13 Ways to protect your home while you’re on vacation
Summer vacation is upon us! In the rush to pack and get to your summer destination, it's easy to let some things slip through the cracks. Before you catch that beach-bound flight, here are the dos and don’ts of getting your home ready for time away
1. Invite a friend to keep an eye on your place
If you know someone who's willing to stay over while you're gone, your to-do list just got a lot shorter. And if you're smart, you'll make it more of an invitation than an ask! "I'd like to formally invite you relax at, and watch out for, my home during the first week of June." But if arranging for a house-sitter isn't an option, give a key to a trusted friend, neighbor or relative and ask them to drop by every couple of days to make sure everything looks good.
2. Don't advertise to everyone that you're out of town
"When you're having a great time, you want to share it with the world. However, I recommend not sharing your vacation news in real time on social media," radio show host Kim Komando advises on her website. Wait until you're home to share stories and pictures from your big trip. Otherwise, you might as well send an email blast directly to the burglars of the world saying, "Hey, now's a great time to hop on over to my home and just grab anything you need! I'll be (far) away for a while so there's really nothing I can do to stop you."
3. Let the right people know you'll be away
The Seattle Police Department includes this tip in their vacation prep guide: "Inform trusted neighbors on all four sides of when you'll be gone so that a complete look-out is maintained." If there's any suspicious activity, your neighbors can report it. If you're going to be gone longer than a week, consider also informing the local police and your neighborhood watch program.
4. Don't make any noticeable changes to your home
You might be tempted to make small changes, like closing the curtains, before you leave. IndependentTraveler.com cautions, "Noticeable changes could hint that you're not around anymore." Rather than closing curtains you usually always leave open, for example, move valuables so they aren't visible through windows.
5. Use light switch timers
Light switch timers are an easy solution to helping make your house look occupied. If a potential criminal is watching your home, they'll notice lights turning on and off intermittently instead of just looking at a dark house. Many will assume that means someone is home.
6. Make arrangements for handling your mail
A stuffed mailbox is another dead giveaway you're not home. Suspend mail delivery or have a neighbor pick it up for you. The same goes for your newspaper.
7. Don't forget to give your bank and credit card provider a heads up
Out of state (or country) charges are likely to be declined if you haven't let financial institutions know you'll be traveling, as banks tend to put a block on your card after seeing suspicious activity.
8. Leave the number of your insurance agent with a friend or family member
In the unfortunate event of something like a flood or mold issues, it helps to begin the restoration process as soon as possible. A friend or family member can get that started for you if they have your insurance agent's information.
9. Lower the temperature of your hot water heater
Turning your hot water heater off when you leave town could result in costly damage if you don't know what you’re doing. The easier cost-saving solution is to simply turn it down or set it to vacation mode.
10. Complete a home security checklist
Every tip to this point has been geared toward protecting your home, and for good reason. A 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that home burglaries peak during summer months. For that reason, it's a good idea to do a complete home security checklist before skipping town!
11. Unplug appliances that use power
Even when they aren't turned on, many appliances still use power, adding up to as much as 10 percent of your total electricity bill. Turn off and unplug your TV, coffee maker, DVD player and even your computer. Unplug any electronic chargers as well.
12. Think about investing in home security or automation.
Home alarm systems have real potential to deter thieves. Did you know that homes lacking security systems are 2.7 to 3.5 times more likely to be broken into? I know, it's scary, isn't it? If you've been thinking about getting a security system, go ahead and make it a part of your vacation prep. If a full-blown system isn't within your budget, no problem. You should be covered if you take the other precautions discussed here.
13. Don't forget the obvious stuff
I swear, this is where I tend to make the most mistakes before vacation. Don't you hate that moment when you just can't remember if you did this or that, and the only way to enjoy your trip would be to go back and check? Every time I say, "Next time, I'm going to make a checklist!" And then I don't. So, lock the door on the way out! Turn off your straightener! Arrange for someone to feed your cat. Take out the trash, clean out the fridge and knock out the laundry before you leave. You want to come home to a clean, welcoming home, not a mess.
Vacations should be stress-free, leaving you refreshed. Make sure you're set up for a smooth transition back to the norm by fully prepping your home before you head out of town.