You step onto the beach and your breath catches in your chest: you’re finally on the vacation of your dreams. You look around, take in the landscape, and can’t believe it’s taken you this long to use up a few of your coveted days away from work.

Just as you’re about to snap a picture of your surroundings, your phone beeps. You receive a panicked text from one of your neighbors: one of your pipes burst and your yard is flooded.

Vacations are meant to be relaxing, stress-free, and rejuvenating. Don’t let broken water connections, frozen pipes, power surges, or burglars interrupt your next holiday in the sun. Instead, take the necessary steps to prepare your house before you head out of town.

We’ve compiled a list of things you should do to ward off disaster—and thieves—while away from home.

Enlist the Help of Friends

If you’re headed out of town for a weekend getaway, invite one of your friends to have a “stay-cation” at your house, or at least check on it once every day. If someone stays at your place while you’re away, burglars won’t be nearly as tempted to break into your house.

Pay a friend to house sit and ask him or her to complete the following “chores”:

  • Bring in your mail every day.
  • Park in your driveway.
  • Keep one light on while they’re away at work.

Some vacationers even schedule lawn services while vacationing. A newly trimmed lawn will make it seem like you’re home. If you do decide to schedule lawn services, make sure those house sitting know the details so they aren’t taken by surprise when strangers show up at the door.

A note of caution: only invite those you completely trust to house sit. You don’t want to worry about the safety (and cleanliness) of your home while away on vacation.

Take Electrical and Plumbing Precautions

Running appliances while you’re away won’t only cost you money, but it will also put your house at risk for flooding and electrical disasters. If you don’t have someone checking in on your house during your vacation, do the following before you leave:

  • Unplug all electronic devices and appliances.
  • Switch your water heater to vacation mode.
  • Set the thermostat to a lower temperature (unless it’s wintertime).
  • Turn off water valves to your sinks, washing machine, and dishwasher.

If you are vacationing during cold winter months, ignore the last two bullet points. It’s dangerous to turn off water valves and leave your thermostat at a lower temperature when it’s cold outside—you could run the risk of frozen pipes.

Instead, keep your thermostat at a comfortable temperature and leave a faucet or two slowly dripping to prevent water from freezing in your pipes. You’ll want to contact your local HVAC technicians for other tips to ensure your home’s heating and cooling systems don’t malfunction while you’re away.

Install Home-Monitoring Apps

There are a number of apps that will help you monitor your house while you’re away.

  • DropCam: A wireless camera that receives power via USB cable. You can leave the camera at your home and view its stream from your smartphone or the DropCam website. The camera comes with night vision and HD video.
  • EvoCam: This software allows you to archive camera footage from multiple cameras and even comes with a motion-sensing alarm. The app alerts you if it senses motion in your home. The one downside? You have to keep your computer running if you want to record the stream.
  • iWEBcamera: Downloadable from the app store, this app comes with customized record intervals (you can record anywhere from three seconds to three days).

If you’re more worried about flooding or awry electrical components than you are about thieves, you can always leave the camera app directed at the place you think most susceptible to flooding or fire.

Before you head out on your next vacation, spend time prepping your house (or find a house sitter) to ensure you can relax while away. If you need assistance or more home preparation tips, contact your local HVAC company to discuss your needs and find the best solution.