You’re reclined on the beach, surrounded by sun and sand, with a cold drink nearby. It’s the perfect escape from the commotion of work and life. And you have several more days of beachfront relaxation ahead of you.
But then your phone rings.
It’s the police. Your house was ransacked. You're forced to cut your trip short, fly home and survey the damage. That feeling of calm and refreshment just got yanked away from you and replaced with the fear and anguish of your home being violated.
Nobody wants to get that phone call. Or worse, come home from your trip and find out thieves were there and gone, unnoticed. Either way, you’re left filling out police reports, cleaning up your house, and dealing with the aftermath.
Vacations should be care-free and fun, not a time when you stress out about what could be happening at home. Before you jet off for the summer, follow our list of tips and tricks below to make sure your home is safer and more secure, so you can rest and unwind, worry-free.
Stop Mail, Newspaper and Package Deliveries
A pile of newspapers on your front steps, or a mailbox overflowing with envelopes and magazines is a sure sign that you haven’t been home in a while. That’s a perfect green light for thieves who might be looking for opportunities in your neighborhood.
Putting a hold on your mail is easy through the United States Postal Service. Go to the Hold Mail page, fill out the request form, and you’re set! If you haven’t done this before, you may have to create an account first.
Other delivery services, like FedEx, UPS and Amazon, also allow you to put a hold on package deliveries. This is especially helpful if you subscribe to regularly deliverable goods, like pet food or prescriptions. A lone box or two on your front steps can easily be nabbed by porch pirates when you’re not around.
Keep a Low Profile Until You Return
Anticipating your vacation and talking about all the fun you’ll have is great, but it might be best to keep your excitement out of public view. If you broadcast on Facebook and other social sites that you intend to travel for a while, people will know that your house may be unattended.
Wait to share photos and stories until you return. There is nothing wrong with posting about your adventures, but the timing of those posts could mean the difference between coming home to a clean house or a burgled house.
If you’re using email and voicemail messages and autoresponders, keep the messages vague enough that people won’t know you’re away from home. In other words, it’s OK to say you're away from your desk or phone but be cautious about broadcasting additional details.
Invest in Light Timers
A house that is dark many days in a row, and a house with lot of lights on all the time, may both look suspicious and appealing to potential burglars. There are a few things you can do to mimic your everyday patterns, even when your home is empty.
Invest in light timers. These days, you can buy timers that are easily controlled via an app on your phone. With smart home devices, you can set up your home to mimic your daily patterns, with lights turning on and off at set times.
Get a Home Monitoring System
Investing in a home security system goes a long way toward keeping your home safe while you’re away. If you have a security system already, contact the company to let them know the dates you’ll be gone. That way, they’ll know that any unusual activity should be reported. And don’t forget to set up the security system when you leave!
Before you go, lock everything. All exterior doors, window locks, and anything else allowing access from the outside.
If you don’t have a security system yet, there is a range of devices and systems that you can invest in. It can be as simple as starting with a doorbell camera to alert you to anyone at the front door or walking around your property. You can easily add outdoor floodlights that have motion sensors, which will trip and expose anyone sneaking about. Added cameras, sensors, and other controls can easily be done via your phone.
Lastly, make sure you have security system stickers in your home where they are easily seen. Just having the stickers visible may be enough to deter any wannabe burglars.
Keep an Eye on Your House
If you aren’t comfortable leaving your home unattended for an extended period, consider asking a reliable friend, family member, or trusted neighbor to watch over it while you’re gone. They can either check in every couple of days or stay in your home for the duration of your trip, whichever is more comfortable for you.
Having a house sitter also helps if you have pets and plants and need caretaking while you’re gone. Sitters can handle the food, water and cleanup of pets, and ensure your plants are watered and healthy. This can also save you quite a bit of money compared to kenneling your pets at a local boarding service.
Be sure to ask for regular updates and/or photos from them, or you can call them periodically to check in and ask how things are going. If you have a smart lock on your door, you can assign them a special security code so that you don’t have to share the one you use.
Also, remember to give them your itinerary and contact details. That includes the places you are staying, whether a hotel, Airbnb, VRBO, or whatever. If there is an emergency and they need to find you, it’s easier.
Keep Up Appearances and Habits
There are several ways to make sure your house looks lived in and doesn’t give thieves an easy or visible target.
Clean up the yard before you leave. Another way to make your house look occupied is to mow the lawn right before you leave. If your lawn is overgrown while you’re gone, it’s a signal that the house isn’t occupied and makes it more attractive to burglars. If you’re gone for an extended period, schedule lawncare with your house sitter or a lawncare company. Keep it manicured.
Also, clear leaves and other debris from the sidewalks and driveway. Any tools and ladders that may be outside should be put away in garages or sheds. An accessible ladder makes it easier to get into a second story window.
Vehicle habits matter. If you normally have a vehicle in your driveway, try to make sure one stays there while you’re gone. It can be yours, if you have one to leave, or the vehicle of your house sitter. Do whatever fits your normal patterns.
Tuck away your valuables. This is good advice all the time, but it’s especially important when you’re leaving town. Don't leave jewelry lying around. Put them away in boxes, drawers or cabinets so they aren’t visible from windows. The same can be true for small, popular electronics like laptops, gaming devices, smart watches and anything else that makes easy fodder for a smash and grab.
Disable Garage Doors and Hide Spare Keys
Get rid of hidden keys. Spare keys hidden under mats or in outdoor plants should all be removed. Busting a door or window attracts too much attention so thieves will search for spare keys because it’s an easy, quiet entry into the house.
Garage doors can be unplugged if they won’t be used, especially since they are one of the weaker entry points into your home. An unplugged garage door is simply inoperable, and the signal to open/close it cannot be hacked by thieves if it isn’t usable.
Do Last Minute Safety Checks
Unplug unnecessary electronics. As for the other electronic devices in your home, there are a few options. First, anything that won’t be used by you, or a house sitter can be unplugged. That includes televisions, game consoles, and other gadgets that would otherwise just use current and cost you money.
Do a battery and safety check. Make sure the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, thermostats or security cameras are fresh. Go through your home security app and verify that all cameras, sensors, thermostats and other devices are working. And, if you have any environmental protection, like a sump pump to defend your foundation against excess ground water, be sure to test it before you go so that you don’t return to a flooded basement.
We can help you prepare for the long-term
We understand if not all of these steps are feasible right away. But some time spent preparing and protecting your home before your trip can go a long way to reducing the chances of a break-in or disaster.
What about the long-term? Starion Insurance can help you protect your home and property for more than the two weeks you spend on the beach.
Contact one of our insurance agents today for more information.