How to Keep Your Home Safe When You're Away on Vacation

05/02/2017 11:21 am ET Updated May 03, 2017
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Summer travel season is fast approaching, and that means more than half the U.S. population is planning to take at least one trip away from home.

Amidst the excitement of vacationing, it can be easy to overlook the topic of home security. But returning home to a break-in is a quick way to lose any of the rejuvenation you experienced during your vacay.

Whether you rent or own, it’s your responsibility to keep your home secure whenever you leave town. Beyond making sure all the doors are closed and locked before you leave, here are five effective strategies for securing your home while you’re away.

Stash your valuables.

When it comes to your most valuable possessions, it’s always a good idea to prepare for the worst. While your best line of defense is to secure the physical premises of your home, you should also have a contingency plan in case someone does actually break in. Before leaving town, store expensive or sentimental items in a safe (ideally one that is bolted down so it can’t be removed).

Make it seem like somebody’s home.

The more you can keep up the appearance of business-as-usual at your home, the less likely a burglar will be tipped off to your absence. There are a few ways to go about this:

  • Install timers on lamps throughout the house and program them to turn on in approximately the same ways that you would use them if you were actually in the house.
  • If you want a higher-tech option, consider investing in smart lighting, which can learn your lighting patterns and maintain them while you’re gone. Smart lightbulbs can also be controlled remotely.
  • If you normally leave some window curtains or blinds open, don’t shutter up the house before you head out of town. Instead, leave curtains in the same state they’d be on a regular day. (But do be sure to lock up all of your windows before leaving).
  • If possible, leave a car parked in the driveway to enhance the appearance of someone being home.

Enlist some help.

One of the best ways to keep your home looking lived in is to enlist other people to spend time there and maintain appearances while you’re gone. Thus, one of the top tips for securing your home while you’re away is to ask trusted people to help keep an eye on your property. For example:

  • Alert a neighbor(s) about your travel plans and ask them to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Make sure they have your contact info should they need to get in touch.
  • Ask a friend or neighbor to collect your mail and newspapers and put out your garbage for pick-up while you’re away. One of the easiest ways to spot that someone isn’t home is in the form of newspapers piling up on the front porch or overflowing garbage bins that weren’t taken out for pick-up.
  • Ask a friend or professional house sitter to stop by and water the plants, care for animals, and generally keep an eye on the interior of the property.
  • If you utilize housecleaning or landscaping services, maintain them while you’re away (so long as you trust your service providers). If a lawn that is usually tidy turns messy or a snowy driveway is left unplowed, that’s a tell-tale sign that nobody’s home.

Be discrete.

If you’re leaving town, you shouldn’t broadcast that information to the tri-state area. But many of us make this mistake unintentionally thanks to social media. While it can be tempting to brag about your upcoming travel plans on Facebook, try to refrain from posting about your trip on social media until you’ve returned home. In that same spirit, avoid mentioning your absence in voicemail recordings or in public settings around people you don’t know well.

Hide your GPS.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever parked your car at the airport or in a hotel parking lot with the GPS still hooked up to the windshield. If you have, you’re definitely not alone. The trouble is that doing so can make you an easy target for thieves, who only need to break into your car and turn on the GPS to learn your home address. (And since your car is parked at an airport or hotel, thieves can be confident you aren’t home.) If your GPS is portable, don’t leave it in the car when you’re traveling. If it’s built-in, then change the programming of the “home” setting to a random business establishment for the time that you’re traveling.

By utilizing these strategies, you can rest easy knowing your home is likely to remain secure while you’re gone. And that will enable you to reap all the benefits of a real vacation.

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