I’ve created this checklist to help seasonal guests manage the transition between two or more homes. Today I share my “Ultimate Snowbird Checklist” with you. When I think about hurricane season, the image I keep seeing is of slimy white maggots crawling over slabs of stinking chicken, fetid sirloin, mold-covered cheese and rotting fruit and vegetables. And as if this visualization isn’t enough to make my knees buckle, I think about the stench. The message is simple: If you’re leaving town for an extended period of time during the summer, you need to COMPLETELY empty your refrigerator and freezer before leaving. Period. End of conversation!

Don’t forget:

  • Keep one full set of keys, including home, safety deposit box & mailbox, for each home, as well as a garage door opener, in a Ziploc bag for easy access.
  • Take photographs of clothes and accessories you leave behind. If you can’t locate something, check your camera roll.
  • Take all medications, prescriptions, hearing aids, contact lenses and eyeglasses with you when you leave.
  • Print out copies of your will, trust, medical directive and power of attorney to keep with you when traveling between two homes.
  • Organize your everyday files into ONE clear plastic bin, which can easily be transported from one home to another.

HVAC & humidity:

  • Do NOT turn the air conditioning off or put on a warmer setting thinking you’ll save money while away for the summer. Instead, set the thermostat to a mild 75 degrees and keep the blinds down.
  • Most importantly, make sure the fan setting on the thermostat is set to “auto” and NOT to “On.”
  • Leave ceiling fans on at all times to circulate the air. The fans will NOT blow up and burn your house down, but they will circulate the air more efficiently.
  • Schedule an HVAC preventative maintenance appointment before departing, and be sure to have the exterior HVAC drain line cleaned and vacuumed, the filter changed and the thermostat batteries changed.
  • Purchase extra filters and instruct your home-watch service to change them once a month.

Mold prevention:

  • If you choose to use a moisture absorbing product, such as DampRid, in your closets, make sure your home-watch professional empties the containers every time they visit. (Note: I suggest freestanding containers in lieu of the hanging ones. Be sure to put the containers inside a bowl, just in case they overflow.)
  • If the HVAC air handler is in a closet, leave the door wide open with a container of DampRid nearby.
  • Mold thrives in dark, moist environments. Take clothing out of plastic dry-cleaning bags and remove foam rubber hanger “stays.”
  • Disconnect car battery, leave car windows slightly ajar.
  • Consider purchasing a portable dehumidifier for your garage, which may be helpful in regulating the humidity.

Two weeks before leaving:

  • Forward all mail & periodicals to northern address; notify post office at alternate location to hold incoming mail. (InformedDelivery.usps.com for easy online access.)
  • If you use timers on one or more lamps in your home, make sure they are working.
  • Have the alarm system inspected and replace all batteries.
  • Have hurricane shutters inspected and lubricated before departing. (Note: While some people choose to close their shutters before departing, I suggest leaving this task to your home-watch service, since mold breeds in dark places.)
  • Call credit card companies and banks to give them your alternate address and expected length of stay.
  • Notify home-watch and neighborhood security office of any changes to your contact information, and provide a secondary emergency contact number.
  • Make sure the community security office and your property manager have the name of your home-watch company, as well as a key (and alarm code) to your home in case of emergency.
  • Leave a copy of homeowner’s insurance, agent’s name and telephone number in a conspicuous place inside your home.
  • Create a checklist for your home-watch company listing preferred appliance, HVAC, hurricane shutters, plumbing and electrical contractors, as well as a list of any maintenance contracts (pool, landscaping, HVAC and appliance) you may have.

One week before leaving:

  • Put newspaper, phone, cable and Internet services on “seasonal” hold. Reinstate all services at alternate location.
  • Bring furniture, cushions, plants, portable grills, hoses, loose decorative items, doormats and garbage bins inside.
  • Have shrubs and trees trimmed, including removal of any loose palm fronds and coconuts. Maintain weekly landscaping services throughout the summer.
  • Give live plants to a neighbor to care for while you’re gone.

Two days before leaving:

  • To avoid being charged for tolls while your car is on a transport truck, remove SunPass before the car carrier company arrives.
  • Turn refrigerator to lowest setting and dispose of ALL perishable foods and previously opened condiments. You should NOT leave the refrigerator completely empty, choosing instead to leave a few non-carbonated beverages or unopened condiments in the shelves.
  • Dispose of any bottled and/or canned carbonated drinks, as these could easily explode.
  • Turn icemaker “off” and empty tray.

The day you leave:

  • Leave all closet, cabinet and interior doors open.
  • Pull car into the garage as far as possible.
  • Lock garage door from the inside and disable electric access.
  • Lock all windows, exterior doors and sliding glass doors.
  • Pull window shades down, leaving 1-inch clearance.
  • Shut off washing machine valves and leave dishwasher, washer and dryer doors open.
  • Unplug washer and dryer.
  • Slowly shut off the home’s water main and drain water lines by leaving faucets open after main is shut off. Once drained, close faucets. (Note: your home-watch service will turn the water on while he/she is in your home and will turn the water main off when they leave.)
  • Shut off hot water heater valves and corresponding circuit breaker switches. (For gas or tankless water heaters, check instruction manual.)
  • Remove batteries from telephones, remote controls and garage door openers.
  • Unplug all small appliances including: televisions, cable, toaster, coffee maker, computer/printer, hair dryers and curling irons.

Be smart, not stingy. If you’re leaving your home for a week, a month or longer, the smartest thing you can do to protect your home is to hire a reputable home-watch service to inspect your home a minimum of three times a month in your absence (once a week is even better). Lastly, if your current home-watch service does not supply a written report after each visit, make sure they start doing so. If there’s ever a problem that requires an insurance claim be filed, having a detailed report could be the difference between getting paid or not.