We are heading into one of the busiest travel times of the year, as people head out to spend the holidays with family. If you have a trip scheduled over the next six weeks, put some planning into securing your home to protect you from Grinch-like criminals.

Because you want your home to still look occupied while you’re gone, the obvious best plan is to have a friend or relative stay there. But if that isn’t possible, you can still give it a lived-in feel:

  • Keep blinds and curtains closed so intruders cannot see into your home.
  • Use timers or smart home devices to control both your indoor and outdoor lights, and have them turn on and off at various times. Do the same with any holiday lighting and decorations.
  • Put your television on a timer as well so sound can be heard within the house at times.
  • Stop newspaper delivery, or have a neighbor pick it up each morning so they don’t accumulate on the porch.
  • If you live in a cold climate, arrange for snow removal should a winter storm hit while you are away. Not only does an unshoveled driveway and sidewalks signal an unoccupied house, but in some cities, you can be fined for not clearing your sidewalks.
  • Your car should remain locked in the garage, but if you must leave it outside, make sure any valuables and your garage door opener are removed. If possible, ask a neighbor to park in your driveway in the evenings to give the appearance of occupancy and movement on the property.
  • Make sure packages or mail doesn’t get left on your porch. You can contact carriers and request them to hold your deliveries:
  • Be sure to bring in any spare key(s) you have hidden on your property while you are away.

A few simple steps inside the house can protect your belongings and save you some money while you are gone, too:

  • Set the thermostat for lower temperatures so your heater isn’t running unnecessarily while you are out. It can be as low as 50, but keep it warmer if you have pets staying in the home.
  • Turn down the temperature on your water heater, as well! You don’t need hot water when you aren’t home.
  • If the temperature in your area is cold enough to freeze pipes, shut off your water supply and drain your faucets. One faucet can be left slightly open to drain any excess water and air from the pipes.
  • Unplug smaller appliances, such as coffee makers, toaster ovens, printers, DVD or Blu-Ray players, etc. to conserve energy.
  • Larger electronics such as computers, stereos, and televisions (unless they are running on timers) should also be unplugged to prevent damage from power surges. An alternative option is to plug them all into quality surge protectors.
  • Disconnect your computer from the Internet to protect your personal information and files.
  • Don’t leave any valuables or important paperwork out. Make sure things like jewelry and private documents are locked in a fire-proof safe, or taken to a safe deposit box before you depart.

Finally, a great way to protect your home is to let the RIGHT people know you are leaving:

  • Who you SHOULD tell:
    • Your alarm company, if you have one. A notation on your account that you are away on vacation can help the monitoring company should an alarm take place while you are gone.
    • Trusted friends and neighbors, who can help keep an eye on your property.
    • The local police. Some precincts will do a “vacation check” while you are gone if the resources are available.
  • Who you SHOULDN’T tell:
    • Anyone while in a public setting. Whether in the store, the doctor’s office, a restaurant, etc., your conversation could be overheard by a potential burglar taking notes on dates and details.
    • Anyone on social media. (Make sure your kids know this one, too!) Criminals find victims easily through careless posts. Even private settings can sometimes be seen by people you don’t know through shares, tags, or comments. Even though it may be tempting to share your travel news, never post your plans or mention that you will be away. When you are gone, don’t use check-ins which will show you’re out of town. Finally, save your vacation pictures until after you’ve returned!

With a little bit of planning, your home will be secure while you enjoy your holiday vacation! Just don’t forget to lock the doors. 😉