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Your smart home gear isn’t just for your comfort and enjoyment when you’re home. It’s absolutely invaluable when you’re on vacation. Here are common features and benefits you should set up before you head out the door.

Why Put Your Smart Home In Vacation Mode?

You spent a lot of money to stock your house with cool smart home products, so make sure you get the most out of them—even when you’re not home to see them in action.

There is a pile of good reasons to do so. By using the official or informal “vacation” settings, you can keep your home safe from damage, protected from burglary, and auto-magically keep an eye on everything while you’re away.

A quick note before we dive into our list of suggestions, though. Make notes on which settings and tricks you take advantage of so that you’ll remember which settings to turn off when you return from your trip. Voice of experience here: your family will not be amused by your smart home turning lights on and off randomly, so it’s wise to have a back-from-vacation checklist.

Enable Presence Mimicking

One of the coolest things about smart home gear is how easy it is to automate. Not only is automation useful for day-to-day stuff while you’re home, like adjusting your landscape lighting to always go on at sunset or running a sunrise routine to wake you in the morning, but it’s also really good at, well, being you.

Call it presence mimicking, vacation mode, away mode, or any other term, but it’s all the same thing: leveraging smart home automation to make it look like you never left.

You can use smart home tech to turn your smart lights on and off at random intervals like you’re wandering around your home, imitate a television, make it seem like somebody upstairs is having a conversation and more. Check out our guide to presence mimicking for ideas.

Set Up a Temporary Smart Lock Code

Whether you have a house sitter, a pet sitter, or just a trusted neighbor to check in on your house in case of an emergency, forget physical keys.

Instead, set up a temporary smart lock code. You can configure the code to work all the time, during specific hours, and when you’re home, you can easily toggle it off until you need it again.

And even when you’re not on vacation, it’s so handy to have smart lock codes for different people and different purposes. If you have a dog walker that comes every day between noon and three, for example, you can set their code to only work during those hours on Monday through Friday.

Set Your Thermostat to Vacation Mode

If you don’t have pets or fussy house plants, now is a great time to turn on your thermostat’s vacation mode. No sense in heating or cooling your house to optimal comfort levels when nobody is there to enjoy the optimization.

No vacation mode? No problem, just set up a new routine for the cooler (in the winter) or warmer (in the summer) temperatures. Before you do, though, we recommend looking at these tips and considerations for lowering your thermostat in cold climates.

A smart thermostat is invaluable even if you don’t set the thermostat back while you’re away. If the temperature drops too low, it will alert you, and you can use it as a temperature sensor to look for abnormalities like unusually high humidity.

Use Security Cameras to Keep an Eye on Things

Security cameras are really useful for keeping an eye on things, and training one on your back patio or driveway ensures you’ll get a notification while you’re away that somebody is lurking around your back door.

You might be wary of putting a security camera inside your home during your regular day-to-day time there, and we certainly understand your reservation. There’s a reason people don’t put them in their living spaces or turn them off when they are home. But it’s useful to have an extra security camera or two that’s part of your existing camera platform to pop into living spaces when you’re away.

For example, I wouldn’t want a security camera right at the top of my stairs all year long, but when I’m out of town, I put one on the stair landing temporarily because it’s a point in the home where our cats walk by multiple times a day. It’s easy to see the cats going about their daily routine as expected, with the added bonus of capturing clear video footage of any intruder on their way upstairs.

Use Smart Sensors to Monitor for Leaks and Fires

When you’re in your home, smart smoke alarms, water monitors, and such are of relatively limited utility. When you’re home, you’re likely to hear the alarm screeching. But when you’re away, those phone notifications are a real lifesaver.

A six-pack of Govee smart leak detectors costs less than $75. At that price, you can put one under your main water valve and anywhere else you’re worried about leaks or water ingress. We particularly like the Govee sensors because they have two types of sensors—metal “feet” to detect pooling water and a little equal-sign shaped metal plate on the top to detect drips directly down onto the unit. If you put it under the water valve for your washing machine, for example, it’ll detect both drips from the valve and water leaking across the floor from the machine.

If you want to go even further, you can detect leaks and automatically shut off your water system remotely. There are valve controllers you can fit over your existing valve to turn your water off remotely and if you want to enlist a plumber, you can even install an in-line smart valve. Through the magic of automation, the system will turn your water off if there is a leak.

Smart smoke detectors are great too. They’re a bit pricey compared to regular traditional smoke but unlike traditional smoke detectors they can tell you if your home is on fire while you’re 1,000 miles away. The Google Nest Protect is one of the most popular ones on the market, along with the Z-wave line of smart detectors from Fire Alert. if you have a bunch of traditional detectors and you use the Ring platform you can add in a module that listens for the alarms.

Whether you just tweak your smart lights to look lively while you’re away or run through our entire list, you’ll have a safer and better-monitored home for your efforts.

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Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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