While You Were Out: Winter Vacation Checklist for College Students

Winter holidays are coming and college students are getting ready to trek home for an extended break from their studies…and their rental housing. Students generally get a week long break for Thanksgiving and a 3 to 4 week break for winter holidays. Their exodus leaves a lot of rental units empty and vulnerable to property damage and cold weather related maintenance issues. When I was in college I had a less than conscientious roommate. During the year and a half that we lived together, the end of the Fall semester was my favorite time because she packed up and left for a week at Thanksgiving and a glorious 3 weeks over Christmas. While she was gone, I deep cleaned our apartment and threw away a mountain of moldy food and more clumps of dog hair than I ever care to remember. Before I left our apartment for my much shorter winter visit with my out-of-state family, I got our house ready to sit alone and empty so I wouldn’t come home to any nasty surprises after New Years. My mom would kill me if I didn’t clean my house before a trip away, but if you rent to college students it’s important to remember that many of them are living alone for the first time and might need a reminder about how to get their unit ready to leave empty over holiday breaks. The tips below are a good start for putting together a Winter Vacation Checklist to give to your residents.

Take valuables with you

Advise your residents to take laptops, electronics, jewelry, and other valuables home with them. Items that are too large to transport should be kept out of sight from windows, balconies, and doors. Remind students that property theft rates are higher during breaks in the academic calendar.

Lock windows and doors

If walls could talk these would be singing "Steal from me!"
If walls could talk these would be singing “Steal from me!”

It’s common sense to lock a front door, but students might forget to make sure all their windows are secured. For added protection, set all the window treatments up so that the interior of the unit isn’t visible from outside.

Take out the trash and clean the refrigerator

It looks harmless today, but in three weeks that tupperware might have legs.
It looks harmless today, but in three weeks that tupperware might have legs.

For the love of everything, please don’t leave food and garbage in an apartment for 3 weeks! Stress the importance of a clean kitchen to your residents, unless you really want a bug infestation on your Christmas list.

Leave the heat on

More budget conscious residents might be tempted to turn the heat down over the break, but doing so can lead to frozen pipes or broken pipes. Tell your residents how low they can safely set their thermostats.

Unplug appliances

Unplugging non-essential appliances like televisions, phone chargers, coffee pots, toaster ovens, personal fans reduces the risk of fire and saves energy. Unplugging also means no one will leave coffee burning in the pot for the better part of a month.

Pay January Rent

Most college students don’t return to campus until after the New Year, sometimes as late as 2 weeks into January. Have your residents leave a post dated check at the leasing office or plan to pay their rent online before the beginning of the year.


About the author

Elizabeth Hayes

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  • Thank you so much for writing this Elizabeth!

    I forwarded this article to my daughter who is coming home for winter holidays for the first time. Also the first time she leaves the college apartment empty.

    I especially like that this is a nicely written article instead of just a checklist.

By Elizabeth Hayes

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