Memorial Day is less than a week away and the sizzling summer’s heat and humidity is closely lurking here on the west coast of Florida. If you’re like many of us, you’re planning a vacation, a much-needed break from the norm complete with a full-body and mind attitude adjustment.
Once you’ve set your budget, destination, time away and how to get there and back, take some time to protect what you’re leaving behind. Sure, vacation will be sensational, and you probably won’t want to come home. Yet, eventually you will, and you’re going to want to find your house and belongings intact or in at least the same condition as when you left. Anything less can really kill the great vacation buzz you’ll still be floating on.
Take time to protect your home and all the things in it that you hold dear. Whether you’ll be gone for a week or a month, the most important thing you can do while you’re gone is to make your house look lived in and active.
Consider taking care of some of the following to tighten your security and protect your home while on vacation:
- Schedule improvements. Vacation is a great time to have work, especially exterior work, done on your house, and the constant activity is a bonus. If you’re designing a new patio, maybe installing a pool, even redoing your landscape and irrigation plan, schedule it for while you’re away. It’s so much easier to come home to completed work, and not be under foot while everything is topsy-turvy. Plus, the activity discourages the bad guys.
- Exterior lights on motion sensors. Most people have at least one or two exterior lights around their homes. Motion sensors to turn lights on when someone, or thing, comes too close for comfort are likely to discourage intruders and are simple to install.
- Interior timers. These are great because you can place them throughout the house to turn lights on and off at specific times during the day and night. The only drawback is that if a savvy thief watches your house for a day or two, the schedule becomes obvious. If you have someone checking on the house, say, two or three times each week (make sure you trust this certain someone), ask them to move the timers around so there’s no clear pattern. Or, now available are apps for Smart Phones and tablets that you can use to turn lights on remotely, or even create a changing lighting schedule for the time you’re gone.
- Trusted friends. Ask a trusted friend or nearby family member to periodically check on your home while you’re on vacation. Their activity will deter anyone nefarious. A friend can also take in your mail and any deliveries you may receive.
- Hold your mail. Cascading mail out of your mailbox can be an “I’m out of town and the house is ripe for a rip-off” tip-off. If you don’t have a friend to help manage your house while you’re away, the easiest solution is to have your mail held. Check with the USPS to see how long they will hold mail. You can do the same with any newspapers you may receive. Be sure to have the publication credit your account for the copies you don’t receive.
- Security Systems. Security systems can be as simple or as complex as you liked; some systems even let you watch a live feed of your home from your cell phone. Having one installed can have multiple benefits including peace of mind on vacation and a discount on your home owner’s insurance.
- Say “no” to Facebook and Twitter. As much as you may want to tell the masses about all the fascinating events of your life, don’t broadcast to the world that your home will be empty or you may come home to a, well, empty home. Avoid “checking-in”, posting your travel dates and time, and upload photos once you return from vacation
- Hire a sitter. A house sitter is someone who will live in your home while you’re on vacation. Obviously, you’ll want to be extremely selective when it comes to turning your keys, your house and your belongings over to someone else, so take every precaution before making this decision. Whomever you choose to live in your house, be very clear about how you expect your home to be treated while you’re away and what responsibilities they are to handle (pet care, lawn maintenance, etc.). It’s best to lock up anything of high or irreplaceable value.
Above all, once you’ve buttoned up your home, start your vacation knowing you’ve done all you can to keep your home and belongings safe – so go have a great, memorable time. Summer is just around the corner!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2013. It has since been updated and edited for clarity and cohesiveness.