Here are ways to prep your house before you hit the road for vacation or holiday travel so it doesn’t look empty and attract the attention of robbers.
1. Simulate activity
Controlling your lights with timers only goes so far in faking activity at your house while you’re on vacation, says Mark Clement, home improvement, landscape and property management expert, and co-host of a home improvement radio show. If you have a neighbor or friend who can help, he says, ask them to drive your car around the block each day and park it in a different spot. If you have a porch or deck, ask your neighbor to move the furniture around a bit to make it look as if you’ve been out there drinking your morning coffee.
2. Don’t leave clues
If you are out of town on trash day, ask your neighbor to put out and bring in your trash cans. “Not putting out your trash is a sign that you’re not there,” Clement warns. If you normally keep your blinds open, keep them open while you’re gone, otherwise you are signaling that no one is home.
3. Hold the newspaper, mail and packages
Be sure to put a hold on your newspaper and mail, and don’t forget about packages. Request a vacation hold from FedEx, hold your U.S. mail and request a hold from UPS.
4. Don’t give thieves a way in
If you store a ladder outside, lock it with a chain or cable so no one can use it to break into your house, Clement says. If you have a hide-a-key, bring it inside your house. Check your house from the sidewalk and street to make sure no valuables are visible from the windows.
5. Change your privacy settings
Be careful what you share on social media. Change your privacy settings so you are only sharing posts with friends or, better yet, wait until you return home to post photos from your trip. If you do choose to post photos on social media, disable the GPS on your phone so it doesn’t show your location. If you park your car at the airport, don’t leave a portable GPS device visible on the dashboard or seat, or better yet, take it with you. That device could easily lead robbers back to your unattended house.
6. Ensure access points are locked and secure
Make sure all doors and windows, even second-floor windows, are locked. If you have a garage with a connecting door, make sure it’s locked. If you have an automatic garage door, unplug the power to prevent robbers from using a universal remote to gain access. If you have a sliding glass door, secure it by putting a metal rod or piece of plywood into the track. Put all your valuables in a fireproof safe and, if you have a security system, let the company know you will be out of town.
7. Safeguard your house
In addition to taking steps to prevent burglars, it’s a good idea to take steps to prevent a fire or flood in your home while you’re gone. Unplug all appliances and turn the thermostat up or down a bit, depending on the season. If it’s winter, keep the temperature at 55 degrees; if it’s summer, 80 degrees. If you’re traveling in the winter, make sure your pipes are well insulated and consider asking a neighbor to turn on your faucets every day to ensure the pipes don’t freeze while you’re gone.
Follow these simple steps prior to traveling to deter the attention of robbers. You should also make sure you have the right homeowners insurance to protect your property and valuables. Learn more about different homeowners coverage options here.