Your bags are packed, your tickets are booked, and adventure (or long, lazy days by the pool) awaits. With all of the preparation you’ve done for your well-earned vacation, however, one thing often slips peoples’ minds until it’s too late: securing your home against a break-in. No matter how well-insured you are, nothing is worse than returning to find your home has been burgled or vandalized while you were gone. While there’s no single solution to prevent yourself from being victimized by a property crime, there are a few relatively easy things you can do to reduce the odds.
As much of a no-brainer as it sounds, making sure all doors and windows are closed and locked is by far the easiest way to secure your home when you leave for vacation. In addition to the front and side doors, pay particular attention to garage doors, basement windows, and patio doors, all of which can make a convenient point of entry for burglars.
Don’t hide a key
Deadbolt locks aren’t much good if the intruders have a key, which is why it’s never advisable to leave a spare key hidden outside your home – particularly in obvious places like under the doormat or a plant pot. It’s far safer to leave a copy of your key with a neighbour or relative who lives nearby, if possible, or if you absolutely must have a key on the property, use a heavy-duty combination key safe and keep it hidden from view.
Light it up
Outdoor security lights will deter would-be thieves by making them more visible to the street and neighbours, so make sure your lighting is in good working order. Likewise, setting indoor lights on timers and leaving a couple of curtains open will make it less obvious to passersby that no one is home. Wi-fi enabled bulbs are also a great option, as they can be controlled from anywhere via your smartphone.
Enlist the help of a neighbour, family member or friend to keep an eye on your place while you’re gone. This can mean hiring a live-in house sitter or just having someone you trust stop in every couple of days to make sure all is well.
Stop the mail
Make sure to pause newspaper deliveries (nothing says no one’s home like a pile of newspapers in the driveway) and ensure that no packages will arrive while you’re gone.
Set the alarm
If you have a security system, notify the company that you’ll be away and give them the name of whoever will be looking after your house while you’re gone. Also, make sure to give your house sitter or neighbour the code in case of a false alarm.
Update your inventory
You should have an inventory of all of your valuables, from electronics and power tools to jewellery and art. Before you leave for a vacation, take a few minutes to make sure your list is up to date. Unless you have a heavy-duty safe in which to store your most valuable items, consider moving them to a safety deposit box while you’re away for ultimate protection.
Unplug from social media
It can be hard to resist the urge to post a selfie from the beach, but social media has become a popular tool for thieves to target absentee homeowners. For that reason, keep a lid on your travel photos and posts until after you come home, then safely watch the Likes roll in.
Secure against accidents
Power surges and water damage can happen, and if they happen while you’re away, the damage can be much more severe. Unplug appliances like lamps and coffee makers, which can become hazardous in the event of a power surge, and shut off the water to guard against disaster. It’s also advisable to ask your house sitter (or house checker) to take a look at the hot water tank periodically to make sure it hasn’t sprung an inconveniently-timed leak.
Keep it tidy
If you’re going on vacation in the summertime, mow your lawn before you leave, and if you’re gone more than a couple of weeks, arrange to have someone stop by and trim it. Similarly, have someone on-call to shovel the snow or rake the leaves if you’re travelling in fall or winter.
Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.