How to Keep Your Home Safe While You are on Vacation
No one wants to worry about their home while on vacation. Here are some tips to help keep your house safe from burglars while you are enjoying your holiday.
It's only natural to want to share your vacation plans with others. But sharing them on social media is a bad idea. Once it's out there, you have no control over where the information ends up. Your plans could end up in the hands of thieves. And they'll know that they have lots of time to do a thorough job of clearing your home of all your valuables. Likewise, sharing photos and updates on social media isn't a good idea either. I'll admit, I was guilty of this. It's hard to not share photos and exciting stories about the fun things you're experiencing. But wait until you get home to share your vacation online.
Lock it Up
Lock up valuables and documents in an immobile safe, bank safety deposit box or leave them with a trusted friend or family member. For Example:
Tablets and Laptops
Important documents (Social Security Cards, birth certificates, spare credit cards, password lists, etc.)
Keys to your home, office, car, etc.
Expensive jewelry and electronic devices
Firearms and ammunition
A portable, fireproof safe is fine for protecting valuables from fire. But it won't stop a thief from walking off with it. If you use portable safes, leave them with a friend/family member while you're away.
Make Your Home Look Occupied
Put your mail and newspaper on hold or ask someone to pick them up for you. If you're gone for more than a week, have someone mow your lawn in the summer. (If it's winter, ask someone to shovel your driveway after a snowfall and leave footprints going to and from your door.) Don't leave your garbage bins by the road. Ask someone to put them out and bring them in or skip it altogether.
Put a few indoor lights (in various rooms) on timers. Don't use just one light; it's a dead giveaway that you're not home. And don't have the lights all go on and off at the same time. Try to set them up so they switch on and off at the same times that you would switch them on/off when you are home.
Put outdoor lights on timers, too. Or hook them up with light sensors so they'll go on at dusk and off at dawn.
Put your radio or TV on a timer so that there is noise in your home now and then. If you have a home phone, turn off the ringer so that thieves won't hear your phone ring, and ring, and ring...
A silent air conditioner on a hot day is a good indicator that no one is home. Leave it on, but set it at a high temperature so that you won't spend too much extra on electricity.
Whether or not to close the blinds/drapes has always been a topic of debate. On one hand, if they are all closed, it gives the appearance of being deserted. On the other hand, leaving them open allows burglars to look into your home to see if there's anything worth stealing. One idea is to leave them closed part way. Or you could close the living room/family room curtains and leave the rest fully or partially open. Think about what you normally do with your blinds/drapes and plan accordingly. Remember, though, if you choose to leave them open, be sure to move any valuable items out of sight. If you have someone coming over to water your plants, etc., they could also open/close your blinds.
Related Content: "Avoiding a Burglary: Secrets Your Burglar Doesn't Want You to Know"
Ask Neighbors for Help
Some thieves like to use a ruse where they show up at a house in a work van acting like they're supposed to be there. What they're actually doing is stealing your stuff. Let trusted neighbors know that you will be out of town and ask them to keep an eye on your house and report any suspicious activity. And tell them that you will not be having any work done on the house while you're away.
Notify Your Security Company
If you have a security system, notify the company that you will be away. Make sure you set the alarm properly before leaving.
Notify the Police
Some local police departments will provide extra patrols by your home if you notify them that you will be out of town. Check with yours.
Do You Rent?
Notify your apartment manager or landlord that you will be away and ask them to keep an eye on your apartment/home. Some landlords want you to let them know if you'll be gone for more than a couple days. Some even put it in the lease. If you plan to have someone house sit or check in on your apartment, you may want to let your landlord know that, as well.
Garage and Cars
This is another subject that causes debates. Some say leaving a car outside gives the impression that someone is home. If you do leave a car in the driveway, take out any valuables and the garage door opener. Make sure the car is locked up.
Others say that it's safer to put your cars in the garage with the windows closed and the doors locked. This protects your cars and also takes up space so thieves can't park a van in your garage where they can remain unseen by neighbors while they clear out your home.
Leave your car keys with a friend or hide them carefully so, if your home does get invaded, the thieves won't have easy access to your cars.
Unplug the power to your automatic garage door opener to keep thieves from opening it with a universal remote. Many garage door openers come with a manual release which consists of a rope with a handle on the end. Some burglars are adept at catching the handle with a coat hanger and disengaging it so they can open the door manually. If you have one of those, secure the handle up and out of site so the burglars won't be able to see it. Lock your garage doors (most doors come with a manual locking device). Securely lock all exterior garage doors and windows.
Lock the House
Lock all exterior doors and windows. Check patio doors, balcony doors and skylights as well. Lock or secure all pet doors.
Don't Hide Keys Outside
Don't leave spare keys outside the house. Every thief knows the trick of keeping a spare key under the welcome mat, in a fake rock, etc. If you insist on hiding keys outside of the house, bring them in and hide them in a safe place or leave them with a friend while you are on vacation.
Catching a Ride?
If you take a taxi or shuttle to the airport, don't discuss your travel plans in front of the driver. To be extra cautious, have the driver pick you up at a friend's house or have a friend drive you.