we wanted to protect. 

De-cluttering didn’t only happen with our clothes.  You know that kitchen drawer that has everything and all sorts in it, yep, you know the one.  This is the perfect opportunity to get that emptied and remove everything you’ve not used in the past 6 months.   Also, doesn’t every home have that big box of cables, where every cable that has ever entered the house in the past 10 years now lives.  Yep get rid of that.  It’s taking up space and probably a useful storage box and seriously, they’re never going to be used. 

Toiletries are other things that tend to gather in numbers.  All those hotel toiletries that came home after wonderful summer trips that you always meant to use but just ended up piling up in a basket in the bathroom, it’s time to remove these.  If you don’t want to throw them away then a local homeless shelter is alway really grateful for any kind of toiletry product so and idea is to donate them there.  

Try and think about the house you want to come back to and not the house you’re leaving.  Imagine it as clean and as fresh as possible and of course free from clutter.

Packing up a house for travel - declutter
Packing up a house for travel - declutter

Packing up a house – The Kitchen 

One of the things that I think it really important if you’re house is going to be left unoccupied for any length of time is to get rid of any foodstuffs in the kitchen and leave it clean of all perishable items.  

Store cupboards

In our kitchen we’ve been trying to reduce the amount of new things we buy such as herbs and spices, flour, oils and things that you don’t necessarily buy on your weekly shop.  As of writing this we have 3.5 weeks to go before we leave and I’ve started asking myself if we really need an item or do we need it in the usual quantity we would normally buy it.  Our aim is to have our kitchen food free by the time we travel and as I hate waste we’re trying to use up as much stuff as we can.   The plan is, that in the few days before we leave to finally empty the last of the perishable items from the kitchen and have a good, deep clean of the cupboards so that any residue of foodstuffs is gone.  I don’t want to leave any incentives for any little creepy crawlies to have a feast while we’re gone.  

Fridge/Freezer

The same goes for the fridge/freezer.  Empty and cleaned out and left on the lowest setting.   There are some people that claim switching it off is better with the door left ajar but there are others that say if a fridge is left off, for a period of time, then there is a chance that it won’t work again.  Something to do with the gasses settling or being disturbed.  While we travel we’re going to leave it on its lowest setting which, after looking it up, won’t use hardly any electricity and will keep it functioning well.  

The Cooker & Oven

I think its a good idea again to give your cooker a deep clean before you go.  Try and remove as much residue as you can and it will minimise the risk of mildew and mould forming on any leftover grease or foodstuffs.   There are some good oven cleaners on the market at the moment which just takes a bit of patience and elbow grease but alternatively there are companies out there who will send someone in to clean your cooker/over for you.  Investing in one of these might be the answer.

Small appliances 

Don’t forget things like the toaster.  There are breadcrumbs that accumulate in the toaster and you want it to be as crumb free as possible so tip it upside down over the bin to make sure its as crumb free as possible.   This also goes for other appliances such as coffee machines, deep fat fryers and kettles.   Empty them all, clean them out make sure they’re stored away dry as a bone to prevent unwanted mould.  

Packing up a house for travel - Kitchen
Packing up a house for travel - Kitchen

Insurance but not as you know it!

Get yourself some good unoccupied house insurance to cover you in the event of damage, theft or an other unfortunate event whilst you’re away.   We found that our current house insurance provider didn’t cover us for the house being unoccupied so we had to arrange alternative cover for when we were away.  There are several insurance companies out there and its best to do that as soon as you know your travel plans. 

Think about what you need to cover?  Are you leaving any valuables in the house.  Is your house at risk of flood.  Are you leaving your home over the winter where there may be weather issues?  Does it have an alarm?  What other protective measures does your house have/need?  Is it just contents or contents and buildings?  How much would it cost me to replace the furniture/fixtures & fittings etc if my house was destroyed?

Once you have all that information to hand then it should be easy to find the right policy for you.  The comparison sites (UK) are a fairly good starting point as they can collate lots of options together for you but the main thing is not to leave things to chance and assume that your current house insurance will cover you whilst you’re away. 

Packing up a house for travel – What to do with the monthly bills?

As we were planning our trip to be 9 months to a year we had to establish what to do with the monthly household bills such as electricity, telephone, tv channels, gas, milk etc and the first thing we did was make a list.   We jotted down every monthly bill we had so we didn’t miss anything.

Utilities – Gas, Electricity, Water  

We spoke to our individual companies and explained our situation and got ourselves on the right plan for when we were away. The companies amended our contracts with them to allow for us travelling and amended the payment plans to suit.  I would always advise speaking to these companies as it’s difficult to explain what your plans are online.   Speaking to someone in person is so much better.  

Mobile phones 

Our mobile phone contracts were reduced to the bare minimum SIM card charge and we did this a month or so before our departure date so that it would kick in as we left.   We didn’t want to completely cancel as we’ve both had the same numbers for approx 20 years and wanted to keep them so the min amount possible seemed to be the best route to take. 

TV subscriptions / internet provider 

We contacted all our our tv subscription companies such as Sky/Netflix etc and agreed an end date with them.   I did jot these dates down in my calendar so that I would remember to check that the services had actually terminated and we wouldn’t sneakily be paying for an additional month.   Everything nowadays is pretty much subscription based and its fairly easy to cancel these, the trick is to remember to cancel 1 month before the last payment date.  Again, picking up the phone and calling them is best if its not evidently clear how to cancel on their website.  Just be firm and don’t be duped into any scheme which keeps you with them.  You’re going travelling and you need to cancel. 

British Grand Prix
On track action

Plants both indoors and out!

If you have a garden or houseplants then you’ll need to make provisions for the maintenance of these while you’re travelling.  

Houseplants

My advice for houseplants would be to either get rid of them as part of the decluttering exercise and you can donate them to family, friends, the local community centre so that someone will get the pleasure of them whilst you’re away. 

The Garden

This is a much bigger concern as unless you’re garden is 100% maintenance free then you may need some assistance while you’re gone to keep on top of things.  Like the house decluttering I would start to plan what you are going to do with your garden as early as possible.  If you are having friends or family tend the garden while you’re away then make a list of what tasks they’ll need to do to keep on top of the garden.  Tasks such as weeding, cutting the grass, watering (in summer), protection of certain plants (in winter), pruning, clearing leaves and general garden maintenance.  The more planning and identifying what will need done beforehand will make it easier to hand the task over to whoever will be looking after your garden whilst you travel.   If you’re not having someone look after things then I would make sure that you make some preparations before you leave to keep the garden as low maintenance as possible.  Remove any plants that need a lot of looking after.  Replace soil beds with bark, chippings so that weeds are kept to a minimum.  Give the grass a good firm cut before you leave.  Remove any garden ornaments, toys or pots that you don’t want to go missing and try and leave things as bare as possible to minimise the garden becoming untidy and appearing unloved whilst you’re away. 

Keeping a light on

Its suggested that if you leave lights on a timer to randomly come on and off whilst you’re travelling will give your house the appearance that its being lived in and this can work for some people.   Having a timer both upstairs and downstairs to come on and go off at random times works really well.  Downstairs the timer would come on in perhaps the living room when the sun starts to go down and then go off at around bedtime.  The upstairs timer would come on at bedtime and then go off 15 mins or so later.  You could have several timers going on and off throughout the house at different times to simulate your normal routing.  There are some now that even vary it day by day so you can have a different routine for weekdays and weekends.   If this is something that would give you confidence then it’s a great idea.   My tip is to practice with this and set it up a week or so before you leave so you’re happy with the timings of the lights.

Packing up a house for travel – Ding Dong App

In today’s world of technology there is such a thing as a doorbell app.  This is a piece of software that links with your doorbell and other cameras around your property.  When you’re not home and your doorbell rings the app alerts you and you can engage with whoever is at your door.   The service I looked at whilst doing research for this post offered 2 plans.  1 where the doorbell had a camera and you could engage with whoever was at your door and the second one where there were up to 5 cameras around your property that linked with the app so you could see live images of your property and garden.  If you are extremely security conscious then this may be a good option for you.  The example I looked at, and I only just googled, was only a few £’s per month for the basic plan.  So if you need that additional piece of mind while travelling then this could be the solution for you. 

Packing up a house for travel - The Mail
Packing up a house for travel - The Mail

Don’t forget the mail

The last thing you want whilst you’re away travelling is for mail to be piling up outside your door, in your letterbox or anywhere around your property.   In the UK the Royal Mail have 2 options available to manage your mail whilst travelling.  Keepsafe and Redirection.

Keepsafe 

Keepsafe is a plan that you sign up to with the Royal Mail where they keep your mail safe, in a secure location until your return.  So any mail addressed to your home address is included regardless of who its addressed to.  There is a charge for this and the charges are on a sliding scale depending on the length of time you want to use the Keepsafe service.  The plan can run from anywhere between 10 days and 100 days with the 100 days plan being currently charged (2022) at £82.00 which I guess isn’t too bad as it works out at 82p per day.   The downside is that its only 100 days so just over 3 months so if you’re travelling for longer then this won’t be the plan for you.   All details can be found on the Royal Mail website and I’m sure other countries will have a similar plan.   One of the good things about this plan is you can set it up up to 5 days before you need the service to start. 

Redirection

The Royal Mail redirection service moves your mail to another location and this can be useful if friends or family have agreed to look after your mail whilst you’re away.   The redirection service has 3 levels: 3, 6 or 12 months so a better option if you’re travelling longer than 3 months.   Like the Keepsafe product there is a sliding scale of charges but as an example (2022) it costs £68.99 for a 12 month redirection for the lead applicant with an additional £10.00 for a second applicant. So for us it would be £78.99 for both Chris and I to have our mail redirected.  These charges relate to a redirection address in the UK.  There is a separate set of charges if the redirection address is outside the UK.  The redirection service needs 5 full working days to set up so the earlier you apply the better.  

Application

Whichever option you choose the application process requires proof of identity for all parties who’s mail is being redirected and you can apply either online or in person at a post office.  For redirections involving more than 8 people you need to visit the post office. 

Who’s got the keys?

Our final hint is about who’s getting the key’s.  Its helpful to get a couple of spare sets of keys cut to leave with trusted people whilst you’re away.   We will have family who will pop in to check on things from time to time but we’ll also leave a key with a neighbour for those more immediate situations if required.   Aways leave keys with someone your trust and be clear about what you expect form them.  

A few more things ideas to consider when packing up a house for travel

  • Make sure all your bins are empty
  • Empty the hoover/vaccum cleaner
  • Half close your blinds / window coverings 
  • Move all valuables away from sight 
  • Pop some rice in the bags with your electronic items 
  • Buy some small room sized dehumidifiers 
  • Defluff the tumble dryer
  • Run a clean cycle through your washing machine and dishwasher 

If you’ve got anything to add to this list then please let us know in the comments below and we’ll add them, thank you. 

Booking resources

Flights

You can compare cheap flights on the Expedia platform or here on the Aviasales website.  Both will give you a good idea of how much its going to cost you to get to your chosen destination.

Accommodation

We have always tended to use Booking.com having said that if your on a tight budget another good site to try as a comparison is Hostelworld, If your looking to compare different sites you can do that on Hotellook, we tend to look on here first to make sure we are getting the best deal.

Tours & Tickets

You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site.  Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.

For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.

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