Don't let the anticipation of a well-deserved vacation blind you to the risks of leaving your home unprotected. Go ahead and plan your beach, camping or city shopping holiday, but take precautions before you leave. We subscribe to the "better safe than sorry" philosophy, so review your home safety checklist before you head out. A little extra vigilance will help keep your property and belongings safer while you're gone -- and will keep you from obsessing about security once you're on the road to fun and adventure.
Consider Hiring a House-or Pet-Sitter
The best way to make sure your house is safe while you're gone is to have someone you trust still living in it. You may be lucky enough to have a tidy and conscientious relative who'll move in temporarily and water the plants, feed the pets and pick up the newspapers. If not, there are services you can use for house-sitting and pet-sitting while you're away. This can be a pricy option, but it's a solution that touches all the bases.
Hold Your Mail
When you're leaving for more than a couple of days, call your local post office to stop mail delivery until you get back. They can hold mail from three to 30 days. In many locations, you can even submit a stop mail request online. Just enter your address and stop and start dates. This is a free feature courtesy of your friendly United States Postal Service.
Stop Newspaper Delivery
A pile of yellowing newspapers on the doorstep is a movie cliché for a home that's unoccupied. Stopping the newspaper when you leave town for a while is an easy detail to forget and one that will make you a sure target. If you're still reading newsprint, make sure you stop service when you leave on vacation.
Keep Eyes on Your Property
Even if you stop newspaper delivery and mail service, there are still some gotchas that can make it obvious that you're not around. How about those fliers that peddlers leave on your doorknob, or those periodic yellow page book deliveries? Because you can't plan for every contingency, have someone in the area check your house periodically. Whether it's a neighbor or relative, nothing beats having a person check the premises every day or two while you're gone. Hey, while they're there, they can water the petunias.
Make Your Home Look Lived In
An occupied home looks lived in. Lights go on and off, and cars come and go. When you're away, everything stops. To help create the illusion that the residence is still occupied, invest in timers that turn on the interior lights for a few hours every evening. If you can get a neighbor to take out your garbage and put the cans back after the garbage pickup, it's another way to send the message that everything is proceeding normally at your house.
Keep the Landscape Trimmed
If you're a diligent homeowner who mows his lawn every week, and things start to look overgrown and neglected, it's easy to come to the conclusion that you're not around. If you plan on being away for an extended period of time, hire someone to take care of the landscaping chores in your absence.
This seems so obvious, but hey, it's easy to forget. If you keep a window unlocked to allow the cat easy access, or never bother to turn the deadbolt on the kitchen door, now's the time to clean up your act. Locking your home makes it less attractive to opportunistic burglars. If you don't make it easy, there's a better chance that when you get home, your house will be in the same condition as when you left it.
Don't Project Your Moves
Show some caution when you talk about your trip. Your blog isn't the best place to announce that you'll be away from home for a month. Being aware of who's around when you discuss your trip in restaurants and even at work isn't a bad idea either. Make sure that your children are discreet, too. No one is saying that you should be suspicious of everyone you meet, but even a chance remark has the potential to lead to unintended and unfortunate consequences. The less information you put out there, the less likely it is to reach the wrong ears and eyes.
Pull the Plug on Electronics
Disconnecting the power to some of your electronics, like your desktop computer, coffee pot and television can save you money while you're gone and eliminate the worry that you've accidentally left them on by mistake. Turning off your garage door is also an effective way to keep thieves from opening it with a universal remote. Oh, and don't leave a portable GPS in your car when you use long-term parking at the airport. It'll alert thieves that you're not home and give them a convenient map to your house.
Install Added Security Features
Installing a home security system or even just exterior lights that run on timers is a good way to ramp up security around the old homestead and make your house safer whether you're around or not. One of the nice things about these features is that they're working when you're awake, asleep, on vacation or hosting an outdoor barbecue. They fade into the background as far as you're concerned, but still make your property less attractive to opportunistic thieves.
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- Costello, Caroline. "9 Tips to Keep your Home Safe While on Vacation." MSNBC. 10/13/09. 6/21/10.http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33004716/ns/travel-tips/
- Dawson, Michael. "Going on Vacation?" Move.com. Undated. 6/22/10.http://www.move.com/home-garden/home-maintenance/home-safety-security/tips-to-keep-your-home-safe-when-youre-away.aspx
- Eisenberg, Paul. "How to Keep Your House Safe While You're Away." Fox News. 5/13/09. 6/21/10.http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,519954,00.html
- FOH. "Vacation Travel Safety." Undated. 6/21/10.http://www.foh.dhhs.gov/NYCU/vacation.asp
- Irish, Lisa. "Keep Your Home Safe While on Vacation." 5/26/10. 6/21/10http://www.dcourier.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=81506
- TampaBay.com "Keep Your Home Safe While You're on Vacation." 6/8/10. 6/21/10.http://www.tampabay.com/features/homeandgarden/keep-your-home-safe-while-youre-on-vacation/1100639
- Tempe.gov. "Home Security." Undated, 6/20/10.http://www.tempe.gov/cpu/homesec.htm
- USPS. "Hold Mail Service." Undated. 6/20/10.https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/landingView.do