Going on vacation is super exciting. Now that it is all booked up and paid for, your bags are packed, and you are headed to the airport, can you be sure that you have taken enough steps to protect your home while you are away?
Putting in place a few extra security measures while your house is empty will give you extra peace of mind and allow you to fully enjoy your long-awaited break.
Best Ways to Protect Your Home While on Vacation
Invest in a Monitored Security System
This should be your first line of defense for your home security, both while you are home and when you are away. Many homeowners choose to invest in smart security systems. These are entirely effective when you have access to your cell phone, but if you are heading somewhere remote or want to leave your phone at home, monitored home security systems offer an extra layer of protection.
By installing sensors in your home, the security system will be able to detect movement or if your doors or windows are opened. This, in turn, will activate an alarm that not only notifies neighbors and hopefully scares away the thief, but will also send a message to your alarm company who will alert the police if there is a breach.
Bottom Line: Although monitored home security systems can be expensive to install, they are worth their weight in gold when it comes to looking after your home.
Put a Pause on Your Mail Deliveries
An overflowing doormat is a sure sign of an empty property. While you are away, you could have a trusted friend or neighbor pop in to pick up your letters and any junk mail, but only do so if you feel you really trust them.
Alternatively, you can ask your mail carrier to stop coming for a short period of time until your return. You can do this from home by simply visiting the USPS website and filling in a short form online. They will stop mail from being delivered to your address and hold it for you until you get back.
You should also pause any other regular deliveries that you receive (including monthly subscriptions) if you are planning to be away for a longer period of time.
Have Someone Keep an Eye on Your Empty Home
If you have a friend, family member, or neighbor that you can trust, ask them to drop into your home on a regular basis to ensure that everything is in order. They should be able to attend every few days or so, and be able to go inside to check back doors, windows, and any other entrances.
They can pick up the mail if you haven’t asked the mail service to pause it, check that all doors and windows are secure, water your plants, and maybe even bring you some milk or other essentials ready for your return.
Set a Timer for Your Electronics
You can keep your house looking lived in, no matter how far away you are, by setting a timer for your lights, lamps, TV, and radios. You can order timers online or pick them up in your local hardware or grocery store. By placing them in your regular sockets, you simply need to plug in your electronics and set the timer to tell each appliance when to come on.
If you would rather, you can even purchase electronic timers with random settings that give a more natural inhabited look, making your home look full of people, even when it isn’t.
Keep Your Lawn Mowed
If you have a front yard, easily accessible backyard, or other outside space, it may well be worth asking a friend or neighbor to mow your lawn for you. Unkempt, overgrown gardens, yards, and lawn areas are a tell-tale sign of an empty house.
Depending on the time of year and the length of your vacation, you could also ask your friend or neighbor to sweep fallen leaves from your driveway or clear snow if any has fallen. Keep your home looking well cared for from the outside and no one will be any the wiser that you aren’t currently residing in it.
Keep Tools and Ladders Locked Away
While on the subject of keeping your external areas well-kept and preventing your home from looking empty, make sure you tuck everything out of sight before you travel. Ladders are an invitation for would-be burglars to attempt access via upper floors, while other tools can be used to pick locks, break windows, or gain entry to your property in some other nefarious way.
Bottom Line: Before you leave for your vacation, put your tools, ladders, and any other outside equipment safely locked away in your garage or storage unit.
Leave Your Car in the Driveway
Obviously, this only works if you aren’t using it for your vacation. If you are a 2-car family, or maybe even more, be sure to park a vehicle on your driveway while you are away. If you are not able to leave your own car at home, maybe ask a neighbor to use your driveway for themselves while you are away.
Having a car, van, or other vehicles outside your home is a great way to give the impression that your home isn’t empty.
Beef up Your Security Systems
If you have a basic home security system in place, it could be time to upgrade if you are going away. You can add extra sensors inside your house, or install additional cameras on the outside to ensure that burglars know your home is well-protected.
If you have a monitored security system, be sure to tell the alarm company that you are going away. If you have opted for a smart system, reassess how much coverage you have for the entire home, and identify a backup device to view footage should your cell phone fail.
Keep Your Vacation Plans Away From Social Media
Posting pictures of you and your family sunning themselves hundreds of miles from home is an open invitation to would-be burglars and those who intend to do you no good.
Checking in at the airport may seem like a cool way to flex on Facebook, but in reality, it’s just telling people your home will be empty for the next week or so. Keep your photos and memories to share privately.
You may also want to double-down and make sure that your home address isn’t accessible via your social media pages and delete any posts or party invites that contain your phone number. Nobody needs to know any of that stuff anyway, apart from those you know and trust who won’t be looking on Facebook for it.
Lock up Your Valuables
This should be pretty obvious, but your most treasured possessions are more vulnerable when you are not there to look after them. Just in case somebody is able to find their way through your thorough external security measures, you should always ensure that your expensive or sentimental items are locked away in a safe, hidden lockbox, or other secure space before you leave for your vacation.
Keep Your Regular Cleaner Schedule
If you are fortunate enough to have some help around the home, you should ask them to continue coming while you are away. House cleaners, gardeners, and even the pool guy should all still arrive as per their regular schedule even if you aren’t there.
Of course, you should feel confident that you trust these providers to be inside or outside of your home while you are absent, and if you have any hesitations, put them on hold, but don’t tell them you are going away.
Keep It on the Down-Low
Vacations are exciting, and it can be tempting to tell the whole world that it’s your turn to take time off. You will need to tell work and close family, of course, but there is probably no need to tell your hairdresser, the checkout guy at the store, all the moms at the school gate, and everyone else you see.
This may sound a little mean, but when you return, you can tell them all about how awesome your vacation was instead.
Hide Your GPS
You may not have considered this, but the GPS system in your car can double up like a red carpet to your empty home for would-be burglars.
Leaving your GPS on display in your car at the airport or hotel parking lot makes it an easy target for thieves who will not only break-in and steal your car, but can also use it to drive straight to your empty home and help themselves to your valuables. If you have a portable GPS, don’t leave it in the car when you are traveling.
If it is built-in, remove or change the “home” setting so that it leads somewhere random (like a park, shopping district, or business address) to ensure that nobody has access to the empty home while you are away.
Think About Investing in Smart Lighting
Following on from our previous tips about using timers to set your electronics to come on while you are away, you could go 1 step further and consider investing in smart lighting.
Smart LED bulbs contain software that connects to an app, smart home assistant, or another smart accessory that allows you to automate your lights or control them remotely. Many makes of smart bulbs offer a “vacation mode” as a theft deterrent, that will turn the lights on and off randomly to mimic the usual behavior of the homeowner.
Also, it’s pretty cool to be able to switch your lights on and off from anywhere else in the world, too!
Tell Your Neighbors
Giving your neighbors the heads up that you are off on vacation is a useful way of making sure that someone is keeping an eye on your home for you, even if they are doing it subconsciously.
If they know you are away and see something or someone unusual, it will trigger them to be a little more watchful as they know that you are not there. You should also leave a contact number with them if they do not have 1 already so that they can be in touch if they have any suspicions or concerns that you should be aware of.
Consider Your Curtains
Strange as this may sound, your curtains, blinds, and shutters tell a story of their own to anyone who is watching your home with a view to gaining entry.
If you usually leave your shutters half-open, or blinds rolled up, suddenly shutting them all with giving your house a locked-down look which will scream “vacant” to anyone who is interested. As much as possible, keep your curtains, blinds, and shutters in a similar position to how they usually would be.
Hot Tip: If you have a neighbor or friend popping in regularly, they could perhaps draw bedroom curtains at night and open them again in the morning for you.
Don’t Stash Your Key
For many of us living in relatively safe communities, surrounded by trusted friends and neighbors, it can be tempting to leave a key hidden outside your property just in case someone needs to pop in for you. Don’t do this — and especially don’t do this when you are going away for an extended period of time.
Plant pots, doormats, and even gutters are easy prey for potential criminals, and there is no hiding place you can think of that they won’t investigate when trying to break into your home. Leave your keys with a friend or family member instead.
Have Someone Take the Trash Out for You
Most people will empty their trash cans before they head off on vacation, but even if you are good enough to do that, remember it still needs to be collected. Ask a neighbor to take your trash can into the street on collection day to ensure that they are removed.
This not only means that your house won’t look obviously neglected and empty while you are away, but it will also ensure that you don’t come home to find rotten, stinking trash cans and a new family of pet rats to welcome you home.
Add a Smart Lock to Your Door
If you are concerned about physically handing over your house keys to your neighbors, contractors, or family members, consider installing a smart lock instead. These useful little additions grant temporary access to your home using expiring codes.
By simply sending the code to your pet sitter, neighbor, or another guest, you can allow them to enter without worrying about keys, and you can cancel the codes when you are home again. This way, you can monitor who is in your home and when, and be sure that they won’t be able to stop by unannounced when you get back.
Install a Sensor Light
These cheap and easy to install light fittings are super useful for alerting you when you are at home (or your neighbors when you are not) if someone is approaching your house. You can pick them up cheaply at hardware stores or online, and they can be de-activated when you don’t want to flood your front porch with daylight.
They are activated by motion and will simply switch on when someone walks up to your door. They are also a useful deterrent for burglars who often don’t want to be bathed in light when they are trying to pick your lock or break into your home.
Install a Fake Burglar Alarm Unit or Stickers
Many smart security devices operate remotely, and therefore unwanted visitors may not know you have them. A good old fashioned burglar alarm box on the outside of your home will tell the world that your home is protected, even if it isn’t by way of a monitored alarm system. You can find these either online or in hardware stores, and they are cheap and easy to fit.
The same theory applies to security stickers that can be placed in your windows to tell the world that your home is well-protected. Do not rely solely on one of these suggestions to protect your home, though. This should be just a back up to deter opportunists walking down your street. You will still need a high-tech security system to offer full coverage and security at all times.
Disconnect the Garage Door
If you have an electric garage door that is opened by using a remote, disconnect it before you go. Most garages have direct access into your home, and if a thief can hack the electronic signal, they can be in your home quick as a flash. Plus, they can help himself to any of the valuables (including your car) that you keep hidden in your garage.
Hot Tip: Although an electronic door may seem state of the art and super fancy, many of these can be operated using either universal remote controls or branded ones. Reduce the risk by simply disconnecting the power supply to the door before you go, and be sure to use the manual lock for extra security.
Tell Your Local Police Department
While it is not national news that you are off on vacation, if you live in a small community, it might be worth mentioning to your local police department that your home will be unoccupied for a short period of time. This way, they may be able to check on it while out on patrol (also known as “vacation watch”).
Of course, if you live in a big city or somewhere with increased incidences of crime, they probably won’t have the ability to do this, so don’t bother them with news of your forthcoming departure.
Install a Video Doorbell
These fun little gadgets are also really useful for adding an extra layer of home security. Smart video doorbells allow you to see who is ringing your bell no matter where you are in the world.
You will get an alert on your cell phone and be able to speak to the visitor in real-time — tell them to leave a parcel around the back or to come back later, whatever works for you. Don’t tell them you are on vacation though, obviously!
Some even come with motion sensor detectors that will alert you when someone is hanging around your front porch, and if you lose cell phone coverage, you will still be able to catch up with the video clips later. The footage they record can be extremely useful if you need to report a crime upon your return and it can also be handed over to the police for further investigation.
Check Your Security Devices Before You Leave
You could have a security system set up to rival Fort Knox, but if your motion detectors or cameras are out of batteries, they may as well not be there at all. Plan to have a quick once over of all of your security systems and devices a few days before you plan to head off, giving you enough time to replace batteries or repair broken parts for when they will be needed.
Protect Your Home Against Floods
We’ve talked a lot about the threat from external influences such as thieves and vandals, but it is important to remember that some household disasters occur inside the home itself.
Sometimes things just go wrong. This could happen while you are at home or just as likely while you are away. To help prevent damage from burst mains, leaks, and flooding, shut off the water main before you go.
If you still want your gardener to hose the lawn or your automated sprinkler system to come on, you should consider shutting off the water supply to toilets, dishwashers, and washing machines at the very least.
Protect Your Home Against Storm Damage
These natural occurrences can happen whether you are at home or not. If you live in a part of the country that is likely to suffer from severe storms, you should consider how best to protect your home while you are away, without advertising that it is empty.
While you may not wish to board up your windows in case of hurricane-force winds, you should make sure that any loose garden equipment, pool equipment, or anything else that could fly around and cause damage is safely locked away out of sight and mind. You should also clear your storm drains and ensure that your gutters are clear of debris to ensure rainwater can freely run away.
Bottom Line: Pullover the pool cover, cover up the furniture, and give your neighbor your contact details so they can call if your home is hit by a storm.
Protect Against Fire in the Home
Incidences of fire can happen even when a home is unattended, and it is therefore super important that you test your smoke alarms before you go, and ensure that they are replaced every 10 years at the latest.
To help reduce the risk of electrical fires while your home is vacant, switch off and unplug any unnecessary electrical items, including TVs, radios, coffee makers, fans, and lamps. You should also close internal doors where possible to help slow the spread of smoke and fire should the worst happen.
Check Your Household Insurance Policy
Before you flee for your month of fun and frolics, check that your home insurance is valid and in date. Should something happen while you are away, you will want to be able to call on your insurers to help rectify the problem on your return.
Most insurance providers don’t need to be told if you are simply going on a short vacation, but if you are leaving your home unattended for more than 30 days, you should let them know as it may affect the terms of your policy.
Hire a House Sitter
Finally, if you are really concerned about leaving your house empty while you are away, consider hiring a house sitter.
This might just be a trusted friend or family member, or you could reach out to a company or agency that offers professional house sitting services. While there, your sitter can take care of regular domestic duties, including gardening, feeding your pets, watering plants, and taking the trash out, as well as keeping your house fully occupied to deter thieves.
Hot Tip: If you do choose to pay for the services of a professional house sitter, ensure that you only use an agency that fully vets anyone it uses before trusting them to live in your house for a week.
In order to enjoy every second of your well-earned vacation, ensure that you have enough systems in place to take care of your home while you are away from it. Whether you simply ask your neighbor to pop in and pick up your mail, or go all out and install a security system, a few simple precautions before you leave will allow you to come back to find your home exactly as you left it.