Protect Your Homes – and Yourself – Before You Travel

As much fun as it is to skip town for a while, don’t leave home without taking care of these things.

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You used to dream of getting away in the winter to a place where the sun kisses your skin and you could wear flip-flops daily. Now that dream’s a reality – you spend your winters playing canasta and perfecting your golf swing down south.

While it’s exciting to escape the winter weather, you now have homes to maintain in different countries. Transitioning from one place to another can be a lot of work, but with a little preparation you can seamlessly make the switch.

For an additional fee or the cost of a really great dinner, you may be able to negotiate with the house-sitter to shovel the driveway or mow the lawn for you. This will make your place look occupied and help keep it secure.

Arrange for a house-sitter

Before taking off on a jet plane or hitting the open road, you need to arrange for someone to check on your house while you are away. Whether it’s a family member, neighbour or someone you’ve hired, you need to have your abode checked regularly. This not only ensures the mail is brought in; your house insurance may require it.

For an additional fee or the cost of a really great dinner, you may be able to negotiate with the house-sitter to shovel the driveway or mow the lawn for you. This will make your place look occupied and help keep it secure.

Take care of heating and plumbing

The last thing you want to come home to is water damage. Consider turning off the plumbing while you are away and make sure your sump pump is in good working order.

You can also turn down the thermostat, but don’t completely turn off the air conditioning or heat. If your house gets too hot your wood floors can buckle and if it gets too cold, pipes can freeze.

Prep the roof

Now that you’ve found someone to take care of the inside of your house, it’s time to turn your thoughts outwards and upwards to your roof. Check it for loose or missing shingles, and clean leaves and debris out of the gutters.

When leaving your house in Canada for the winter, add extensions to your spouts so melting ice flows away from your house. Beware of ice dams that can wreak havoc on your roof and cause water to leak into your house. To prevent ice dams from forming, arrange for a friend or family member to check your roof in the winter. In case roof repairs are required while you are away, provide your house-sitter with the name of a trusted contractor.

Protect your information

While it may be exciting to talk about your travel plans, you need to be cautious about what information you share. Telling all of your friends on social media that you are leaving town can tip off burglars. Also ensure calendars with holiday plans marked on them aren’t visible from the front or back door of your house. Once a burglar knows your house is empty, they may use the opportunity to “drop by.”

Review your documents

Check the expiry date on your passport to ensure it’s valid for the duration of your trip. Depending on the country you are visiting, your passport may need to be valid for six months from the date you enter or you may require a visa to enter. It’s important to review the entry requirements of your destination before you leave.

Not only is it embarrassing to have your credit card declined, it can put a serious wrinkle in your travel plans. Double-check the expiry dates on your credit cards and debit cards and advise your bank that you will be visiting a foreign country.

Be informed before you go

If this is the first year you will follow Anne Murray’s advice to “spread your tiny wings and fly away,” take the time to educate yourself about immigration requirements in your destination country and review your insurance coverage.

Most countries have a limit on how long you can stay without getting immigrant status. For instance, if you are going to the U.S. and have B-2 visitor status, you can usually stay for a maximum of six months. To help keep track of the number of days you’ve spent away, check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) I-94 tracking website.

Before you leave Canada, make sure you have the right insurance coverage:

  • You may need additional health insurance coverage.
  • If you don’t already have it, you should consider critical illness insurance in case the unexpected happens.
  • If you are away for a number of months, you may no longer qualify for your provincial health care coverage until you establish Canadian residency again. Each province has its own definition of a “non-resident” for the purpose of health insurance coverage, so make sure to confirm how long you can be away before your coverage is affected.

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