I have 16 easy-to-use pre-trip tips to protect your home and its contents from thieves and other serious problems while traveling.
I’ve got sixteen pre-trip tips to help you prevent crime and other potential disasters from happening at your home while you’re traveling. They can help you have a stress-free journey.
For some travelers, returning home from a great vacation can be a bit wistful. Then, when you arrive home, if you learn that something serious has occurred, that can crush the wonderful travel memories you had.
Get a neighbor, friend, or family member you trust to keep a careful eye on your home while you’re away.
Ask a neighbor you trust to help:
Even if you’re only going to be away for a few days, ask a neighbor or relative to keep an eye on your home. Ask them to check the exterior daily and the interior every few days. They need to ensure there aren’t any tell-tale signs that you’re away. Give them a key so they can enter your home if necessary. If you have a car outside, give them your car keys in case the car has to be moved.
Make sure they have your itinerary, destination contact information, and your emergency contact information.
If more than one person might visit your home while you’re away, ensure each has the other’s name and contact information.
Consider a house sitter:
If you are away for a prolonged period, consider a house sitter. We’ve used our neighbors’ adult children while they were in local colleges to sit for us. If you have a pet, a house sitter can be a real saving by letting your pet stay home instead of going to a kennel or veterinarian.
Leave for your trip with your home looking like it does when you’re home.
Put your home lights on a timer:
Nothing can broadcast that you’re traveling like a home that’s dark all night or has lights on all night and all day, day after day. Put your lights on timers to approximate how they go on and off when you’re home. Also, put your exterior lights on timers or, better yet, on light sensors with motion detectors so that they go on when someone is moving around your home after dusk until dawn.
Extra Tip: Frankly, it’s a good idea to have your exterior lights on light and motion sensors whether you’re on vacation or at home to help keep you safe.
Leave blinds and curtains the way you have them when you’re home:
If your blinds and curtains are pulled down, day and night, especially in rooms other than bedrooms, it’s an immediate tip-off that you’re away.
Leave a car in the driveway?:
Some experts suggest leaving a car in the driveway while you’re vacationing. Even if you normally do that, don’t do it while you’re away. The problem is that if you leave a car in the driveway, after a few days, it becomes apparent the vehicle hasn’t been moved and that you’re not home.
Use an actual security system, not a fake security system sign:
An actual security system monitored by a central station is a definite crime deterrent. It saved me a couple of times. Sometimes thieves, seeing an alarm sign, test to see if you have one, then finding out you only have a sign, clean you out. Don’t forget to tell the alarm company that you’ll be on vacation and who to call while you’re away. Ensure your contact knows the security password and how to operate the alarm.
If you’re traveling in winter, you must take special precautions to protect it from weather-related problems.
Protect you’re home from freezing pipes in winter:
Don’t turn your heating system off entirely when you go away in winter. Instead, lower your thermostat to save money while you’re away, but leave it high enough to ensure no area in your home will get colder than about 55°F (13°C). That will likely ensure that your pipes won’t freeze, damaging your home when they thaw, even during a short power outage.
Install an Internet-enabled thermostat:
I’ve been using Internet-enabled thermostats in my home for years. Via the thermostat, I can monitor the temperature in my home. If the temperature drops below my setting in winter, I know to call my neighbor monitoring my house for help. An internet-enabled thermostat can also allow you to turn up the thermostat in winter or lower in summer, just before you get home, so it’s comfortable by the time you arrive.
If you have a garden or lawn:
For homes with a garden and/or lawn, if you have a gardener take care of them, ensure they’ll do it while you’re away. If you don’t, arrange for your garden and lawn to be tended and mowed while traveling. A messy or overgrown garden and/or unmowed lawn tells thieves that you’re away from home.
It would be best if you prevented mail, deliveries, or newspapers from being left at your home. They tell potential thieves you’re away.
Mail, deliveries, and newspapers:
An overflowing mailbox, newspapers, and/or deliveries in front of your door for days signal thieves that you’re traveling. You can have the US Post Office hold your mail via their website. Most newspapers that are physically delivered can also be shopped online. Ask your trusted neighbor to collect any mail, deliveries, or newspapers left at your home and either put them in your home or hold them at their home.
Disconnect your electronic devices:
Even if your electronic devices are connected to power via quality surge protectors, it’s a good idea to disconnect them and the surge protectors while you’re away. Sometimes power surges can get through, particularly after a power outage. Power failures can corrupt hard drives in computers left on. If you have Internet-connected devices, such as thermostats, you’ll need to leave your WiFi network running.
Leave everything clean and tidy:
Never leave your home a mess when you go on your trip. You don’t want to come home to a mess or telegraph that you’re away.
Secure your valuables, your home, and your garage. As you leave, make sure your stove is off.
Secure your valuables:
Even if some of your valuables have sentimental value, secure them from thieves. Use a hidden safe or lockbox. You want to know they’ll be safe when you return home.
Photograph your stove:
Before you leave your door to leave for vacation, photograph your stove to prove that nothing is on it and that it’s turned off. If you do this, you won’t be guessing it’s off.
Lock your home:
When you leave on your journey, even if you normally leave doors unlocked, lock all your doors and windows. Please don’t make it easy for thieves.
Lock your garage door:
When you leave and lock your home’s doors, don’t forget to lock your garage door. If you have an electric garage door opener, turn off its power.
There’s no guarantee that these easy-to-use, commonsense preventatives will keep your home and belongings safe while traveling. Still, they will go a long way to help ensure that you won’t return to a disaster that will wipe out the great memories built up while you were away.
After many years working in corporate America as a chemical engineer, executive and eventually CFO of a multinational manufacturer, Ned founded a tech consulting company and later restarted NSL Photography, his photography business. Before entering the corporate world, Ned worked as a Public Health Engineer for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. As a well known corporate, travel and wildlife photographer, Ned travels the world writing about travel and photography, as well as running photography workshops, seminars and photowalks. Visit Ned’s Photography Blog and Galleries.