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Protect Your Home While on Vacation


After you have packed your bags and planned your itinerary, you still need to consider how to best protect your home while on vacation. Of course you never leave expecting that something bad will happen, but it is certainly always best to be prepared, just in case. The basic idea or theme, no matter what tips or advice you take on how to best protect your home while it is unattended, is that you should do everything you can in order to make it look like there are still people and signs of activity in the home.

Protect Your Home While on Vacation: Basic Tips

If it looks like there are still people at home, you are much less likely to be robbed. Do everything you can to make it look like there is activity both inside and outside the house. This would be an excellent time to have some lawn or exterior work done. You may need to make arrangements with whoever is doing the work, either paying them a deposit ahead of time, or arranging to pay the balance at a later date. Make sure they mail the invoice (do not take the chance that they will tape it to the door or put it somewhere that is a dead giveaway no one is home). Even a neighborhood teenager could be a good choice for having some basic work done, like mowing or trimming hedges.

You could also consider having some lights or motion sensors put in. A battery operated push light in the window can be a great idea. Better yet, connect some outside and inside lights to motion sensors. This way, if anyone gets too close, the lights will come on automatically.

Electronic timers may also be helpful. The danger here is that if someone was really intent on robbing you, they will likely be watching the house for a period of time. If they notice that the lights go on at exactly 7:05pm and off at exactly 10:35pm each night, it would not take a genius to figure out they are on a timer. The way to make timers work is to use a varied schedule. If you can find timers which are controlled by an app on your cell phone, that would be the best option. Then, you can vary the times, making it look more like people are still in the home.

Consider adding something to make noise. This mimics actual conversations. Take an mp3 recording or even a good quality tape of cd player. Just make a loop of a long spoken track. Place the player near the door. This way, anyone who comes near the house will think that there are people talking.

Keeping Watch

An easy, low tech way to make sure that your place is covered is by asking a trusted friend, neighbor or family member. Have them go over to your home several times a week just to check on everything. The best thing about this is that you might not need to pay them! Of course, an offer of a free lunch or dinner would be a nice gesture upon your return. You could also have them collect mail and take the trash cans out and/or bring them back in (a next door neighbor works the best for this, since they are already going to be doing these things for their own house). Of course, having the mail stopped and held by the local post office is also an option, although a smart robber who is watching will notice that the mail is not being delivered. This is also a tell-tale sign that someone is out of town.

In some cases, the local police department is able to help with a few of these tasks. This is not a replacement for a trusted friend or neighbor. However, having a police officer do a ‘vacation check’ a few times while you are away is still an additional level of security.

Security System

Speaking of security, you also have the option of installing a security system. There is no better way to secure your home while you are away on vacation than a home alarm system. With the technology available, at minimum you will be able to have a system with a control panel, door and window sensors, motion sensors, glass break sensors and often times these features can be monitored using your cell phone. Visit our Best Home Alarm System page to review the leading home alarm companies.

Additional Precautions

  • Prevent damage from power surges: It would really be bad if you come home and find many of your valuable electronic appliances and items damaged or destroyed due to a power surge. Consider unplugging the computer, TV, stereo and other electronics. Conversely, you could connect such items to a good surge protector. Just make sure that it is something which has a good rating and can withstand a large load of power.
  • Control your social status: Why broadcast to the whole world that you are not going to be home? Many people cannot seem to wait to let everyone on Facebook or Twitter know that they are about to leave. An even worst move is to upload photos while on vacation. Sure, many of these people are your friends, but your friends are not the only ones who see these status updates.
  • Alert your alarm company: If you do happen to have a security system, notify the company that you will be away. This is especially needed if you are going on an extended trip. Of course, it goes almost without saying to make sure that the alarm is set properly before you leave!
  • Protect your pipes: Especially if you live in an area where cold weather is a possibility, make sure that your pipes are protected. In vulnerable areas like the attic, basement and crawl spaces, make sure the pipes are well insulated. In such a situation, it is also very important to have a trusted friend, family member or neighbor stop by every so often just to turn on faucets to make extra sure that the pipes do not freeze.
  • Turn up or down the thermostat: You do not want to turn the thermostat off completely. In the winter, about 55 degrees seems to be the cut off point and 80 degrees is a good setting during the summer.
  • Water heater: Almost no one remembers to turn down the temperature on their water heater. This can be an excellent way to save electricity as well.
  • Snow removal: Arrange for snow removal. Making sure that this is done in a reasonable amount of time after a storm is essential. Many states have laws which require snow to be removed from their sideways and walkways within a certain time after the storm has ended. Besides, allowing it to pile up is another dead giveaway that no one is home.
  • Lock everything: This seems obvious, but every once in a while a robber gets into a house just because something was left open or unlocked!
  • Secure valuables: Never leave anything of value out in plain sight. If you have not already done so, now may be a good time to consider placing any jewelry, extra cash or other valuables in a safe deposit box or even a secure hidden safe within the house. Nothing should ever be visible from any window.
  • Lock and secure the garage: Secure the door and any other entrances to the garage. Do this even if there is no way to enter the house from the garage (if there is an entrance to the house, then this step is even more important). There have been numerous robberies where the thieves simply grabbed what they could from the garage and then took off.
  • Outside spare keys: Do not leave any spare keys outside the house. All burglars know the trick of keeping a spare key under the welcome mat. Actually, if you are going away for more than a day or two, you would be well served to pick up any key that you have hidden in an outside “safe” spot. Consider leaving a spare key with the same trusted friend, neighbor or family member (possibly all three) who is going to be regularly checking on things.

Other Ideas

Studies have also shown over and over again that if it takes a burglar more than 5 minutes to break into a home, they will simply stop and go elsewhere (if it LOOKS like it will be difficult to break in, they likely will not even try). Having said that, if your home is still targeted, you want to try and make it as difficult as possible to actually get in. One of the best pieces of advice is to use strong doors. They should be at least 1 ¾ inches thick and made from metal. If metal is not an option or not available, then some type of strong hardwood would be acceptable. Just remember that even the best lock is worthless if a strong burglar can simply kick in your door!

While it is not usually a good idea to turn off the main water supply to your house, consider certain areas on a case by case basis. If you know there is a leaky toilet or faucet, turn off the water to those areas. Another area to watch is the dishwasher.

The Final Word Is…Prepare For the Worst:

No matter what you do or precautions you take, it is still possible that something could happen while you are away. If this happens, it will probably not be a pleasant experience, but it hurts less if you are prepared ahead of time. You may to go ahead and check your insurance policy and claim procedures before leaving. Create a home inventory and take lots of good quality pictures of everything in your house. This may take some time, but afterwards it is just a matter of keeping everything updated.

Taking all of the precautions listed in this article will ensure that you have much less chance of a robbery or something bad happening while you are away. If the worst occurs, you will also be better prepared to deal with the situation.