If you’re planning to travel and stay with family or friends during the holidays, it’s important to take proactive steps to safeguard your home in your absence. Consider the following tips:
1. Keep burglars at bay.
The holidays may be peak season for retailers, but they aren’t the only ones looking to profit. With the amount of people who leave their homes to stay with loved ones, it’s prime time for burglars looking for an easy score. That’s why, if you’re planning to be away for the holidays, it’s important to address home security ahead of time.
Since burglars tend to target vacant homes, one of the best defenses against break-ins is creating the illusion of occupancy. Arrange for a friend or neighbor to come by and pick up your mail each day; alternately, you can contact your post office and put a temporary hold on mail delivery. It’s also a good idea to set your indoor lights on an automatic timer so your house is illuminated during the evening. After all, the only thing that says “nobody’s home” as loudly as an overflowing mailbox is a darkened house at dinner time.
Of course, it’s also important to have a quality home security system installed. Alert your home security company about your travel plans so they can watch extra closely for unsolicited activity. You can even do this yourself by adding video monitoring to your security system. Today’s video monitoring technology allows you to keep tabs on your home via a smartphone app. You can receive alerts when the doorbell rings, catch a glimpse of who’s standing on your porch and even interact with them via a remote intercom.
2. Be security-savvy by taking small steps.
While home security systems are effective at keeping burglars at bay, smaller measures can also have a big impact. Avoid common mistakes like leaving spare keys in obvious places (like under a doormat or above the door frame) or openly discussing your travel plans on social media. Additionally, don’t store your valuables at the bottom of your sock drawer—they’ll merely end up on top when a thief turns it upside down. Instead, store them in a fireproof safe that’s bolted to the floor. Lastly, turn off your garage door motor before you leave—it’ll keep burglars from opening it with a universal remote.
3. Minimize fire risks.
Before leaving for holiday travels, verify that all your home’s light and heat sources are turned off, including your thermostat and water heater. You should also double-check that all smoke and CO detectors are in place and functional. Consider incorporating your smoke and CO detectors into your home security system—that way, your security provider can monitor these as well and contact the fire department if there’s an emergency.
4. Prevent a catastrophic water leak.
One thing many homeowners forget when traveling during the holidays is the risks posed by freezing weather. When the temperature dips below freezing, latent water in your plumbing pipes can freeze and expand, which can potentially cause the pipes to burst. While this is never a good situation, it can be disastrous if you’re away on vacation, especially if the leak takes place inside your home. To avoid this, empty your water pipes before leaving for your trip. After shutting off your home’s water main, run your faucets and flush your toilets to drain the latent water. When you return home, simply turn your water main back on.
5. Don’t waste energy on an empty house.
In addition to shutting off your water, lighting and heating systems, considering going the extra mile to save energy while you’re away for the holidays. For example, disconnect common “energy vampires” like TVs, computers and kitchen appliances so they don’t suck power while you’re gone. Just keep in mind that some devices have presets that will be lost if you unplug them.
6. Give your pet a happy holiday.
People often leave their pets behind during their holiday trips, arranging for a friend or neighbor to stop by and feed them. However, if you want your pet to enjoy their holiday as much as you’ll enjoy yours, consider booking them for a stay at a local pet kennel. Rather than lying around inactive during your absence (or worse, tearing up your furniture and barking at all hours), your pet will stay physically active and socially engaged at a boarding facility.
By taking these proactive measures, you can enjoy your holiday travels and return to find your home just as you left it.
Read our previous article on at-home holiday safety.