The reservations are made, the itinerary is set, the suitcases are packed, and you are more than ready for a relaxing getaway. But, wait – although you may be ready for spring break, is your home ready, too? Whether you’re leaving for a few days or a few weeks, there are some important things you may want to do that will help secure your home while you are gone:
Install timersSetting timers for a few lamps and electronics, like televisions and stereos, gives the appearance that the house is occupied. Strategically place the timers on lamps that are visible from windows, and set the timers to go off at dark. You can purchase timers at hardware and home stores.
Prep your home security systemCheck any battery backups that your system has to see if they need changing or charging. If your system is monitored, follow your security company’s instructions about what to do when you go out of town. You might want to investigate some of the new smart home systems, which offer features like remote security system monitoring, home cameras, alarm alerts, and even appliance controls.
Hold itPlace a hold or forwarding order for all mail, newspapers, packages, and deliveries. Ask a friend or neighbor to check your doors and porches for any unexpected deliveries, flyers, or door hangers that may have been left in your absence that would signal an unoccupied home.
Light it upChange the bulbs in exterior light fixtures, and be sure to turn them on before you leave so that the outside of your home is illuminated at night.
Share your plansWhile you don’t want to broadcast your travel plans to many people, be sure to let a trusted neighbor, friend, or family member know that you’ll be out of town and how to reach you while you are gone. Give them your itinerary, and ask them to keep any eye on your home until you return.
Save energyThere’s no need to waste energy (and money) while you’re out of town. Set your thermostat to a lower or higher temperature, depending on the season. Now would be a good time for a D.I.Y. project to install a smart thermostat , which may allow you to control your home’s temperature via your tablet or smart phone. Be sure to also lower the temperature setting on your water heater or switch it to “vacation mode” while you’re away for even more energy savings.
Unplug itWalk around your home and unplug any electronics or other devices that will either draw "phantom energy" while you are gone, or that may pose fire hazards if they are plugged in.
Go the extra yardArrange for lawn care while you are gone, so that your house doesn’t look deserted. If you have an automated sprinkler system, make sure it is set to supply appropriate moisture for your lawn and plants for the duration of your trip. If you don’t have an automated sprinkler system, ask a friend or neighbor to water if there’s not enough rainfall to keep your turf and plants healthy until you get back. Check trees for any dead branches or limbs that could cause damage if they fall, and trim them back as needed. Clear drains of any leaves or debris so that they will flow freely if heavy rainfall occurs.
Show signsLeave visible signs that your home is protected. If you have a security system, ask your alarm company for window stickers and yard signs. Leave a large dog bowl on your porch or by the back door so that it looks like a guard dog lives there. Some people even post “Beware of the Dog” signs even if they don’t own a pet.
Put valuables awayEven if you have an alarm system, it’s best not to leave expensive items out in the open. Tuck computers and other electronics out of sight. Hide jewelry or place it in a safe deposit box while you are gone. Secure important paperwork, like birth certificates, titles, tax documentation, and licenses, too.
Be prudent with what you shareIn today’s social media world, it’s tempting to share the details of your vacation in real time. A better plan is to wait to post your vacation description and photos until after you’ve returned home, just to avoid any security concerns.
Related: Keeping Your Home Safe on Vacation
Do a last walk throughBefore you hit the road or head to the airport, walk through each room of your home one last time. Look for anything that needs to be turned off, turned down, or unplugged. Consider which curtains or draperies you should close. Make sure stovetops, ovens, and coffee makers are turned off. If you have a fireplace, close the chimney flue.
Lock upIt may sound obvious, but in the rush of leaving town, it’s not unusual for people to forget to lock their doors and set their alarm systems. Double check that all exterior doors, windows, and gates are secure before you depart.
If these steps sound like a lot of work to you, consider hiring a house sitter in your absence. A house sitter can gather mail, water plants, feed pets, and keep an eye on your home and belongings while you enjoy your trip. Ask your friends, co-workers, and family for house sitter references.
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