If you’re anything like me, your travel bug takes you to distant lands more often than you’re actually at home. But that wandering spirit comes with a glaring concern: How do you ensure the home you leave behind is just as you left it?
Leaving your house unattended, especially for prolonged periods, paints a potential target on it for unsavory characters and unexpected accidents. And let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than a post-trip glow being ruined by returning to a home disaster.
You might think you’ve got your bases covered with a simple alarm system and a “Beware of the Dog” sign. But trust me, in my years of analyzing web safety protocols, diving deep into security practices, and rubbing elbows with top-tier security experts, I’ve picked up some gold nuggets of wisdom.
So, whether you’re a weekend warrior or a long-haul traveler, I’ve crafted an ironclad list to elevate your home security tips every frequent traveler should have in their arsenal.
Let’s keep that fortress secure, shall we?
Make It Look Like You Are at Home
A good way to throw burglars off is to prepare before you leave and make it look like you never left.
Set up some electronics like your TV, lights, or radio on timers. Some timers even have a vacation mode (i.e. away mode) to keep things randomized. If you are worried about leaving your TV on, an excellent alternative is to use a fake TV light simulator.
You can leave your porch light on when you go on a vacation. However, it should be on during the night and off during the day. Ask somebody to turn it on and off or use a timer to automate the process.
Ask somebody to take out and then return your garbage bins on collection days.
Put Mail and Deliveries on Pause
Do not forget to put on hold your mail, magazine subscriptions, and deliveries. Have somebody collect your mail, flyers, and packages if necessary.
Allowing any of these to accumulate on your front doormat can attract opportunistic burglars because it is a good sign that nobody is home.
Leave a Car Parked in Your Driveway
Ask a neighbor or a friend to park their car in your driveway.
Many burglars have reported that a vehicle in the driveway is an excellent deterrent as this means there may be somebody inside the building.
Keep Your Yard in Check
Ensure somebody looks after your yard. Ask or hire somebody to take care of your lawn during the warmer months and during the autumn and winter, ask somebody to rake the fallen leaves and clear the snow.
Neglected and messy backyards and front yards are a good sign that the property may be empty, which can attract burglars’ attention.
Install a Video Doorbell
Video doorbells can be a pretty good deterrent. They allow you to keep tabs on what is happening in front of your door. Some models even allow you to answer in real time even if you are not home.
Install Door and Window Sensors
Even simple door and window sensors can help keep one’s home safe as they can catch burglars off guard and raise a lot of noise, potentially attracting a lot of attention to your property.
Install Smart Locks
Smart locks are a great way to add another layer of security to your home while at the same time making good use of their smart features.
You can keep tabs on them in real-time, checking if the door is closed and locked properly. They even keep history logs about when and by whom they have been opened or closed.
Smart locks are a particularly good solution if you want to provide temporary access to somebody regularly.
Alternatively, if you are not interested in smart locks, consider upgrading your existing locks with higher-quality ones that are designed to be anti-pick, anti-bump, and anti-drill.
Protect Your Home From Wind and Storm Damage
Ensure your roof is in good condition and there are no loose tiles. Clean your gutters and storm drains. Consider installing storm shutters, flood sensors and turn off the water main while you are away.
Install Fire Alarms
It is recommended to switch off all electrical appliances and devices before leaving. But incidents can happen at any time—especially if nobody keeps an eye on your property, so do not forget to protect your home against fires.
Fire alarms monitor for smoke and heat and will sound a siren if anything suspicious has been detected.
Install a Home Security System
One survey discovered that as much as 60% of burglars would avoid properties with alarms. And if burglars discover there is an alarm system after they have broken in, only 13% will choose to continue with the burglary.
If you are a frequent traveler, a home security system that is being professionally monitored is definitely worth considering because even if you are in the middle of something and not able to check your notifications, the security team can act on your behalf.
And even self-monitored systems often allow owners to keep an eye on their property from afar.
On top of that, home security systems can consist of all the devices and sensors mentioned above, like smart security cameras, door and window sensors, glass break sensors, motion detectors, fire and flood sensors, outdoor floodlights, smart locks, video doorbells, and more.
Toughen up Your Windows
Windows can be broken easily, so consider using some window security film or window bars for an extra layer of security.
Reinforce Your Doors
Many doors are not as tough as they seem. Consider upgrading to tougher, heavy-duty doors. Avoid hollow core and softwood doors.
Reinforce your doors with tougher deadbolts, locks, hinges, and larger strike plates. Replace old screws with longer ones (3-4 inches long) for extra security.
Secure your dog doors, as burglars can use these to gain entry.
Do not forget to secure your sliding door, too.
Get To Know Your Neighbors
Something as simple as getting to know who lives next to you can be a lifesaver.
That way, your neighbors will be able to spot suspicious people a lot easier—especially if they know that you are away and nobody should be sneaking around your home.
Neighborhood Watch Program
Join your neighborhood watch program, or talk to your neighbors about starting one.
Neighborhood watch programs are not the be-all and end-all of crime prevention, but studies have shown they can decrease crime.
Store Away Any Valuables, Tools, and Equipment
When a burglar breaks in, they will check different rooms looking for any valuables they can steal.
Often burglars do not want to spend too much time since they can get caught, so you want to make sure all your valuables are stored away or at least are extremely difficult to find.
It is recommended to put your valuables in a high-quality safe or hide them in spots where burglars may not think to look.
If you will not be returning home for a long time, it is worth considering leaving your valuables at a safe place, like a local bank.
Do not forget to store away your tools and any ladders that you may have. Burglars may use ladders to gain entry via upper floors, and tools (even bricks or rocks lying around your yard) can help them break in.
Keep Valuable Items Out of Sight
Keep your valuables out of plain sight. Some electronics may be difficult to hide (like a large TV), but anything smaller should be put away, so it is not visible from the outside.
This also includes any outdoor decor that you may have.
Keep in mind that certain items, if visible from your window, can give away the fact you are not home—like your calendar, for example.
Do Not Forget the Blinds
There are a lot of mixed opinions about this.
It may be a lot better to keep your curtains and blinds the way you usually keep them. Or at least they should not be completely closed. You want things to look normal, and completely shut blinds can raise suspicion.
It may deter some burglars, but it can also attract others.
In fact, some burglars are even specifically looking for a combination of lights being constantly on and closed window blinds.
Smart window blinds that can be controlled remotely are also available on the market.
Notify the Police and Your Security Company
Let your home security provider be aware that you will be away; this can help them in case of an emergency.
Homeowners that will be going on a vacation can notify their local police department. Although not all police departments offer such services, some can have officers do passing checks. Usually, this is done by calling the police department and filling a vacation check request.
While talking to the police or your security provider, ask about any crime trends in your area and any insight they can offer.
Install Outdoor Lights
Outdoor floodlights with motion sensors are a great way to ensure your yard is well illuminated during the night while keeping your electricity bills down.
Be Mindful With Social Media
Posting on social media is not recommended if you are away. Websites like Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter can inform burglars you are on vacation.
A good alternative to consider is switching your social media profiles to private.
Eliminate Hiding Spots
Be especially mindful of potential hiding spots.
Clear any overgrown trees and trim shrubs and bushes; keep them 2 to 3 feet tall so that it can be difficult for somebody to hide behind them.
Larger fences can provide blind spots that will prevent burglars from being seen, too.
Use Security Signs and Stickers
One study concluded that signs informing people that the immediate areas may be monitored reduced bicycle theft. Although it is not clear how effective that would be in the case of home burglaries, even some criminals reported mixed opinions on the topic.
That being said, experts often recommend avoiding branded signs as these can inform burglars what type of home security system you are using.
Have Somebody Keep an Eye on Your Home
Have somebody who you can trust to keep tabs on your home. This can be a friend, a relative, or a neighbor. Ask them to check your home and ensure there are no signs of entry.
Alternatively, consider hiring a house sitter to keep an eye on your home.
Secure Your Garage
Ensure your garage has been properly secured against burglary and vandalism—especially if it is attached to the main building.
Unplug your garage door opener, shield the emergency release latch, and use manual locks to secure your garage door further.
Inspect your garage for possible weak points. Make sure service, side doors, and windows are all locked up and toughen up.
Ensure Everything Is Closed and Locked Properly
Thoroughly inspect your home, garage, and shed. Ensure that all windows and front and back doors are closed and locked. Give doors and windows a little push. Try to pry them open and see if they budge or if they do not close tightly.
Remove Hidden Spare Keys
If you keep hidden keys outside, make sure to bring them inside while you are away.
If you want some friends or relatives to check on your home, give them a key, don’t leave it hidden under a pot or a plant, as burglars can find it.
Don’t Leave Any Valuables in Your Car
Be mindful of what you leave in your car and where you leave your car before going on a vacation—especially if you will be leaving your car at an airport or a different place than your garage.
Burglars can break into cars where they may find different valuables, including your garage door opener, keys to your home or other cars, and your GPS device.
Your GPS can be used to find your home address (if it has been entered into the device).
If your registration and insurance documents are also in the car, they can also be used to find your home address.
It is best to store away or take these valuables with you.
Keep Your Luggage Hidden
Do not leave your car in full view with the luggage inside for too long.
This could alert burglars that you may be leaving soon.
Either keep your luggage inside your home or keep your car in your garage.
Now, equipped with these high-octane security insights, your wanderlust can truly be set free.
Remember, a vigilant homeowner doesn’t merely lock their doors; they build fortresses even in their absence. And with these proven strategies, you’re not just creating a barrier; you’re crafting a legacy of safety.
Travel is one of life’s most enriching experiences. But to fully immerse yourself in the joy of discovery, you need the assurance that the abode you’ve left behind is fortified against the unexpected.
Throughout my deep dives into the vast world of security, alongside the best in the business, I’ve realized one constant: the best defense is proactive preparation. So, before you jet off on your next grand adventure, ensure your home gets the top-tier security treatment it deserves.
Travel hard, travel safe, and always come home to serenity. Until next time, happy trails and secure homes!