Getting the chance to take a vacation, whether it’s a weekend trip to a nearby city or two weeks on a sandy beach somewhere far away, is generally one of the highlights of your year. You spend a lot of time and money planning out your trip in order to get the most out of the experience, and eagerly look forward to being someplace new and exciting. However, that careful planning doesn’t always extend to a very important and frequently overlooked part of the equation – your home. Especially when you plan on being out of town for a week or two, there are a number of things you’ll need to take into consideration.
There are few things more upsetting than returning from your vacation to find that your home has been broken into, and someone has helped themselves to your valuables and maybe even trashed the place in the process. A break in can cost you upwards of $2,000 thanks to property damage and insurance premiums. Everyone has their own pieces of advice that they swear by for keeping intruders out of a temporarily unoccupied home, with some being a little more effective than others.
And it’s not just a break-in you need to be concerned about while you’re away. A broken water pipe can do serious damage if it’s left to leak or even gush water for a long period of time, or a bit of bad weather could send a tree branch crashing through a window or onto your roof. A slightly open window or chimney flute can act as an open invitation for an intruder of the small and furry variety, giving you an up-close look at the havoc a trapped and anxious squirrel can cause.
Keeping tabs on your property while you’re gone is important for a few reasons. Here are 10 things you can do to protect your home against any of the worst case scenarios that could potentially crop up while you’re away on vacation.
- Invest In A Home Security System – Only about 17% of homes have alarm systems, yet homes that don’t have one of these systems are three times more likely to be broken into. Cost is often a factor in the decision to not have a system installed, but a good home security system provided by a professional and reputable security company offers a very high level of protection for your property. A good system not only monitors your home for activity that indicates a break-in but can alert you to incidents like a leaky pipe, giving you the chance to deal with the problem from afar before the damage can become too severe. As an added bonus, many insurance companies will offer you a discount on your homeowner’s insurance for having one of these systems in place.
- Try Smart Home Security – While less sophisticated than a full-on home security system, these DIY-style security solutions have their own Starter kits for these off the shelf security systems tend to run in the $130 – $150 range and offer add-ons like cameras and smart locks. Most of these solutions are run off of your smart phone, allowing you to manage and monitor your home’s security remotely. Depending on which brand you choose, some even have add-ons for water detection.
- Lock The Place Up Tight – It should go without saying that the easiest thing you can do to protect your home from an intruder is to make sure all of your windows and doors are closed and locked before you leave. Many people are tempted to leave an upper floor window cracked just a bit to let fresh air in, and while a burglar might not be able to get to that window easily enough to make it worth their while, nature is another story. Rodents and bugs can get inside even with a screen in place, and so can rain.
- Get Yourself A Sitter – If you have pets, asking a friend or neighbor or even hiring someone to come by to feed and check up on your pets is already on your list of things to do before your vacation starts. For those who don’t have any animals to worry about, it’s still a good idea to have someone pop by every day or so to water the plants, bring in the mail, and make sure nothing is amiss.
- Put A Hold On Newspaper And Mail Deliveries – An overstuffed mailbox or growing pile of newspapers on the front porch is a clear indication that your home is currently unoccupied. Consider requesting that your mail be kept at the post office for you to pick up when you return and that your paper delivery be canceled until your vacation ends. You could also ask a neighbor to collect any deliveries for you and hold on to them while you’re away.
- Keep Your Property Looking Tidy – This is especially important when you’re going to be gone for a long period of time. Hire someone to mow the lawn or shovel the driveway, keep the pool clean and the plants and hedges trimmed, and it will be less likely that a burglar would assume your home is empty.
- Get Rid Of That Hide-A-Key – Stashing a spare key under a flowerpot or doormat is not a good idea. There is really nowhere on your property that you could hide a spare key that a criminal can’t find with minimal effort. Instead, leave your spare with a neighbor or friend, or consider upgrading to a keyless entry system that requires a pin code.
- Keep The Lights On – Investing in a couple of timers is a simple and relatively inexpensive way to create the illusion that your home is occupied. Set your porch light, a lamp or two, and a radio to turn on in the evening using timers, or pick up a few smart bulbs. A smart blub like the Philips Hue can be controlled remotely using your smartphone, allowing you to trigger them using an app and change up when and for how long your lights are on. It saves you having to mess with timers, and doesn’t create a pattern an observant criminal can recognize for the ruse it is.
- Take Your GPS Tracker With You – If you’ll be leaving your car in an airport parking lot, be sure to take your portable GPS with you. That way, if your vehicle is broken into, the thief won’t be able to use the device to find your home address. It’s also a good idea to turn off location alerts on your social media posts to avoid advertising that you’re far from home.
- Be Smart About Your Social Media Posts – Tempting as it is to share every minute of your trip with friends and family back home, all those photos act as an advertisement to criminals that your home is unoccupied. Keep your posts to a minimum, and try to wait until you’re home to share your photos.
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