Murphy’s Law for travelers: If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong while you’re gone—which is arguably the worst time a household calamity can strike. Coming home after the excitement of the holidays, and returning to "regular life" can feel gloomy, but returning from a memorable journey and learning something has gone seriously wrong at home can be downright devastating.
To make matters worse, a home left empty while its owners are traveling is a tempting target for criminals. We don’t want to scare you—or leave you fearing for your treasured belongings while sipping eggnog and basking in the glow of Christmas lights. However, it’s imperative that every traveler take certain key steps to keep their home safe and sound while traveling for the holidays. Basic preventative measures (which take only minutes to complete) can work wonders to help you keep your home safe from power surges, broken pipes, home invasions, and more while you’re away.
Ask a Friend to Help
A simple, albeit crucial, way to gain peace of mind while traveling is to ask a friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your house while you’re away. Ask them to drive by your home once every day or so and check on the place. Give this person a key so that they can bring your mail/newspaper in, feed your pet, water your plants, etc. He or she should also have your contact information and a copy of your itinerary in case of emergencies.
Do you have more than one person visiting your house while you’re away? If so, tell them about each other!
Don’t Tip Off Criminals on the Web
In a world where it seems everyone is talking about their plans on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, it’s important to stop and think: Who exactly is reading this stuff? The anonymity of the internet can encourage us to share personal information without fully realizing that there may be hundreds of complete strangers receiving our daily musings. Would you announce to a crowd that you will be leaving your house unattended for two weeks this December? If not, then you should think twice about posting your detailed vacation plans on social media—especially if that information is visible to internet users other than your friends and family (and it probably is).
Curtains Closed—or Open?
Before you leave for vacation, you may decide to close your curtains to prevent people from peering inside your home to see whether you’re there. However, closed curtains also stop those who aim to help—the police, your neighbors or friends—from seeing inside your house. So what’s your best bet? Leave your curtains exactly as you usually keep them when you’re home, since noticeable changes could hint that you’re not around anymore—especially if your curtains are uncharacteristically left closed for two weeks. Move expensive items, like jewelry or computers, out of plain sight if they’re visible from the window.
The Lights Are on But No One’s Home
Don’t leave your lights on at home throughout your entire vacation in an effort to make it look like someone is in the house. Your electric bill will not only end up being much higher-- house lights blazing throughout the night might look a bit suspicious or give a potential burglar an easier view of your electronics and other belongings.
Instead, purchase a light switch timer that can turn your lights on and off automatically according to a programmed schedule. Criminals keeping an eye on your house will notice lights flipping on and off, and will probably assume someone is doing the flipping. Amazon offers a number of such products, including this one from Honeywell and this one from Enerlites.
Stop Your Mail
If you're going on an extended vacation, either place a “stop” order on mail and newspapers, or arrange to have a friend or neighbor pick up your mail while you’re away. Otherwise, a week’s worth of papers piled on your front step could signal to criminals that this particular homeowner is out of town. It’s easy to put your mail on hold at USPS.com.
Put That in Your Pipe
Take other precautions like making sure your pipes are properly insulated and keeping your heat on while you’re away. It is especally important to winterize your home and pipes before leaving town for an extended period of time.
Pull the Plug
Unplug your television, computer, toaster oven, and other appliances to protect them from power surges. This will help you save power as well; many appliances draw energy even when they’re turned off.
Remove Your Spare Key
That plastic rock isn’t fooling anyone. If a criminal figures out you’re away on vacation, it’s likely that he or she will check your porch for a spare key. So reach under the mat, into the mailbox, above the door frame, or into the flower pot and remove your spare key before you leave on your vacation.
No one likes to think about what could go wrong at their home before leaving for vacation. However, taking a few moments to prepare can help to alleviate worry, and contribute to peace of mind.
EJ Johnson Group wishes you and yours a very happy, peaceful and safe Holiday season.