Although we’re already into August, because summers seem to fly by, there’s still a lot of summer left—and that means a lot of vacations yet to take. Whether you’re planning to be gone for a weekend or for a week (or more!), you can truly relax during your time away if you’re confident your home is safe in your absence. For a truly restful vacation, follow these 7 tips. Note, however, that most of these things need to be done ahead of time, and by that we don’t mean the day before.
1. Do a home security review: Well before your departure date, take stock of the current security of your home. Make sure all the nearby streetlights are working. Check the outdoor lights around your property. Double check all (and we mean all) of your door and window locks, as well as any locks on gates, and doors on outbuildings like sheds, garages and barns. Also double check skylights and any other access point that can and should be locked. When we’re home every day, it can be easy to forget that little Jimmy strategically jammed a paperclip into that window lock and it hasn’t worked right since. But the time to remember about that broken lock is not the day you’re packing to leave.
2. Get to know your neighbors: We’re not saying you have to like your neighbors! But you do need to know them. Obviously, this is not a task to undertake the day before you head to the airport, so think of it as part of your long-term home security strategy. Getting along with neighbors is kind of like getting along with relatives: You can’t pick either one, but you have to make it work. Neighbors are often quite willing to keep an eye on your house while you’re away, but you don’t want to ask a total stranger to do so…and a total stranger is what you’ll have if you haven’t befriended your neighbors!
3. Install a home security system: Is there a better way to keep an eye on your property than a home security system? OK, maybe hiring a full-time guard who has a fierce-looking German Shepherd tugging at a leash would make a great deterrent. But that’s not likely an option for most of us. Which brings us to the electronic equivalent of that guard dog. If you don’t have a home security system yet, maybe the time to get one is before you leave home for that extended vacation.
4. Hire a house sitter: We say hire, but that implies hiring someone you don’t really know. Our first choice is for you to have a friend or relative—someone you trust—stay at your house, especially if they’ll be taking care of your animals too. There’s no better deterrent to a burglar looking for an empty house than a house that’s decidedly not empty! Although professional house sitters exist, and that’s an option, just be sure you’re truly comfortable with whoever is staying there, and make sure they’re actually staying there. (Sometimes people agree to house sit, but really just do daily checks on your house. And that’s not what you want…)
5. Keep up some routines: A lot of this you’ve probably heard before, but it’s worth repeating. Put lights on timers. Have someone put your can by the curb on garbage pickup day. Keep your curtains where they usually are. Make sure someone is watering flowers so they don’t wilt and mowing lawns so they don’t get out of control.
6. But put a hold on others: All of that said, there are some routines you’ll want to suspend, unless you have a house sitter to keep up appearances. These include stopping your mail and newspaper delivery, and making sure any fliers or packages left on the front porch get picked up.
7. Keep it to yourself: Oh, Facebook, you temptress, tricking us unsuspecting victims into disclosing our every move! If you’re tempted to broadcast your vacation to the world via social media, don’t. You can share all photos you want when you get back, but no one needs to know when you’re leaving or that you’re gone. This applies to your email auto-responder for work too. Carefully consider the wording you choose for that.
There are plenty of commonsense ways to keep your home safe while you’re on vacation, and most of them apply to when you’re home too, like making sure locks work and getting to know your neighbors (and not broadcasting your whereabouts on Facebook). Perhaps chief among these is the installation of a home security system, but that system can do an even better job of keeping your home safe if you’re employing common sense too.
Now, go take that trip!