Talking about Christmas may seem a little premature, but the festivities are only a month away! Most businesses close their doors for the annual summer break on Friday Dec 20th, so now is the time to get prepared!

The next few weeks will be filled with Christmas parties, holiday planning, (work cramming), present shopping and late night wrapping. So preparing for the festive season is so important, and it’s not just about the Christmas shopping list. If you’re heading away on holidays you need to prepare a to-do list for getting your property in order. It will protect your home in your absence, and make your return so much smoother.

So, get yourself a checklist, and start planning. Now is not a moment too soon...

This 20 point checklist should help you tick everything off and set you on the path for a stress free holiday, and a smooth return to reality...

1. Are your pets booked into holiday accommodation or do you have a pet sitter lined up? Make sure you give detailed instructions if they are particular about food, need medication or have a fondness for treats or toys.

2. Remember your plants. Ask a friend or neighbour to pop by and water your plants a couple times a week (and leave them with a key if there are indoor plants too). Self watering stakes or timed reticulation is an even safer option.

3. Speaking of neighbours, having a close relationship can really help! If there won’t be any cars left at your place, ask the neighbour to occasionally park their car in your driveway so that it looks occupied.

4. Clean out the fridge. SO important! As well as throwing away food that will expire while you’re gone (no-one wants a stinky fridge), give this hard working appliance some TLC with a proper wipe over. You’ll be so pleased with yourself.

5. How about the kitchen pantry? While you’re sorting out the fridge, take a long hard look at your pantry too. Get rid of half empty packets, near-empty bottles and food that won’t last the distance. Pop spices into jars to keep them fresh and throw out anything that you haven't used all year. A quick wipe over of the shelves will make your return to the kitchen so much more pleasurable.

6. Tackle the laundry. If you’re an ironer (let’s face it , some iron, some don’t), iron the last of the items in the laundry basket and you will feel so satisfied. Or if you’re a folder, put everything away so the laundry is fresh and clear for your return (with mounds of washing!). And make sure the iron’s turned off - nothing can spoil a holiday like feeling you have left something on...

7. Leave lights on. If you’re heading off on a weekend getaway, leave a few lamps on in the house to make it look like someone’s home. For a longer vacation, think about investing in inexpensive automatic timers that can turn your lights on and off at staggered intervals, making your house look occupied. Alert your home-security service too if you have one, and keep the neighbours informed so they are aware – and leave them with your emergency contact number in case of any issues.

8. Unplug and switch off. Turn off everything at the power point. Power surges and lightning strikes can blow out your TV and appliances, so it’s worth switching everything off at the wall and unplugging if possible.

9. When it comes to mail, your neighbours can come in handy again if you’re only away for a few days. Ask them to collect the mail so that it doesn’t pile up in your letterbox which is a sure sign of your absence. For longer periods you can easily, and quite cheaply, have your mail redirected or held at your local post office until your return. If you still get newspapers home delivered (who does that?) remember to cancel them for the period you are away. No need to hang on to old news right?

10. Strip the beds so you can give your mattress a much needed airing out.

11. Think about what you will need for your return. Clean bed linen, fresh towels, food essentials, toilet paper. Store them within easy access.

12. Make sure your house is clean and tidy for your return – vacuum, mop, wipe down surfaces and clean the bathrooms and the kitchen. You will thank yourself when you arrive home!

13. Install a motion-activated sensor or an outdoor floodlight. Burglars hate outdoor lighting.

14. Turn off the water valves for the dishwasher and washing machine, just in case.

15. Make sure your smoke detectors are working properly.

16. Empty your bins, and put the bins out for collection (and ask that lovely neighbour of yours to bring the bins in for you).

17. Don’t close all the blinds if you normally keep them open – closing them all may work against you as it’s a signal to burglars that you are away.

18. Make sure your lawn is mowed too – a messy garden is a sign of neglect.

19. And those spare keys you have hidden in the garden somewhere? Take them with you or leave that set with your neighbour.

20. Last but not least? Remember to bring a present back for your neighbour!

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