If you're among the people lucky enough to spend most of the winter months in a warmer climate, you know it's more than just a matter of packing up a suitcase and heading out the door. Taking some practical precautions before you leave can help protect your home against theft, damage from water or other system malfunctions, and unnecessary surprises.

Creating a winter checklist can help ensure that nothing is forgotten before you leave or when you return. Allow plenty of time to prepare – frequent snowbirds recommend several weeks to ensure that nothing critical is overlooked.

Here are the most important items to remember.

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