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Vacation Security Tips

Tips to Keep Your Home Secure Over the Holidays

After all the months of saving up and planning, you are finally off for your dream destination. You should enjoy your much-deserved vacation, but homeowners also need to think about how to protect their home while they’re away. It would be sad to come home from your travels to find your house burglarized.

Unfortunately, burglaries occur often in cities around Pennsylvania. Homeowners need to be on their guard, especially during the summer when robbers are more active. But what can you do to safeguard your home while you’re away over the holidays?

15 Steps to Protect Your Home While You’re Away

Summer should be full of road trips, long days at the beach, seeing new sites and visiting old friends. The last thing you want to worry about while you’re relaxing with your family is home security. Nowadays, keeping your house safe isn’t as simple as just locking the doors. Don’t leave for vacation without going through this checklist to protect your property from burglars while you’re gone.

Lock Up Tight

Although it may seem obvious, we have all had the heart-in-mouth experience of thinking we left a window or door unlocked. Making a checklist well before your trip is an easy approach to avoid this needless worry. Include things like “check each window” and “close the garden gate,” and make it a point to spend 15 minutes walking through your house and checking off each item.

Beyond locking the doors and windows, think about other points of entry that should be secured if you’re going to be gone for a longer period of time. Window well covers around the basement should be locked, for example. The garage door can be disabled and locked from the inside with a deadbolt to keep the entrance secure. You can place a safety bar or a simple wooden dowel in the track of a sliding glass door to keep it from opening even if a thief is able to force the lock. And be sure to collect any emergency keys hidden outside the house.

Additional security measures may include installing deadbolts on doors and windows to make it more difficult for thieves to enter the home. You might also consider switching out standard or less sturdy locks for high-security locks. With just a plastic credit card, doors with handle locks can be opened. On the other hand, deadbolts provide twice the locking security and demand considerable force to open. Install deadbolts on all of your entry doors, not just the ones that see a lot of traffic. Your house is only as safe as its weakest point of entrance.

We also advise including your outbuildings in your holiday security checklist in addition to your home. Additionally, be cautious to lock away any tools that robbers might use to break into your house.

Make it Look Like Someone is Home

Burglars often watch homes for a period of time before attempting to break in. They want to know if anyone is home and find an adequate window of time when they will be able to force the locks on the door or break a window and gain access to the house. Think about the home-care activities you routinely do throughout the week. This will help you anticipate everything that will need to be handled while you’re away to keep it looking like someone is home.

Deter thieves by putting some lights and TVs on timers. You can set them to turn on and off at different times during the night and days of the week. If you have smart home automation, you can program a schedule while you’re gone for the holidays.

Keep the Property Tidy

Nothing is more alluring to a home burglar than a house that seems to be empty. Mail piling up in the mailbox or on the front porch, as well as a house that is dark at all times of the day, are indicators of this.

You don’t want to give the impression that nobody’s home. Before departing, pull weeds, trim the bushes, and cut back landscaping before you leave for vacation so that your property doesn’t look unkempt. This is also important because overgrown shrubs and trees can make for great hiding places for a thief trying to gain access to your home. If you live in a warm climate, don’t forget to ensure that the lawn gets mowed regularly while you’re away. If you live in a cold climate, like Pennsylvania, make arrangements for someone to shovel your driveway and walkways if it is predicted to snow while you are away.

Plus, the mail and newspaper delivery should be put on hold so that you don’t have things piling up in your mailbox or on the front door. Or, if you have a smart lock, you can set a code that a reliable friend or neighbor can use to open it, check on any plants or animals inside, and deliver your mail.

Install Security Cameras or an Alarm System

Many homeowners turn to security cameras and alarm systems for an extra level of security. If you have a home security system, make sure that it is set when you leave. You should also notify the home alarm company of your travel plans.

Get Smart Locks

Consider installing smart locks, which allow you to monitor any activity at the entry points of the household from an integrated mobile app. With smart locks, you can allow temporary access at certain set times for cleaning services or pet sitters while you’re away.

You may take advantage of features like push alerts to your phone to notify you when the lock is used or if there is a disturbance at the door even if you decide not to pair your smart lock with other technology. Additionally, the deadbolt can be locked and unlocked remotely, making it ideal for situations where a friend has to deliver an urgent item or check on the basement pipes during a hard freeze. Finally, you can temporarily disable any assigned unique access codes from the mobile app if they aren’t required while you’re away. This lessens the possibility of uninvited guests entering your house over the holidays.

Consider Other Smart Security Devices

Some smart security systems also have built-in smart doorbell cameras, enabling you to view real-time video of what’s happening at your front door. Because thieves can easily break into a home through a garage door, rely on a smart garage door lock to keep this entry point secure with a heavy-duty deadbolt while you’re gone. Door and window sensors, as well as sensors that detect that sound of breaking glass can add an extra layer of security while you are away.

Keep Your Valuables Safe

Avoid leaving anything valuable in plain sight inside the house. Lock jewelry, important documents and other small items away in a combination safe. For insurance purposes, in case your house is burglarized while you are away, keep a list of any particularly valuable things and include their serial number or a photo. Get information on Where to Install a Safe in Your Home.

Hide Gifts and Packages

Make sure gifts are kept out of sight of a possible burglar. Although it looks good to place nicely wrapped presents under the tree, doing so also serves as a burglar’s invitation. Try to avoid placing your gifts near windows or other viewing areas.

Additionally, you’ll want to take care of any gifts you haven’t yet gotten yet. When there are packages left alone on the porch, thieves like to attack. To aid with preventing porch pirates, think about installing a doorbell camera. Giving delivery personnel specific directions on where to leave things is another wise option. Consider renting a package locker or getting a safe drop box to keep on your porch if you anticipate receiving a lot of deliveries.

Hire Help

Some handy local service providers can help you keep your home looking lived in while you’re gone. For example, you could schedule lawn and garden care for the period that you will be away. Having the grass cut, leaves raked or snow shoveled are all smart ways to take care of your property even when you’re not there. Be sure these hired helpers access using a smart lock or entrusting them with a spare key. Don’t try to hide a key around the home.

Enlist a Neighbor

If you have reliable neighbors or friends nearby, ask them to help. Offer to swap favors for your neighbor. Ask if they can pick up the mail, water the plants and take out the garbage cans while you’re on vacation. Then, you can do the same when they’re out of town. If your neighbor parks their car in your driveway sometimes, it also creates the illusion of more activity at your home.

In general, building a strong relationship with neighbors is a great homeowner tip. It’s always helpful to have other people looking out for suspicious activity. Neighborhood watch networks add an extra level of security because they notify others when there is a possible problem in the area.

Take Out the Trash

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the average household produces 25% more garbage; with the rise of online shopping, this number is now considerably greater. There are two things you can do to keep your home secure when it comes to garbage throughout the winter. First, avoid luring thieves with packaging left on the curb. Your home will be an enticing target because of the box from your new big-screen TV. Large boxes should be disassembled, then everything should be placed in garbage bags or taken immediately to a recycling site.

Second, ask your neighbors to place some of their trash in front of your house on trash pick-up days if you’re going on vacation. Another indication that you’ve left town is no garbage during the holidays or at any other time of the year.

Don’t Post Your Travel Plans

Visiting family and traveling are exciting and it’s hard not to announce your travel plans on social media, but you never know who might receive that information. To be on the safe side, share this information with your friends and family when you talk to them. Be sure to talk to your kids about not posting this information on social media as well. Then, when you return from the trip, feel free to share all the lovely pictures from your trip.

Turn on Exterior Lighting

Installing floodlights around the outside of your house is a good security measure. Exterior lighting is especially important over the garage door and near the back and side entrances. Think about points of entry where bushes and fencing would otherwise provide cover for a burglar attempting to break in. If you already have exterior lighting, add timers and motion detectors to help deter burglars without keeping the lights on 24/7. Same advice goes for exterior holiday lights; try using an outdoor timer or smart outlet to switch lights on and off.

Call the Police

Here’s a little-known fact: a simple call to your local police department can provide another layer of security while you’re away. Many municipalities offer courtesy check-ups on properties upon request. Having the police make rounds in your area will help deter robbers. Plus, they will be quick to respond if suspicious activity is reported at a house they know should be empty.

Check Your Homeowner’s Insurance

Even if you take every effort to secure your home while away, there is still a chance that you could become a victim of crime. Since you may not have traveled for more than a year, double-check that your insurance is still valid and that you have the appropriate coverage. You must ensure that you are insured for the full cost of replacing your possessions because each house insurance policy has a cap on the amount you can claim.

Extra Tips for Peace of Mind

Safeguarding your home doesn’t just have to do with protecting it from a break-in, but potentially from the elements of Mother Nature as well.

    • Make sure the sump pump in the basement is working (if applicable).
    • Unplug electronics to minimize the risk of an electrical fire or a power surge.
    • Keep your thermostat at a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re leaving in the winter to prevent your pipes from freezing.
    • Check with your homeowner’s insurance policy about coverage in case of a burglary.

Get more great security information for homeowners: Tips for Securing Your Rental Property and Home Security Tips for Your New House.

Increase Security Around Your Home

Find a locksmith near you to help boost security at your house. The experts at Great Valley Lockshop provide a range of residential services including changing the locks, installing burglary-rated safes to protect valuables, and offering professional-quality products.

Call Great Valley Lockshop at (610) 644-5334 or request a free estimate with our easy online form.

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