Before leaving your home for a trip, a lot of preparation is necessary, including packing and booking your accommodations. However, being so focused on the trip itself can end up taking away from a preparation that many may forget: ensuring the safety of your home while you’re away.
In most cases, your home insurance should cover the theft of your belongings, but there may be a limit to covering your most valuable items. When in doubt, talk to your insurance agent about the personal property coverage on your home, and whether you should add dwelling coverage to the mix.
Whether you’re a snowbird who leaves your main residence to avoid those chilly winter months, or you only plan to take a short vacation to get away from it all, you should make yourself a checklist of tasks that can keep your home safe while you’re gone.
#1 – Make It Seem Like You Never Left
In most cases, burglars will make empty homes their target. Staging your home to appear occupied even when you’re gone can keep your home off their list. Many interior and exterior light sources have timers that you can set to go off at specific times.
Of course, you don’t need to keep the lights on the whole time you’re gone, but making it appear as if your routines are happening like usual can deter criminals from your home.
Be Mindful of Your Lawn and Vehicles
If the weather is nice enough for your lawn to be visible, you should ensure that the grass is freshly cut before you leave. By doing this, it will take more time before your lawn appears to be unmaintained, which can be a major tell that the home is unoccupied.
Don’t just focus on your grass, though. Trees and shrubs can both obscure burglars from being seen when breaking in but can also grant them access to second-story windows. When going on a particularly long trip, arrange for lawn care from professionals or friendly neighbors.
If you own multiple vehicles, consider leaving one behind in the driveway to keep up the appearance that your family is home. If this isn’t an option, ask a family member, friend, or someone else you trust to leave their car parked at your house.
Don’t Ignore Your Curtains and Blinds
Your curtains and blinds might be one of the last things you’ll consider checking before you leave, but keeping them looking normal is important. Seeing that a home that’s more closed off than normal can tell criminals that it’s empty.
Of course, you don’t want to expose your valuables and furniture to the world, but try to keep your blinds, curtains, or shutters appearing normal.
#2 – Inform Your Neighbors About Your Vacation Plans
If your neighbors know that your home will be unattended for some time, they can keep an eye out for suspicious activity. A trusted neighbor can prevent a mail pile-up at your front door and set out your garbage can on trash pickup day. Canceling any mail and newspaper delivery will also prevent burglars and other criminals from noticing that your home is currently unoccupied.
Knowing that someone can regularly check on your home will be a huge stress relief, allowing you to properly enjoy your vacation.
#3 – Move Your Hidden Spare Keys
Now let’s say you asked a friend to check up on your house while you’re away. Leaving them a spare key might seem like a convenient idea, but doing so could put your home at a huge risk. Most criminals know that spare keys could be hidden under doormats or inside potted plants.
Give any spare keys to someone who plans to enter your home while you’re away instead of leaving them to anyone’s access. If you’re not comfortable with handing out keys, a smart lock on the door could be a good solution for you. They use expiring codes to grant temporary access to others. You’d be able to cancel the codes once you’re back from your trip.
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#4 – Invest in a Security System
You don’t need an expensive or elaborate security system to keep your home safe. Simply installing a video doorbell is enough to beef up your home’s security. If there’s a visitor at your door, you’ll get a notification on your phone. You can even speak to the visitor, which could be helpful if it’s just a package delivery.
Motion detectors and cameras are the standard home security devices. If you already have such devices installed, check that the batteries haven’t expired before you leave. They won’t provide you with much protection if they’re dead.
If your home has an automatic security system installed, call your representative and inform them that you’ll be gone for some time. The company can then watch out to see if any of your alarms are tripped while you’re away.
Trick Potential Criminals Into Thinking Your Home Is Protected
If you really don’t have the time or budget to get a proper security system, you can make it appear as if your home is protected by one. You can hang up fake security company signs and stickers or install fake security cameras. We don’t recommend fully relying on this, though, and suggest you eventually invest in home security.
Installing a classic burglar alarm box outside your home can show the world that your home is protected. This can be especially useful if you do have smart security devices, but they typically wouldn’t be visible to anyone on the outside.
More Vacation Preparation Mistakes to Avoid
Preparing for a vacation is extremely hectic, so it’s easy to overlook many of your actions that can end up being huge mistakes. Here’s a quick list of common mistakes:
- Broadcasting that you’re away from home all over social media.
- Not checking that all entry points to your home are locked.
- Leaving any valuables in plain sight.
While we stressed the importance of home security, keep in mind that a home with an obvious amount of home security can have the opposite effect that you want. Criminals can see this as a clear sign that you’re away and attempt a robbery anyway.
About the Author:
Luke Williams writes and researches for the insurance comparison site, Clearsurance.com. His passions include best practices for insurance and ways people can keep their homes safe.