In this article, you will find security tips on how to protect your home while you are on vacation for a shorter or longer period.
If you are not sure what steps to take, this vacation checklist will learn how to secure your home if you are going away for a few days or longer so you can have a worry-free vacation season!
Quick burglary statistics
This graphic from the Washington Post contains some most interesting and not so obvious facts about burglaries.
We’ll teach you home to circumvent all these problems in this article.
|Timing||Targets||Popular hiding places||Burglar profile|
|Every 14,6 seconds a burglary take place in the US||65.8% of burglaries are residential||Dresser drawer||Male teenager|
|Burglars spend 8 to 12 minutes in your home||Homes without security systems are 3x likely to be targetted||Bedroom closet||Living within a couple of miles of your home|
|Most burglaries take place between 10 am and 3 pm||First stop: master bedroom as people keep their valuables there||Freezer||Chances to being victimized by a professional thief are low|
You must keep your travel plans secret.
1. Don’t announce your travel plans to the whole world. Keep them offline.
Don’t share information about your home address or travel plans on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. A typical behavior pattern of burglars is to scan social media sites or even Google Maps, looking for homes that won’t be occupied for a few days. The easiest way to prevent this is to keep all travel-related data completely offline.
This ranges from sharing your plans in advance (“Hey, we booked a trip to Miami for two weeks!”) or pictures of your departure at the airport to posting photos while you’re at the resort.
Also, keep in mind what you might unknowingly reveal in your comments and reactions on social media that could be a giveaway.
Teach your children not to do either and explain why. Then, when you’re back home safe and sound, proudly post all the information and as many photos as you want.
Don’t trust social media, even if you think you’ve “locked” your accounts privately to close friends only.
Lastly: do reveal nothing in out out-of-office reply. Simply have it state you’re out of the office and vaguely when you’re back. Don’t give away the exact details. Some out-of-office replies are creative, saying: I’ll be out of the office and traveling Europe from the 1st of September and be back the 15th of October. Instead, write: I’ll be out of the office and back mid-October. See how you accomplish the same without giving any details away? Anyone can mail you and get this vital information otherwise.
2. Burglars are targeting your GPS in the car
If you have parked your car at the airport, it is a common practice for thieves to steal not only your car but also your GPS or at least the data of your home address.
This way, the criminals know exactly your address, which is probably “home” in your GPS address book.
If they are lucky, you also left the remote control for the garage door and maybe even the house keys in your car (because you did not want to lose them on vacation, right? – since you do not need them there anyway).
We advise you to delete the “Home” address from your GPS and remove the last visited addresses from the device (whether it is permanently installed in the car or is a portable device, it does not matter: delete it).
Another option is to rename “Home” to “Supermarket” or “Gas Station,” which might be less inconvenient.
Remove any papers in your car that contains your address or sensitive information if you have parked your car for a long time.
Take your house keys with you on vacation, even if it seems like an unnecessary burden (you do not need them on vacation anyway, right?), and leave the garage remote hidden at home.
The disasters caused by these types of break-ins are often immense.
This is because the burglars now know that they can rummage through your property at their leisure and really take their time to do so—many stories of people who came home from vacation to find all their belongings gone.
The thieves had come in a moving truck and had “taken” everything away. So the houses were empty when the family came back. They even stole the children’s socks and toys.
After all, all they need is a big truck and a few “movers” to “move” all your belongings in a few hours. So be aware of this often neglected and perhaps a harmless-looking mistake. It can cost you dearly.
3. Suspend newspaper delivery, mail, and Amazon Prime deliveries.
Maybe you have a subscription to your favorite newspaper delivered to your home.
Or perhaps you have a monthly subscription to some Amazon Prime products, and your mailbox is just full of postcards and bills – a sitting duck for thieves, who now only have to drive around the neighborhood looking for easy victims.
First and foremost, make sure you suspend all deliveries/subscriptions to the home address during the vacations, even if it’s just for a week.
With most newspapers, you can simply put your subscription on hold, just as you can “skip” your Amazon Prime deliveries.
You can go to the post office and pick up an “Authorization for Hold Mail” form. The post office will then not deliver mail for a minimum of 3 days to a maximum of 30 days.
You can then choose to have it all delivered at once or pick it up yourself at the post office. Again, this is a free service.
Another (paid) option is to have your mail temporarily redirected to a friend or relative’s address, which can be helpful if you are expecting important mail and want someone to keep track of it for you.
The last option is to have a trusted friend or relative pick up your mail regularly; however, they may forget or be lazy, so ideally, you should handle this yourself.
Most of these problems can be solved in a matter of minutes by logging onto Amazon’s website or your newspaper or by stopping by the post office.
Inside the house
4. Pay attention to old locks: buy a smart lock for your door or upgrade your classic lock.
A typical scenario is that people who have lived in the same house or apartment for several years have simply gotten used to it and have not updated or upgraded their locks.
As a result, they simply forget the importance of a good, solid quality lock.
A quality lock does not have to be expensive, and it has to be modern. And as times change, so does the burglar’s knowledge.
Many old locks can be opened with simple tricks and tools that anyone can find on the Internet, with a screwdriver, a drill, or even a plastic card.
We collect and save for nice things in our homes but forget the most basic security measures to protect them.
To check if your locks are older than 5-10 years? Then you can be sure that they need to be renewed. But even that does not have to be expensive.
Ask a few locksmiths in your area for a quote, or look up the model number/size yourself and get one on Amazon. You’ll be surprised how little it costs.
Another option if you want to dive into the future is to get a smart lock while you are at it.
They are surprisingly easy to install yourself and offer many handy features.
They range from opening the door remotely (so you can let your housekeeper into the house without having to give her the key or hide a key) to assigning codes that only work once, to sending messages about the lock’s (health) status and activity logs of when the door was opened and closed.
5. Make sure all doors and windows are locked.
You’d be surprised how many people go on vacation without locking everything. Families, in particular, are in a hurry, packing the last things for suitcases and busy packing lunches for toddlers, etc.
So the day before you leave, make an extra round of the house to double-check everything at your leisure. “Do I really need to lock everything?” Yes, everything.
That includes the windows on the second floor or the small windows in the toilet rooms on the third floor.
While it may seem like it’s not worth locking them, a small person or child can probably get into them quickly, especially if they’ve broken the windows open.
After your front door, your windows are the weakest point in your home’s security.
6. Install a video doorbell
If you don’t already have one installed, we recommend installing a video doorbell like the eufy Security Video Doorbell or the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2. That way, you’ll never be away from home again. Plus, they’re very affordable for what you get in return. You’ll never miss a “visitor” again!
You can use it to see anyone approaching your door and driveway. This allows you to spot suspicious people and alert them immediately. In addition, these cameras can automatically record video 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Once you’ve lived with a video doorbell for a few weeks, you can’t live without it. That’s why we recommend trying one out (and taking advantage of Amazon’s generous return policy if you’re still not convinced).
7. Check the battery level of your home security devices.
So, you’ve security cameras or a video doorbell that aren’t wired and run on rechargeable batteries, which is very convenient – because you can put them anywhere.
However, it’s advisable to check the battery level and life a few days before the vacation.
This will give you enough time to charge them before you leave. We recommend that you charge all home security devices 100% before you leave.
This is because you don’t know how quickly the last 20% of your battery can discharge during unpredictable weather conditions, activities, or simply because they’re batteries.
Some solid advice: Don’t settle for 50% or 40%… charge all batteries to 100% before you leave for absolute peace of mind.
8. Check the batteries of your smoke detectors (carbon monoxide detectors)
An often overlooked fact is the batteries in your smoke detectors. The reason for this is that they hang there all year long, and you forget they’re there. However, if you discover a fire in your home for some reason, you must notice it as soon as possible when it happens.
To keep your home safe while you’re on vacation, make sure your smoke alarms are working and their batteries have been checked before you leave.
Check the batteries before you leave for an extended period of time and make sure they’re working.
Smoke alarms are safety devices that can save lives in the event of a fire, but they’re also used to protect your property. If a smoke alarm goes off, it’ll at least notify your neighbors, perhaps the alarm system you subscribe to, or yourself via an app on your phone. So at least make sure that the battery level is high enough!
9. Disconnect all unnecessary electronic devices from the power supply.
Defective electronic equipment can be a fire hazard. In addition, electronic devices consume energy even in standby mode, which is reflected in your electric bill.
Most noticeable are TiVO and other televisions that are always “on standby” (consume about $50 to $60 per year in electricity).
So our advice is to simply unplug all electronic devices that you will not be using while you are away. Of course, this can also be done by unplugging parts from the main switch.
The ones you should leave on are (critically) your internet router/modem, any wired security devices, and perhaps the refrigerator. All the others, you are better off unplugging.
It’s no good having them plugged in – even in standby mode or just in “off” mode. So disconnect as much as possible from the mains.
10. Install timers to simulate human activity
Criminals are less likely to break in if they think someone is home. So find a way to make it look like someone is home, even if you are not.
To make your home feel more lived-in, install timers for all the lights and play music throughout the house to simulate the presence of people while you are away.
Of course, if surveillance systems are too expensive for you, you can simply install timers that turn on and off at different times of the day.
11. Invest in security cameras so you can always keep an eye on your home.
Install security cameras around your home to monitor the perimeter and watch for intruders or suspicious activity, such as broken windows or doors. Security camera systems can be wirelessly connected to a monitoring station that alarms when motion is detected outside the home. This website will find several sections on best finding the camera equipment right for you.
12. Prevent water damage by turning off the water supply completely.
There is no reason to leave the water supply open when you are on vacation. You can turn off the water valves completely.
There is no single reason to leave the water taps open. Your refrigerator’s ice maker, you may ask?
We checked with several manufacturers, and they confirmed that these ice machines are built so that they are not affected in any way by a lack of water connection.
More importantly, water pipes can burst in the winter, causing water damage, and if the valves are open, the water can flood your entire home and cause thousands of dollars in damage. Some say a burst water pipe is the same as a fire in your home.
So not only will you have damage to your home, but you will also have a hefty water bill that will easily add up to a few thousand dollars.
In short – it only takes 30 seconds – to turn off the water supply if you leave the house for even a few days.
13. Be sure to inform your alarm company.
It’s common to overlook this, but if you have a subscription with a security company, it’s good to let them know in advance that you will not be in the house for a period of time. No matter how short.
This way, they can react faster in case of suspicious activity. For example, they will not try to reach you by phone and check if you are home without detecting human activity. And ask you for your “password”…, wasting critical time.
But if they know for sure that you are not in the house, they will immediately inform the police or send a security guard to your place if they detect anything suspicious or receive an alarm.
In some cities, you can also tell the police that you are going on vacation, and they will check your home regularly as well.
Of course, it’s unlikely they’ll catch a thief in the act, but it’s useful if your home is not open for days or weeks after a break-in. So check with your local police!
14. Advertise your alarm system
Thieves are often lazy and pick low-hanging fruit. Advertise your alarm system. Don’t be afraid to go all out with this tip! Place alarm system signs and stickers prominently on your property, such as your windows, your front door, or even your mailbox.
When I’d my alarm system installed, the installer said to me, “This security sign of our company hanging here’s 95% of our work.”
Later, several law enforcement professionals confirmed the same thing to me. The stickers/plates work tremendously well because burglars know they could already be on camera before realizing it.
Their presence is already stored somewhere in the cloud, and a security company might already be alerted.
Don’t have a proper “alarm system” installed? No problem either! You can order stickers and signs from Amazon that look authentic and deter the average burglar.
There’s a good reason that all security brands (Eufy, Ring, etc.) offer stickers that you can put on your window.
However, you can take it a step further and buy one of these guard dog stickers (available at your local pet store or on Amazon) and put it next to your alarm system stickers.
The main idea behind this is to give criminals the impression that someone (and that’s you reading this article!) cares about the security of your home.
This makes them think, “What else is there here? Cameras? All sorts of window sensors and detectors? Yikes!”
And they move on, looking for another potential target instead.
15. Hide your valuables in a safe or hide them away
Identification papers, passports, cash, jewelry, family heirlooms that you might leave out in the open while you’re at work should be hidden while you’re on vacation. A hidden, fireproof safe would be the ideal solution.
Larger, expensive electronic devices or items can also be stolen.
For example, draw blinds and curtains in rooms with large televisions or game consoles, so they aren’t as easily seen from the outside; put these devices out of sight by placing them in a box on a high shelf in your closet; use safes wherever possible.
16. Is it going to get cold? Put antifreeze in your toilets.
If you’re going to be away during the winter, make sure all toilets are flushed and drained so they don’t hold water. This way, if the heating fails, there’s no risk of pipes freezing, which could cause significant problems.
The solution is simple:
- Simply pour some antifreeze into a toilet before you leave the house.
- Flush later when you return to flush out the liquid.
- Repeat this process with other bathrooms until everything is cleared.
This will keep you safe during the cold months – make sure you don’t buy regular household bleach, as it can release toxic fumes over time.
17. Do a quick check on your home insurance
What if an emergency occurs while you’re away that requires the use of a water extraction team? Your insurance may not cover damages, and no one will come to your aid because they don’t know the house is unoccupied.
Even worse, what if a storm or natural disaster occurs in your town during this time that causes damage in your area?
If you own your home, you may already have buildings insurance, but what about the belongings in the house? If you live for rent, your landlord probably takes care of these things.
But as with any other insurance, there are some exceptions you should be aware of and the consequences if they occur.
What happens if someone breaks into our home and destroys or steals items?
Since many of these questions are unclear to most people, we recommend that you call your insurance company if you’re going away for an extended period and discuss your concerns with them.
Outside the house
18. Install security lights outside
19. Do not forget to get rid of spare keys or Hide-A-Keys
Everyone likes to hide a spare key for emergencies, but it’s best not to have a spare key all over your property. Also, some of those special lockers for keys are questionable items as they can be broken and smashed.
So make a very simple decision: stop hiding spare keys. Instead, it’s better to give the spare key to someone you trust or a close family member.
This way, you also know that a person you trust can enter the house when you are not there, for example, in case of a water leak.
This is a much better “system” than having a spare key lying around for anyone to find or “sharing” the key’s space with multiple people – as you can quickly lose control of exactly who does or does not have access (e.g., an ex-partner).
20. Cleaning rain gutters and drain pipes
To keep your home safe while on vacation, be sure to clean all rain drains and gutters around the house. This includes checking for leaves or other debris that may have accumulated there.
Think of this as an easy way to protect yourself from water damage resulting from flooding due to heavy rains during a storm.
Of course, it’s not the prettiest chore in the world, but it does protect against water damage that can occur during heavy rains.
If you want to go beyond basic cleaning, consider installing floodlights with motion sensors in your yard. These are great for deterring burglars who would otherwise see your home as an easy target.
They also provide additional light around the exterior, making it easier for neighbors to spot suspicious behavior.
21. Hire someone to take care of grass, snow, lawns, and green areas while you are away.
Next, ideally – especially if you’ll be gone for more than 1to 2 weeks – hire someone to take care of your lawn while you are gone, mow the grass, keep your green spaces in good shape, and shovel your driveway in the winter or when it snows.
Hire a house sitter or ask a trusted friend or neighbor to check on your house regularly.
If you have the option, we recommend asking someone in the neighborhood you trust, or a family member who has a spare key (or to whom you have granted access with your smart lock), to stop by every few days to make sure everything is in order, and to water your plants, etc.
The ideal solution is to have someone you trust live in your home while you sip cocktails in the Florida Keys. A homesitter, such as a good friend you trust who needs a break from their usual abode, or a friend’s daughter, is often ideal.
That way, many of the lure methods described in this article will not be necessary.
An excellent final tip in this regard is to leave your emergency contact information with a neighbor so they can reach you in case of an emergency (water leak, fire, burglary, …).
By the way, did you know that there are all kinds of automatic feeders for pets? Ideal for cats and fish.
22. Have a car in the driveway
This is an important point. If you have two cars, it is easy to leave one at home to give the criminals the impression that someone is in the house and it is occupied. At the very least, this gives the thieves second thoughts.
If you have only one car and travel by plane, consider using a cab or airport shuttle service.
The easiest and most popular places for potential burglars are those where no one is home, as this reduces the risk of getting caught and allows them to take their time with their thefts.
A car on the premises (even if it does not move much) is an instant deterrent for them.
Instead of paying for an expensive airport parking lot, it’s sometimes even cheaper to pay for an airport shuttle service, so you can leave your car at home to give the impression that someone is home – a bonus to consider.
23. Lock the garage/ Toolshed Properly – do not offer your thief any equipment.
You provide them with burglary tools by leaving this unprotected. The only thing they have to bring themselves is a black mask!
So we can not stress this enough: Make sure your garage or tool shed is just as locked and protected as the rest of your home, and do not think about it after the fact.
Avoid the painful irony of being robbed with your equipment.
This golden rule does not just apply when you go on vacation, but you should have your garage/shed well protected all year round.
We hope you learned a lot from this vacation security guide and are now equipped with the knowledge of our law enforcement experts to keep your property safe.
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