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Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

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

March 7, 2011 • By

safeguarding

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: https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/landingView.do
safeguarding

Photo Credit: news.cnet.com

  • 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.

Photo Credit: alohapropertyservices.com

  • 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.

Photo Credit: geoffreylsmith.com

  • 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.

Photo Credit: cleaningservicesorlando.biz

  • 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.

Photo Credit: savingcheap.com

  • 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.

Photo Credit: vidhinidhi.wordpress.com

  • 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.

If you have never traveled before or want to learn tips on how to see the world for as little as possible, subscribe to her RSS Feed for inspiration, reviews and trip reports that will help you to sample the world by traveling at a fraction of the price!

 

 


Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Newbie’s No-Fuss Guide to Maneuvering Your Way Through The Airport

July 4, 2010 • By
Airport

Photo credit: www.visitingdc.com

Since the tragedy of 9/11, there have been numerous safeguards put into place by the US government.  Some would argue, many of them are unnecessary and only serve to create longer lines than greater security.  Whatever your position on the matter, suffice it to say that these rules are here to stay and will only become more intrusive as time goes on.  So, how do you as a new traveler deal with so many unknown variables?  First, I would recommend that you do not panic.  My advice would be to travel smart.  If you plan to do any consistent traveling, you should get into the habit of packing light.  Only bring what you know you are going to absolutely need which will bring you untold freedom as you begin to understand how heavy luggage becomes an albatross all too quickly.

Once you arrive at the terminal (You will see the signs as you are transported there) where your airline is located, you may see a counter outside of the airport terminal.  This is where you can check in your bags (if you have any) and where they will weigh them to make sure that you are not over the standard 50 pound limit.  Any overages will result in additional fees beyond their standard checked bag charges.  Be sure to use TSA approved locks on checked bags, if you use the lock and key or combination locks, be aware that they will saw them off in order to inspect them.  All inspected bags will have a TSA sticker on it indicating that they were randomly chosen for that honor.  One caveat about checked luggage.  Do not put anything that is of particular value to you in a checked bag! I can’t stress that enough.  Do not check your ipod, camera, laptop, expensive jewelry (which should be left at home anyway) or the like.  There is a very good chance that you will never see them again.

If you do not see an outside counter, you will need to go inside the terminal to check in (if you have not already done so on the airline’s website).  Most airlines make it easier to check in and print out your boarding passes if you do not have checked luggage.  Just walk over to your airline’s nearest free standing kiosk and input your info.  Your boarding passes will print out on the spot.  If you do have checked bags, you will need to stand in line and the counter agent will take your checked bags and print out a boarding pass for you.  Remember from that point on to have a piece of ID and your boarding pass in hand until you reach the gate where your flight leaves from.   The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents will need to review, scan and/or mark it as you go through the next step for you which is security.

Airport

Photo credit: www.silentgardens.com

Make sure that everything that you are carrying through the security checkpoint that is run by TSA is legal.  At this point, you should be prepared to remove your shoes as soon as you get to the point where you can get one of the bins that you place on the conveyor belt that leads to the x-ray machine.  Place your shoes, jewelry, gloves, handbags, coats, belts, coins, hats, sunglasses and backpack in the gray bins.  Do not overcrowd the bins; use as many as you need.  If you are carrying a laptop, place that in a separate bin.  Ditto for any medical aids like a C-pap machine, which you should take all of its components apart and place in a single bin.  Once you have placed your items on the belt and they are going through x-ray, you will have to walk through their metal detector when prompted.  Be sure to keep that boarding pass and ID in hand!

Photo credit: www.practicalhacks.com

Once you are cleared, proceed to the area where your bins have now exited.   Do not be alarmed if security pulls you or your bin(s) aside and do another thorough check.  If a beep goes off as you walk through the x-ray, you may have forgotten a coin or something else in your pocket.  The agent will use a wand detector to figure out where the beep emanated from and once it is found you simply walk though again.   It is standard procedure and happens to almost everyone at some point, so don’t get flustered and always be polite.

Photo courtesy: www. slipperybrick.com

Do not bring any weapons (sounds obvious, huh?) because you will be surprised at how many people have done just that.  Do not bring any liquids (here are exceptions) that are over 3.4 ounces in volume which must be placed in a zip lock bag and placed in a separate bin from your carry-on.   This includes your faithful water bottle.  This will be confiscated.

Photo credit: www.sciencedaily.com

Once you have made it past security, you will need to locate your gate area.  This info should be located on your boarding pass right next to your seat number.  The airport signage will guide you were to go to get to your gate.  Sometimes, the terminal that you need is in an entirely different building (concourse) so an airport will provide several means of getting there.  They may have people movers that resemble escalators that move forward, not up or down.  They may have air-trains to get you from point a to b.  They may have subway type trains (or automated people movers) to get you from one concourse to the next.  The one at Hartsfield Jackson is one of the best, in my opinion.

Photo credit: www.bombadier.com

Once you have reached your designated concourse, you will need to review the overhead signs to locate which direction your gate will be.  Be sure to allow yourself some time to get there and get settled because the seats fill quickly especially if the flight is full.  If you are there early enough, look around, there are plenty of places to eat, get a beverage or take a bathroom break.  Remember to always keep your eyes on your carry-on.  You will hear plenty of warnings about keeping your luggage with you at all times over the intercom system. You will find the boarding times on your boarding pass.  Unless the plane is late showing up at the gate, the airlines attempt to hold to that schedule.  Take note of which zone you have been assigned.  Typically, the airlines will allow passengers with children under the age of two, infirmed passengers or first class passengers to board first.  Next, the people in zone 1, etc. will be called to board.

Photo credit: www.nikibrown.com

As you go through the gate to board, have your boarding pass (not ID) ready to hand to the attendant.  Once you have given them the pass and they give you your receipt proceed to the airplane.  If your luggage is deemed to be too large to fit in the overhead bins, they may ask you to leave it at the doorway and an attendant will make sure that it is placed with the rest of the checked luggage.  Usually, they will not charge you for this service.  However, given their propensity to charge for fees at will (See Spirit Airlines new fee for CARRY-ON luggage) don’t be surprised if that changes.

Once you have located your assigned seat, place your carry-on in the bin overhead or wherever there is a space for it.  Just remember where you put it.  If you have a handbag, you may place that under the seat ahead of you.  Please be aware that if you order refreshments after the plane takes off, you will have to pay for it.  Free food is practically non-existent these days unless you count pretzels as food.  Be sure to visit one of the airport restaurants before hand  or eat before you leave home.  Now that you have taken your seat and listened to the flight attendants’ emergency instructions, sit back and enjoy the ride to your destination.  Your flight attendant will instruct you where to pick up any checked luggage once you arrive there.  Happy Travels!

Photo credit: www.kayak.com