Your home and the holidays

(By Kathy East)

It is unbelievable that the most exciting time of the year is here again - planning and preparing for our annual year-end holidays. The inevitable destination would be your personal choice of either coast or mountains or game parks or international travel, or the modern trend of extreme-sporting venues. 

“Presumably by now you have made your choice and booked and paid your deposit, but if you have not yet done so, there is little time left to secure suitable accommodation as this is clearly the peak holiday season in sunny South Africa” says Wendy Williams, one of the directors of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa. However there are several websites where you can book at the last minute and possibly benefit from a discounted rate.

After the destination is done and dusted, the various other aspects of your holiday planning come into play. An important point to remember is to have your vehicle serviced a few weeks before your date of departure. If you leave the servicing too close to departure, you may find that the servicing departments are fully booked, and if they do find something which needs to be repaired to assure you of a safe journey, there may not be sufficient time to conduct these repairs.

What to establish about your holiday home:

Be wary of paying a confirmation deposit to unknown booking companies as there are many individuals illicitly gathering deposits for accommodation which does not exist. Visit to check any compliments and complaints against a company before making a final decision. Ideally ask for references and photos of the property if no other confirmation can be established.

Lastly, we suggest that you confirm in writing how many bedrooms and bathrooms are available, and also which utensils and kitchen equipment are provided. Be wary when it is advertised as 'sleeps 6' as opposed to three bedrooms – 'sleeps 6' could mean one room with bunk beds or pull-out couches which is enough to cause a disastrous holiday.

What to check before you leave your home:

·        Your pets – appropriate arrangements with responsible persons must be made to care for them for the whole period that you are away
·        Geysers to be turned off
·        Pool – arrange for someone to check on pool and pump and to leave a supply of chemicals
·        Garden-sprinklers must be operational and someone to check up on these
·        Cancel garden service unless access have been arranged
·        Indoor plants – arrange for someone to water these regularly
·        Ideally the fridge and freezer should be emptied, or arrange that someone checks on these at least every second day
·        Unplug all electronic equipment to avoid damage from possible lightning strikes
·        Turn off air-conditioning/heating

Security measures at your home:

December is unfortunately the peak season for thieves to break into homes because many neighbourhoods are virtually emptied due to the migration to holiday destinations. The following items could assist in not making your absence common knowledge:

·        Set timers on lights to come on early evening
·        Neighbours must know of your departure, and have local contact numbers for emergencies, as well as your direct contact numbers
·        Neighbours/friends have a set of keys to your home
·        Check alarm system a few weeks before your departure
·        Windows closed
·        Leave radio on to deceive possible burglars
·        Lock all keys away
·        Arrange that any post or flyers are picked up and removed from your driveway
·        Don't leave a message regarding the details of your absence on your home phone, cell phone or email

Security measures at your holiday destination:

Remember that thieves are everywhere, so do not be complacent in your holiday home. Be vigilant as holiday-makers are an easy target because there will always be cameras, cell phones, iPads, laptops, binoculars and many other electronic devices and generally these items are left lying around. One also tends to be in a more relaxed mood, and think that as you are on holiday, you are safe. Rather be extra careful and lock these items away every night and keep them out of sight even during the day.

Establish the name and number of the local neighbourhood watch or residential security company, before you even depart. 

What to pack:

Some practical tips suggested by Wendy “For you and your family to have a relaxed and enjoyable holiday, I suggest that you draft a packing list according to your destination. Imagine leaving your child's off-road bike behind when cycling was the object of your choice of venue. For clothing consider weather, venue attire regulations, activity clothing, swimsuits, appropriate shoes, hats and suchlike. If you are holidaying in a remote area, knowledge about availability of water, fresh food, own linen, torches, camping chairs and accessibility to electricity or not, would be essential to enjoy the fresh air experience of the outdoors.  

Ensure that you have collected your medication prescriptions for the period you will be away. Also remember sun spray and mosquito repellents and general insect sprays.

Each environment would have quite different issues for you to consider, so it could be a family fun-time event to draw up a list of what is essential to take. Older children could be tasked to do their own packing from the list they draw up.

If you are planning a lengthy trip, then parents are responsible to ensure that they have snacks, refreshments and a variety of entertainment planned for smaller children during their time in transport, as this could make it most unpleasant for other passengers to have tired, bored and over-energetic children.


If you know you have planned extensively for your well-deserved holiday, you can sit back and enjoy every minute. “Just remember to pack your favourite books” Wendy added, as it should be a time of rest and rejuvenation which a good book is sure to do.

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