How to Set Your Smart Home to Vacation Mode

Take a break and vacation smart

Picture of a father and daughter on vacation.

 arahbernier3140/Pixabay

Going on vacation requires a lot of planning. The last thing you should have to worry about is whether your home is okay.

Smart home technology can give you peace of mind when you travel by letting you automate your home while you're away. This can help you cut down on energy use, and it'll even keep your home secure while you're enjoying yourself on vacation.

Device Vacation Mode

The first place to turn when you're leaving your home for an extended period is the settings area of each smart home device.

Many Smart Home gadgets like a Nest thermostat or a Google Home hub include a sort of "vacation mode" feature you can use to automate how that device behaves while you're away.

For example, if you own a Google Home hub, you can set up what's called a "Routine" that will automatically adjust your Nest thermostat, turn off your lights, and arm your security system.

Screenshot of a Google Home routine

There are lots of other smart home devices on the market that have similar vacation mode features.

Some examples include:

  • Nest thermostat: Away mode adjusts the thermostat to your "eco" settings to save energy while you don't need the house as warm in the winter or as cool in the summer.
  • August smart lock: Set up guest accounts so your home sitter or neighbor can still enter your house to care for your plants or pets.
  • WeMo Plugs and Switches: Configure "Away Mode" to turn lights on and off on a schedule while you're away.
  • Wi-Fi security cameras: Most Wi-Fi smart cameras on the market today include motion detection that you can enable to get SMS or email alerts when there's movement around your front or back entrances. Set up these cameras inside your home to get alerts if thieves get into your home using windows or another entrance.
  • D-Link leak detector: Burst pipes are a significant concern when you're away from home. Configuring these devices to send you an alert when there's water present can help you call a neighbor quickly and avoid thousands of dollars in repairing water damage.

In many cases, even when devices (like a Wi-Fi camera) don't have a built-in "vacation mode", you should still take steps to program the devices to take into account the fact that you won't be home.

IFTTT Vacation Applets

Since programming every single device in your home can turn into a real hassle, especially if you own a lot of these devices, cloud services that do the automation for you can really come in handy.

IFTTT is a free cloud service that integrates with most smart home devices on the market today.

You can use IFTTT applets to control all of your smart home devices to behave differently when you're on vacation.

Screenshot of setting up an IFTTT applet that runs at a set time

For example, instead of setting up every WeMo smart plug to turn on or off on a schedule, you can use an IFTTT applet to control all of them at once.

IFTTT also includes a mobile app that you can use to enable or disable your vacation mode applets whenever you wish.

Before you can set up an IFTTT automation, you'll need to sign up for an IFTTT account.

Setting this up is simple.

  1. In IFTTT, click on My Applets, and then click New Applet.

    Screenshot of adding new applet in IFTTT
  2. Click this, and type time in the search field.

    Screenshot of searching for Date & Time
  3. Click Date & Time and Click Every day at.

    Screenshot of clicking Every day at inside the Date & Time trigger
  4. Set the time you'd like to turn the first set of lights on and click Create trigger.

    Screenshot of setting time & date trigger
  5. Click that, and type wemo in the search field (or any brand of smart plugs or switches you own)

    Screenshot of selecting WeMo action in IFTTT
  6. Click on the Turn on action.

    Screenshot of selecting Turn on for WeMo Action in IFTTT
  7. Choose the switch from the dropdown list that you want to turn on at this time. Select Create Action.

    Screenshot of selecting the WeMo device in IFTTT
  8. Click Finish to enable the applet

This will ensure that these specific lights will switch on at the same time every day.

Repeat the above procedure to program the same lights to turn off at the same time each day. You can create different applets that turn different sets of lights on or off to create a more convincing illusion that someone is still living in the house while you're away.

IFTTT Applet Ideas

With some creativity, you could use IFTTT to perform the following actions with your smart home devices while you're on vacation.

  • Use motion detection from Wi-Fi cameras to turn on smart lights.
  • If the temperature outside is below freezing, use IFTTT to adjust your Nest thermostat higher to avoid frozen pipes
  • Program music to play at the same time every day, from an Android device placed in your house to give the illusion that someone is home and listening to music.
  • Automate your Link shades to open and close at set times every day

Outsmart Home Thieves

Image of a home protected by a smart home network.

The biggest concern people have when they leave home is making sure that valuables inside the home stay safe. There are many stories of people heading out on vacation and returning home to discover their big-screen TV, jewelry, and other items have been stolen.

Smart home devices give you the ability to fool any potential thieves who may be passing by in the following ways:

  • Set up smart lights (or lamps connected to smart plugs) to turn on at dusk and off in the morning.
  • Schedule your Google Home hub to stream YouTube to your Chromecast device, giving the impression that someone is home and watching television.
  • Place motion sensors near downstairs windows and set the up to trigger a Scout alarm if any sensors are tripped, and send your phone an SMS notification.
  • Set up external Wi-Fi cameras to send you an SMS with a snapshot of the area whenever motion is sensed just outside your home.

With smart home technology, you can be thousands of miles away, but still enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that if anything happens, you'll know about it and can alert the authorities immediately.

Save Energy

Image of an energy saving light bulb.

Vacations are expensive. Smart home devices give you an opportunity to recoup some of those costs by saving money on home expenses while you're away.

Here are a few ways you can use your smart home devices while you're away on vacation to save money:

  • Place your Nest thermostat in Away mode to reduce how often your furnace or cooling system turns on.
  • Ensure all lights are turned off during the day to save electricity.
  • Automatically increasing your Nest temperature setting when the outside weather is very cold can help you avoid water damage repairs from burst pipes.
  • Save on electricity by using smart plugs to remotely turn off devices like DVRs or space heaters when you leave home, and then enable them again just before you arrive home.

The days of worrying about your home while you're on vacation are long behind. By planning ahead and being creative with how you program your devices, you can enjoy your vacation without stressing about your home.