Going away on holiday? Remember to do these things before you leave
Holidays are meant to be relaxing, but let us be honest – the days leading up to them are often a frenzy of last-minute packing, tying up loose ends at work and tidying the house so you can return to a semblance of order.
Take the stress out of the last task with this checklist. From plant care to kitchen essentials, here are five ways to make homecoming a bit smoother.
1. Keep your plants alive
Keep houseplants going for a week or two with these basic watering techniques, says Ms Claire Lim, brand director of plant boutique Tumbleweed Plants.
Fill a tray with Leca balls ($6, https://str.sg/wCoa), which are made of a lightweight expanded clay aggregate that absorbs moisture. Add water up to the level of the balls and place small houseplants on top.
This allows the plants to draw water from the Leca balls via their roots. The technique creates a humid environment which is ideal for most houseplants.
Or set up what Ms Lim calls an “octopus reservoir”. Gather small plants around a covered pot of water that is elevated by about 30cm. Bury one end of a cotton string about 1cm into the soil of each plant, and submerge the other end in the reservoir.
This allows your plants to pull the water they need through the cotton wick. Two litres of water is enough for 10 to 15 small plants for a week. Test out the system a few days before your trip to ensure that the strings are positioned correctly and working well.
You can also purchase an irrigation drip kit ($8 to $18 depending on the size), which lets you control the rate that water dispenses into the soil. Or make your own by punching holes in the cap of a disposable plastic bottle and burying it upside down, about 2.5cm deep.
Regardless of which method you choose, move indoor plants away from direct sunlight, into the centre of the room instead of by the window or on a balcony. This will reduce the amount of water they need while you are away.
2. Prepare a frozen meal
Few things are more comforting than home-cooked food after a week or two of eating out. Having a meal ready at home will save you the trouble of hunting down food at the airport after a long flight.
Before your trip, cook and freeze a meal that is easy to heat up, such as soup, stew, fried rice or lasagne.
Creamy, Western-style vegetable soups (think pumpkin, broccoli or mushroom) can be made in half an hour and apportioned into jars for storage. Recipes (https://str.sg/wCob) are plentiful and mushroom soup is one of my go-tos. Pair it with slices of bread, which you can heat up in a toaster or air fryer, and add a slice of cheese for protein.
If you were holidaying in a Western country, it is likely you will miss Asian food. Satisfy your craving with an easy noodle soup.
Freeze ikan bilis broth (simmer ikan bilis with dried red dates or goji berries for 15 to 20 minutes) and pair it with your favourite kind of noodles, an egg and anything else you can rustle up in your freezer. Dried mushrooms, black fungus, frozen meatballs and frozen vegetables such as broccoli all work well.
This, to me, tastes like coming home.
If you have no time to cook, get some frozen ready-made dishes such as soup, herbal chicken or satay. These are easy to heat up – just 10 minutes in a water bath or steamer.
3. Neighbourhood watch
Enlist the help of a trusted neighbour to pick up e-commerce parcels that arrive at your door. They can also keep an eye out for people lingering outside your house, as you will not be expecting guests.
Secure your gate with an armoured padlock for additional peace of mind, such as this one from Italian company Viro that costs $75.90 from Shopee (https://str.sg/wCou).
4. Car care
Get someone to drive your car regularly to ensure that the battery does not die. Once a day for 30 minutes is ideal, but if that is not possible, do this at least once every three days, says Mr Shaun Martin Plunkett, sales development manager at automotive retail and service company Autobacs Singapore.
If you are unable to do so, purchase a power bank jump starter from Autobacs (https://www.autobacs.com.sg/) to get your car going when you return from your trip. This is a portable unit with enough power to jump-start vehicles and can also charge devices such as smartphones and cameras.
For security, mount an in-car camera, use a steering wheel lock and check that your car alarm system is working properly.
Keep your fuel tank filled up to prevent the build-up of water vapour which may, over time, cause a build-up of rust and jerky acceleration when you next drive your car. This may not be apparent after one vacation, but will wear on your vehicle in the long run.
Ensure that tyres are fully inflated to prevent flat spots, which can occur when a tyre has been stationary under a vehicle load for a prolonged duration. Short-term flat-spotting, over a few days or a week, will self-correct once you drive your car. However, flat spots can weaken your tyre walls if the vehicle is left alone for a month or longer.
5. Housekeeping basics
These tasks sound like common sense, yet might feel like a chore. Set aside an hour or two, put on some music and power through getting them done. Your future self will thank you.
Empty your washing machine and drying rack for post-trip laundry. Place ant and cockroach bait around the house to guard against pests.
Clear out anything perishable from your fridge, which may include cheese, eggs, cooked food and open cartons of milk or yogurt.
Empty out stagnant water in vases or pot bases so that mosquitoes do not breed while you are away.