Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s Guide to Safeguarding Your Home While You’re On Vacation

March 7, 2011 • By


Congrats!  After making the decision to take your dream vacation, you’ve scrimped and saved and put off short term gratification in order to make that dream come true.  But before you step outside that door, have you thought about safe proofing your home while you’re gone?

There are certain steps you should take to make sure that your home is safe and sound when you return home.  In no particular order:

  • Be sure that you lock all doors and windows.  Yes, it seems obvious, but many people fail to do just that.  Before you leave, go around the house and make sure that all doors are locked; that means any entry way that can give someone a way to enter your home.  You should actually turn the knob to confirm that it’s locked.  Lock all of the windows too, including the ones on upper floors.  You will be surprised at how thieves have been able to enter homes through windows on the upper level.  How?  Oftentimes, people leave their ladders outside their home and the criminals will use it while thanking you for making their job easier.  So, be sure to take your ladders or anything else the crook can get his/her hands on to gain entry to your home.
  • Do make sure that someone retrieves your mail while you are gone.  If you recruit a trusted neighbor or trusted family member to gather your parcels and mail while you’re on vacation, ask them to do it under cover of night.  While they are at it, have them remove anything that may have been delivered to your front porch as well as newspapers.  If possible have the newspaper service interrupted until you get back.   If someone is watching your home, it won’t be difficult to surmise that you’re not there when someone walks up to your mailbox, removes the mail and drives off.  Personally, I go online and arrange for my local post office to stop delivery the day that I leave and to restart delivery the day I return:

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  • Buy a programmable light timer which will switch your overhead lights and lamps off and on periodically throughout the day.  They are pretty easy to use and can be timed to correspond with your usual schedule.  There is a version that you can use with appliances like televisions that will fool the budding criminal into thinking you are sitting right in front of your set.
  • If you are pretty diligent about lawncare, be sure to hire someone to cut your grass, etc.  Neglect screams that no one is home, so be sure to keep everything maintained as if you were at home.  I like to garden, so I make sure that I water all of my plants (indoor ones too) before I leave.  There’s nothing sadder than coming home to a yard full of dead flowers.

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  • One thing that baffles me is when people announce on their answering machine that they are on vacation or their email response announces that they are away on vacation.  You may as well wear a sign that says ROB ME!  There is no good reason to inform anyone regarding your plans unless it’s your security company (assuming that you have a monitoring service).   With few exceptions, keep that information under wraps and give only to those on a need to know basis.
  • As a precaution, pull out that video camera that you have packed in your luggage and walk through every room indicating any valuable items and be sure to get a great close up of said items.  Take your SD card or tape and store it in a safe place like a metal fireproof box where you keep your important papers.

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  • Reduce your electric bill by unplugging items that will not be in use while you are gone.  Of course, keep those lamps/lights and your tv and radio on standby for the timer, but unplug that computer or anything else that’s unnecessary.  For anything that does make the cut, be sure to protect them by plugging them into surge protectors in the event a nasty thunderstorm tries to claim them.
  • This has less to do with security than just peace of mind.  I try to clean the house thoroughly before I leave.  Why?  Because after a long trip away, I hate coming back to a filthy house.  It’s a psychological thing.

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  • Be sure to make sure that your pets are taken care of.  Arrange for boarding or you can kill two birds with one stone (in a manner of speaking) by having someone to housesit and take care of your pets.  This addresses the security issue and pet care.  A definite win-win providing that you really trust this person.  Otherwise, it could be your worse nightmare if you come home to a wrecked semblance of your former home and all of your neighbors now hate you.
  • Stop buying groceries up to a week before you leave, especially perishables.  It would be a shame to come back to a fridge full of spoiled food.  Remember to take any leftover trash outside at the very least so that your nose won’t be greeted by decayed food remnants when you get home.

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  • Reduce your heating bill by adjusting your thermostat to lower temps or conversely, your cooling bill by raising the thermostat depending on what time of the year it is when you take your trip.
  • I like to pack the car with our luggage the night before when it’s nice and dark.  When we get in the car to leave the next day, no one is the wiser about what our plans are.

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  • Invest in motion controlled outdoor lighting.  It’s been my experience that thieves scatter like roaches when the spotlight is on them.  Make it difficult for them to violate your property by installing motion detectors.  It will be a sure tip-off for any trusted neighbor who is aware of your absence.
  • If you are inclined to keep a spare set of keys hidden on your property, try to find the most inconspicuous place to do so.  It’s surprising how many people still put them underneath a welcome mat or some out of place rock close by the steps.  At least make the thief break a sweat before the cops come to take them away.

What things do you typically do before setting sail on your vacation?

Renee King is an Atlanta, GA based administrative assistant by day who spends most of her waking hours plotting the next excursion to anyplace outside of her zip code.  She wants to teach those who think that traveling is some unobtainable dalliance for the rich and famous or the well connected, that it is not true.

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