By Liz Madowo

Sunscreen, check. Costume, check. Spotify holiday playlist curated, check. If you’re excited about the coming holidays, you’re not alone.

With just a few weeks to go before the end of year, thousands of Kenyans are counting down the days until they can escape on their end-year holiday.

If you’re still planning the last few things to do before your vacation time officially starts, use this checklist to make sure your home stays safe while you’re away.

Prevent household disasters

A holiday is supposed to be a time for relaxing and forgetting about your cares, so there is nothing worse than getting a call to say a disaster has befallen your house.

Leaking gas, your home flooding or a tree falling onto your roof during a particularly windy downpour - any of these will be problematic to deal with from afar, and may cut your holiday short if you’re forced to return home to take care of things. 

Make sure your home stays safe while you’re away, says Alen Ribic, co-founder of SweepSouth. Take a walk around the interior and exterior of your home and spot things that could be disasters waiting to happen, like exposed wiring that could cause a fire when you’re not there to put it out. 

Is your home secure?

Keep your home and belongings safe and secure while you’re away. An apartment, or house that is noticeably standing empty is a tempting target for criminals on the lookout.

Curtains that are unopened for days, dust gathering on the door and bills left outside are all tell-tale signs you’re not there, so arrange for a trustworthy neighbour or a friend to keep an eye on things while you’re gone. Promise to do the same for them if they go away.

Make sure all your windows close tightly and ensure basic door integrity, especially front doors, checking that they can’t easily be smashed open.

Consider leaving a radio on low while you’re away, as even a slight noise could deter opportunistic thieves. There’s also a range of tech on the market to help boost your security and deter burglars.

Light switch timers will turn your lights on and off automatically according to a programmed schedule, creating the illusion that someone is home, while surveillance cameras allow you to see what’s happening at home even when you’re far away.

Don’t forget your plants

If you have someone looking after your home while you’re away and have a garden, SweepSouth recently expanded their offerings to include outdoor services so you can book someone to come in and take care of it - there’s nothing worse than coming home to a shrivelled up, brown lawn and having to pull it up and start again. 

If you have indoor houseplants, try this nifty watering trick to keep them alive while you’re gone. Place the plant next to the bathtub, a sink or a bucket filled with some water.

Place one end of a piece of cotton rope in the water, making sure it reaches all the way to the bottom of the container, then push the other end of the cotton rope below the surface of the soil, close to the plant, taking care not to disturb the roots.

The rope will act as a wick, pulling the water your plant needs into the soil.

Store valuables

Make sure that valuable items like laptops aren’t visible if a burglar peers through a window, and store jewellery and important documents in a safe or a locked cupboard.

Unplug your television, computer, toaster, and other appliances to protect them from power surges that may occur during power cuts.

Clean the house

Clean up the house before you leave, so that you don't come back from a lovely break to a dirty home. Unwashed dishes, full bins and food left out can attract flies, cockroaches and other germs.

If you're too busy to clean, enlist some help by hiring a domestic worker through the SweepSouth website to do a pre-holiday house clean.

Throw out perishables in the fridge that will go off while you're away, and in the food cupboard, make sure all dry goods are closed tightly, or else you could come home to a pest problem.

Keep aside a clean change of bedding and sheets for when you're home again, and wash all laundry - dirty clothes will create a musty smell. Just before you go away, take the sheets off your bed, to allow your mattress to air.

A holiday is meant to relax and recharge you, so make sure your home is disaster-proof so that you can go away without a care in the world.