How to Keep Your Home Safe on Vacation, via

How to Keep Your Home Safe on Vacation

Vacation is meant to help you relax and recharge, to be carefree for just a few days so you can shed the stress of life back home. Trouble is, it’s hard to do that if “back home” is constantly on your mind. It’s natural to worry about the security of your castle, and wonder how to keep it safe on vacation. We’ve learned a few things that helped put our mind at ease while we’re traveling. In the hope that they will help you rest and relax on vacation too, here are our…

Five Tips to Keep Your Home Safe while You are on Vacation

Before we get going, a word on home security. These tips are meant to help make your home NOT look like a target for thieves. We didn’t include home security systems, but it is something we use and highly recommend. Ours will alert us and the police if there’s a break in, but there is not a lot we can do if we are several states – or countries – away. We believe strongly that prevention is the best medicine, and that includes home break-ins when we’re not there. The only thing better than having a home security system is having one that never needs to be used. Not because you never leave home, but because the thieves don’t know you left!

#1: Don’t Advertise that You’re Not Home

How to Keep Your Home Safe on Vacation: Tip 1 - Don't advertise that you're not home! Via

We hear this advice a lot, but we still see friends and neighbors posting their vacation plans and travel pictures all over social media. Our friend Joe*, who lives just down the street, spent Easter in Mexico, with the whole family AND the family that lives behind them. They left on Good Friday for “a few days of fun.” They had margaritas on the beach and went deep sea fishing. They came back on Wednesday. Thankfully, their home was still intact because they do have neighbors who see that, shake their heads, and peep out the window occasionally to make sure everything’s okay. Don’t be like Joe. Hold onto all of those fun photos and wild stories until you get back.

One other thing you shouldn’t do is advertise an empty house with your luggage tags. When you put your home address on those luggage tags, you’re letting everyone know where there’s an empty home. That’s an open invitation for a bad guy to burgle it while you’re gone. The risk may be low, but it’s not zero.

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*Names & photos changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty, as well.

#2: Let the Police & Trusted Neighbors Know

In one sense, our friend Joe did the right thing: He let a neighbor know he was going out of town. Trouble is, he let all his neighbors know, including those he doesn’t know well. Do let one or two trusted friends and neighbors know your travel plans, and ask them to keep an eye on your home. If you have an alarm system, you can assign a friend or family member to act on your behalf while you’re away. Make sure the alarm company and police department have their name and contact information, also.

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Speaking of “The Po-Po,” check with your police department to see if they have a vacation home check program. Officers will drive by periodically and check for strange cars or anything suspicious, and call you if anything is wrong. Be sure to let them know if someone will be coming by – including lawn or pool people, housecleaners, or your neighborhood pet walkers – so they don’t mistake them for burglers. Experience has also taught us to alert them if you get home early…so they don’t mistake YOU for a burgler!

#3: Stop (almost) All That Stuff!

DO go to the post office and schedule a mail hold. In the U.S., you can schedule a mail hold for 3 to 30 days. You should schedule your mail hold at least 24 hours, or up to a month, in advance. Then the mail carrier can deliver your accumulated mail, or you can pick it up at the Post Office.

If you’ll be gone for more than a month, you should consider a temporary Change of Address, or a private Post Office Box service. Many will email a scan of your incoming mail, and you can tell them which ones to forward, and which ones to toss. (For a fee, of course.)

#Travel140: Travel Tips via @TravelLatte

DO call the newspaper (if you still subscribe to one), and have them hold your delivery as well. Nothing says “Nobody’s Home” like a pile of daily newspapers on the porch.

DON’T (necessarily) stop your water service. In some areas, especially in the winter, it’s not a bad way to prevent damage from a frozen or burst pipe while you’re away. But, if you have sprinklers that run on a schedule, stopping that schedule could be a signal to bad guys that you’re not home. Plus, your lawn probably needs the water.

#4: Keep Them Guessing

The best thing you can do is to keep bad guys guessing. Home automation is your very best friend for this job. If your alarm company offers it, look into bundled deals that might help you save money. Some systems integrate your alarm with wi-fi-controlled door locks and cameras for added security. If your alarm company doesn’t offer this, there are a variety of “smart home” products on the market now, including the popular Amazon Alexa and Echo. You can can get started for as little as $50.

It’s very convenient to be able to control your lights and electronics from anywhere in the world, and you can do this in several ways. The most basic are analog timers that you can plug a lamp or appliance into. They are cheap and reliable, but not very flexible. A step up are individual electronic versions that are Wi-Fi enabled. These let you control a lamp or appliance from your smartphone. Simple versions can be found on Amazon for as little as $20 or less.

How to Keep Your Home Safe on Vacation: Make it look like someone is home even if nobody is. Via

How to Keep Your Home Safe on Vacation: Make it look like someone is home even if nobody is. (Photo: The Landscape Lighting Design Book,

The idea is to make it seem like someone is home, so don’t limit it to one light in one room. Consider a system such as Philips Hue, which can be configured to control lights and appliances throughout your home. These systems also let you schedule activities, so you can be sure lights come on when it gets dark, even when you’re not home. Try scheduling some other things: Have music playing upstairs. Have the TV on in the living room. For convenience, we’ve included some of our favorite and best reviewed options from Amazon below. (Remember, when you shop Amazon through TravelLatte, you pay the same but we may receive commissions to help run the site.)

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#5: Have Some Friends Over!

You’re on vacation, but you want it to look like you’re not. Why not have a party at your place while you’re gone? Granted, it might be a tad rude not to be there for your own party, but having someone stop by a few times while you’re gone is not a bad idea. It helps create the idea that someone is home, and gives your friends or family an opportunity to check things out. Of course, if you have pets and plants, you may do this already. Just be sure that any neighbors who are watching your place know that you’ll have someone stopping by. You don’t want to cause “an incident”!

Stay Safe

Those are the time tested-tips that we use every time we are gone for more than a day or two. They have served us well, but we will share one more tip that would have helped us avoid what we call the Balloon & the Po-Po Incident. If you have motion sensors as part of your home alarm system, DO NOT leave helium balloons behind when you go on vacation. Over time, they lose buoyancy and drift towards the floor. While most alarm systems have a “pet zone,” anything moving above that zone (say, a helium-filled balloon, for instance) can and will set off that motion detector. And then the police come. And your neighbors. While you’re on the beach in Florida. Thankfully, it was just a balloon bouquet and everyone had a good chuckle at our expense. Lesson learned.

If you’ve found these tips helpful, we’d love it if you would share them with your friends, on Social Media, or by using the Pinterest pin to the left. We would also love to hear your tips for keeping your home safe while you’re on vacation, and any stories you’d like to share. Just leave them in the comments! Thanks for reading, friends!

19 comments on “How to Keep Your Home Safe on Vacation

  1. There are many blogs that have been telling us the same thing in different ways but this one particular has been very helpful to us as we have been in search of such blogs. Keep up the great work

  2. These are such good tips! We automate lights and have our mail held. I still need to work on not posting on social media.

  3. Some great tips – reading this reminded me of the film Home Alone 😉 We live in an apartment that would be difficult for someone to break into and our mail gets shoved in through our door – but these were definitely more important when we lived in a house in the U.S. The social media one is something I don’t think a lot of people think much about – and it is often obvious from our social media accounts when we are traveling…

  4. These are some great tips! I never really thought about the luggage tags, am going to re-examine that now. When we first moved out to the suburbs from the city and had a house for the very first time I immediately called the NY Times. I was so excited to have a newspaper thrown on my driveway! A year later I cancelled it bc it was such an obvious sign when we were away. Haha. #theweeklypostcard

  5. I program one light with one of those timer plugs, but having a WiFi, housewide system would be MUCH better. I’ll have to look into it. I never thought about the luggage tags either. My aunt & uncle once had their house robbed when they went to DisneyWorld during the school year. Sadly, it was some of my cousin’s classmates who did it, suspecting that the family was on vacation since all the kids were absent from school.

  6. Great tips here! We have a great alarm system and do the automated lights in several rooms. I never really thought of the luggage tags and a bit more concerned about lost luggage. I’ll have to see if our cops have the vacation home check program too. Thanks!

  7. Great Tips and ones that we should all share to other travelers! Love the idea of having lights come on in different rooms and at different times. I use an automated program for my lights inside and out. A dead give away is if you leave your outside lights on 24/7. That lets all know your not home. Thanks for sharing 🙂 #feetdotravel

  8. I would never have thought of the luggage tag issue. We tend to write our phone number on luggage tags rather than our address but it never occurred to me that this might be a security issue. We have the best security system money can buy – a twenty something son who still lives at home. He definitely gives the place a ‘lived in’ look while my husband and I are off gallivanting around the globe.

  9. Very complete guide! I already do several of these but learned a lot! I am glad we can count with our neighbor to keep an eye when we are not around. We do the same thing for her (she trust us more than her kids). You can set up a mail hold online (it takes a couple of minutes). #TheWeeklyPostcard

  10. Great tips! I was just walking about this a few hours ago with my stepmom about things not to do in case someone is watching your house, for example blinds. I had a friend stay at my house once while I was gone and he asked if he could have some friends over, and when I returned home a bunch of my stuff in my bedroom was gone and no one noticed because the party was downstairs. I personally would not do that again. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  11. Some really useful tips on having a stress-free holiday and keeping your home safe and secure. It’s always a good idea to have someone look after your place and it can be a holiday for them too! We don’t have post boxes like you guys in the states generally but that would definitely advertise that someone is away! Thanks for sharing

  12. Great tips, we always use the timers for our lights and also use a TV simulator so it looks like you the TV is on in the evenings. Thanks for sharing #feetdotravel

  13. Excellent tips! I had no idea that there is a vacation home check program. I wonder if the Police department in my area offers it. So far I didn’t have any problems, but I always had my parents check my home while we were gone. It doesn’t hurt to take extra precautions. The idea with the Wi-Fi enabled electronics is great. I’ll look into it.

    • Thanks Anda! We really like the Wi-Fi controllers, even when we’re not traveling! The automation is nice, but also the ability to do things – like turning on lights – if you can’t get home when you expect. Plus, we like Hue because you can change the colors of the lights. Groovy baby, yeah! (That was seriously my best Austin Powers impression.)

  14. Great tips! I am lucky, I live in a doorman building so I don’t have to worry to much about being gone, but I have heard horror stories of people coming home to their homes being robbed. What a nightmare! #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • Hi Anisa – Having a doorman is really handy when you’re the traveling type! Thankfully, we’ve never been one of the horror stories, but we’ve heard them, too. Thanks for our comment!

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