Heading out of town for a week? Two weeks? No matter where you live nor how long you are gone, there are a few things you should do to prepare your home for your absence. With just a little time and preparation, you can ensure your house is safe and sound while you are basking on the beach or exploring hillside castles.
Here are ten tips to put your house into “vacation mode” the next time you travel. These tips might just prevent thieves from targeting your home, help keep your house safe and sound, and quite possibly save you money.
1. Stop Your Mail and Newspaper Deliveries
Nothing screams “nobody home here” than a pile of newspapers collecting in the driveway or mail spilling out of the mail box. The week before you leave on vacation, arrange with both your newspaper delivery service and the United States Postal Service to hold all deliveries until your return date.
If you have FedEx or UPS deliveries scheduled to arrive while you are away, either postpone the delivery, or ask a neighbor to pick up the delivery for you. And don’t let delivery notices remaining hanging on your front door.
2. Set Lights and TV on Timers
Set room lights on timers to go on – and then off – at key times throughout the day. Schedule a bedroom light to come on in the evening, and shut off at bedtime. Set a family room or kitchen light to turn on at dusk. Schedule a porch light to light up the front porch in the evening. Choose room lights that are typical of your family’s habits.
And don’t forget the TV! Put the TV on a timer to turn on during early evening hours. It will indicate that “somebody” is home and watching TV. Even if it’s just the fish!
3. Maintain Your Property
Raggedy tall lawns or snow-filled driveways are equivalent to advertising “owners not here!” Mow your lawn just before you leave town. If you will be away for longer than a typical grass trimming cycle, schedule a service to mow the lawn for you. If you are traveling in the winter and expect snow, schedule someone to shovel your driveway and walkway. For light dustings of snow, ask a neighbor or friend to drive up your driveway to leave behind car tracks.
If you have a pool, don’t forget to also schedule pool maintenance while you are away. Nobody wants to come home to a green pool! Been there, done that. It’s not pretty.
4. Show Signs That Someone Is Home
Even if you are not home, there are ways to give the appearance that you are. Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to put out the garbage cans on trash day, and then return them once the trash is picked up. Empty trash cans left in the street for days on end spells “I’m not home this week!” Have a neighbor or friend pick up unexpected deliveries or newspapers tossed in the driveway. Park a car in the driveway, then have a friend move it from time to time. This gives the appearance of someone coming and going from your house.
5. Tell A Trusted Neighbor
Tell a trusted neighbor the dates you will be away. Let him know how best to contact you and provide him with your travel itinerary. That way, if something unusual or suspicious is happening at home, they can take note and contact you, or the police if need be.
If you have a home security system service provider, also let them know you will be away. Provide them with the same information. And let them know who will have access to the house while you are out of town. Just in case they set off the alarm!
6. Hire A House Sitter
Hiring a house sitter to stop by and water the plants, pick up the mail, or take care of pets, is a sure fire way to let others know somebody is home. Because somebody is home! With just an hour a day, a handy house sitter can not only keep the plants and pets alive, he can ensure all is safe and sound while you are away.
If you hire a house sitter, as well as ask a neighbor or friend to keep an eye on your house, don’t forget to tell each one about the other. You don’t want the neighbor calling the police or interrupting your evening at the theatre because she thinks the cat sitter is a cat burgler!
7. Adjust Your Land Line Phone
A land line phone that continuously rings might be an indicator that nobody is home. Turn the ringer volume down and reset the answering machine or service to answer the phone after two rings.
8. Turn Down – Or Up – The Thermostat
Save a few bucks on your heating and cooling bills while you are away by turning down, or up, the thermostat. We set our thermostat to 80 in the summer, and 62 in the winter. It really does make a difference!
9. Unplug Non-Essential Electronics
Hey, you aren’t home, right? So no need to keep small appliances, TV’s that aren’t on timers, or computers plugged in and sucking energy while you are away. Unplug them and save yourself a few bucks. It might also save them from unexpected power surges while you are away.
10. Don’t Tell Social Media!
And most of all, don’t broadcast across social media that you are away. We all love to see those photos, but wait until you are back to post them. Unscrupulous thieves can pick off vacationing home owners by trolling through social media sites.
Happy – And Safe – Travels!
Your vacation date has finally arrived! Luggage packed and ready to go. Check. Travel itinerary in hand. Check. Home safe and secure. Check. Let’s hit the road!
But before you leave, there’s just one more thing you should do – complete a “whole house walk-through” right before you shut that door. Once everyone has left the house, double check that all windows and doors are locked, lights are set on timers, non-essential electronics are unplugged, thermostats are set accordingly and the house security system is armed. Now get going and have fun!
What do you do to keep your house safe and sound while you are traveling? Do you have tips to share with us? Let us know in the Comments section below.
Images from C.Biederman and UPS (Front Door).