Memorial Day is just a month away. That’s the day bookmarked on many families’ calendars as the start of vacation! School is out, the weather is pleasant, and everyone is ready for a getaway. In the excitement surrounding travel, don’t forget to do a little security planning as well. Short of rigging up an elaborate Home Alone-style party with cardboard cutouts spinning on turntables, giving a bit of thought to the security of your home before going on vacation is the best line of defense in protecting your belongings from potential burglars. Knowing your stuff is safe at home is a huge step toward having worry free vacations. Of course you want to make sure your trip is well planned as well, but who wants to worry about what’s going on at home while they’re trying to relax?

Security Tips for a Stress-Free Vacation

From hotels to flights to baseball tickets and surf board rentals, many vacations are planned from beginning to end. Oddly enough, many people seem to forget one major detail when planning on getting away—home security. While locking your door, turning off the thermostat, and asking a neighbor to “keep an eye on things” may seem like enough to keep your home safe during your absence, it’s often not.

  • Actually Use Your Security System: A shocking number of people purchase security systems and never use them. According to Consumer Reports, a whopping 43% of people with home security systems fail to use them when they go on vacation. When departing, make sure your system is activated. If you have a neighbor watching your home, give them a temporary passcode that you change immediately after returning.
  • Lock Your Doors: Another equally surprising bit of information is that 20% of homeowners don’t even lock their doors when they’re away! In theory, a burglar could easily gain access by checking to see which homes are unlocked, and this tactic is shockingly successful. Burglars entered through an unlocked door or window in approximately 30% of robberies. Additionally, if you don’t want to risk losing your house keys while on vacation, find a trusted neighbor that will hold onto your keys until you get back. Never hide your keys outside the home—your hiding spot may seem safe to you, but who’s to say a burglar wasn’t watching you hide your keys?
  • Don’t Update Facebook or Other Social Networking Sites: Announcing your travel plans or sharing pictures from the road to the masses on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram should be done very cautiously. Most travelers want to share the excitement of their trip online. Avoiding posting updates about your trip is a great Plan A. But, if you’re insistent upon sharing highlights, perhaps state something to the effect of “Having a great time in the Black Hills! Thanks again to Marcie for housesitting while we’re away!” This will tell would-be burglars that even though you’re away, the house is still occupied (even if it’s not).
  • Suspend the Mail and Newspaper Subscription: Burglars will use any information they can to find out which homes are empty. In fact, the vast majority of residential burglaries take place between 6 am and 6 pm, when most people are away from the home. A stack of mail or newspapers by the front door can be a dead giveaway that a home’s residents have left for an extended period of time. By suspending the mail and newspaper subscriptions, occupants can eliminate obvious signs they have gone on vacation. Vacation-goers might also want to consider having neighbors gather any advertisements that collect on your door.
  • Mow Your Lawn: Make sure to take care of your lawn in the day or two before you depart as this gives the impression someone is watching over your house. An overgrown lawn can be another clear indication that a home’s occupants have left for an extended period of time. If you’re going to be gone longer than a couple of weeks, make arrangements to have your lawn mowed in your absence.
  • Trusted Neighbors Are Your Greatest Ally: Neighbors can be fantastic allies in the defense of your home, especially when you’re not there. Nosy neighbors endlessly annoy burglars that want to get into your home. Having a neighbor you trust watch over your home can be a real difference maker. Your retired next-door neighbor Donald who flocks to greet you and chit-chat every time you pull into the driveway? He just became your best line of defense. What burglar could possibly sneak by Donald? If this neighbor is willing, there are additional steps they can take to make it appear as if someone is home. For example, many police departments recommend having a neighbor or friend open window blinds during the day and closing them at night. It may seem over-the-top, but it could work wonders.

Before the Fun: A Home Security Checklist

  1. Are neighbors aware of your absence? Do you have trusted neighbors watching your home?
  2. Have you suspended all mail and newspaper deliveries?
  3. Does your lawn look well maintained?
  4. Do your locks work properly? Does every family member have a key?
  5. Is your security system functioning properly?