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
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.
*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.
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.)
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.
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.)
#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”!
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!