Ingenious Ways To Protect Your Home While On Vacation

For those who have the wanderlust gene, there are few things more thrilling than getting ready to travel for an extended period. At the same time, leaving for a while makes your home more vulnerable. From theft to power outages, it can be scary leaving your home on its own.

There are plenty of ways to ensure that everything is safe and in working condition upon your return. Since not everyone has the convenience of a house sitter, we dug up some of the best practices to follow while away on vacation. Read on for some suggestions that should bring you peace of mind during your next trip.

Don’t Share Your Plans On Social Media

Someone checks their cellphone while sitting at their laptop.
Neil Godwin/Future via Getty Images
Neil Godwin/Future via Getty Images

While it may be tempting to share your vacation plans and corresponding photos on social media, hold off until you’re back home. Especially if you have a public account, anyone can see that you’re not at home.

In this age of technology, it can be incredibly easy to find someone’s address, and the most dangerous criminals are the smartest ones. Plenty of websites will hand over your information for a small fee, so it’s best to keep your plans as private as possible.

Buy A Fake TV

watching television
infofdfriends/Pinterest
infofdfriends/Pinterest

Fake TVs are an easy-to-use invention designed to help prevent home burglaries. These are tiny, box-shaped instruments that emit flickering lights to simulate a television. The device is only about $30, but it could potentially save you thousands by diverting a burglar who thinks you’re at home.

While they don’t create pictures like an actual TV would, they do flicker to emulate a television’s light. When looking through curtains or cracks in a window or door, it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference. They also run on a timer that will automatically turn the device on and off.

Buff Up Your Front Door

A woman checks the locks of a door.
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Especially if you live in a home that was built decades ago, it’s important to examine the front door before leaving for an extended amount of time. The frame may have eroded, making it possible for the door to easily be kicked down.

One option is to replace the door and frame, but a quicker and less expensive choice would be to purchase reinforcing equipment. There are plenty of items, such as deadbolts and mounting tabs, that can help keep your door snug and kick-proof.

Set A Radio Alarm

setting alarm clock
auric180/YouTube
auric180/YouTube

Certified Security Expert Chris McGoey states that most home burglaries happen during the day. This may seem counter-intuitive considering that nighttime offers a criminal the shield of darkness. During the day, people are usually out and about, while at night they’re generally home.

Since light tricks may not be as effective during the day, sound may be a better diversion. Fool a burglar into thinking someone’s home by setting a radio-alarm. It will go off daily and most turn themselves off.

Be Mindful Of Your Thermostat

A woman adjusts her thermostat
Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

While theft prevention is a major part of keeping your home safe, you also want to be mindful of the physical state of you’re home. For people who live in a climate that will be extremely cold while they’re away, it’s important to keep the temperature regulated.

It may be tempting to turn off the thermostat while no one is home, but this can cause trouble upon your return. If your pipes freeze solid for a while, they may burst when you come home and prep for a hot bath. Be sure to keep your heater set to a low but safe temperature.

Have Someone Plow The Driveway

A man plows snow in his driveway.
Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images

For travelers who live in snowy climates, it’s crucial to stay aware of storms that may occur while you’re away. One of the most apparent signs a person is not home is when they’re the only driveway on the block that isn’t plowed.

Since most people drive daily, it would seem suspect to a burglar to see a driveway buried in snow with no one in sight. If snow does build up while you’re away, ask a trusted friend to plow the driveway or hire a company to do it.

Put A Dowel In Your Window

A chef rolls dough.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

While leaving your home unattended, it’s an obvious choice to lock your windows. However, some burglars are skilled at maneuvering the glass in such a way that they can slide past the lock. For extra home security, place a dowel in the track of the windows around your home.

A dowel is a cylindrical rod that can be used for many purposes. You may have seen a chef use a wooden dowel to roll out dough, for example. This inexpensive item can also be useful as a means of jamming the window track so that a burglar cannot slide it open.

Install A Window Sensor Alarm

A woman smiles while standing in front of an open window.
Daria AddabboMondadori via Getty Images
Daria AddabboMondadori via Getty Images

Another option to keep the windows extra secure is to install a sensor alarm. Doing so will allow you to receive text message alerts when your window has been opened. There are also door sensors that will send a notification if a door is opened.

If you do get alerted, some installation companies gave you the option to respond by turning on video cameras or lights. Even if a burglar did make it into the home, it’s unlikely that they would stay there if a light suddenly came on.

Put Out Signs

A gate sign reads
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Another way to possibly deter burglars is to put out warning signs. Whether you have a dog or not, a “Beware of Dog” sign could come in handy. A criminal is aiming for the easiest job possible, and a potential dog is a major red flag.

Signs about your willingness to enforce the second amendment can also be useful since it implies the homeowner is armed. You can also buy a video surveillance warning sign to give the impression the burglar is on camera.

Have Someone Collect Your Mail

A newspaper sits on someone's welcome mat.
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

One telling sign that no one is home is a stack of newspapers on the doorstep or flyers shoved into the door jam. If a criminal is frequenting the neighborhood to scout out burglary sites, odds are they will notice those subtle hints.

Have a friend or a neighbor swing by your property every few days so that nothing gets too stacked up. You may want to have them empty your mailbox, too, just in case anyone is peeping in there.

Put Your Mail On Hold

A postal worker delivers mail.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you’d rather not bother someone with the task of picking up your mail, you can always put it on hold. Simply head to your post office and fill out the proper form. You can also indicate when you want the mail delivery to resume.

If you have a newspaper delivery service, you can pause that, as well. Be aware of any package delivery dates and set them to arrive before you’re gone. If you must order something to arrive while you’re away, see if you can have it sent to your work or to a friend instead.

Have A Neighbor Grab Your Trash Bins

A blue trash bin sits on a neighborhood street.
Citizen of the Planet/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Citizen of the Planet/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you’ll be away from home for an extended amount of time, you obviously won’t have trash building up. However, if a burglar is roaming the neighborhood and happens to notice that your bins are the only ones not on the street, it may catch their attention.

One peek in those empty bins could tip off a criminal. That’s why it may be a good idea to have a neighbor grab your bins and place them on the street next to theirs, then place them back each week.

Use This Trick In Case The Power Goes Out

A woman sorts items in a freezer.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

One primary reason to keep your home safe is to keep everything in it protected. If a blackout happens while you’re away, you may not be aware that the food in your fridge or freezer is no longer safe to eat.

A simple trick is to freeze a cup of water. Once it’s frozen solid, set a quarter on top. If the quarter has disappeared to the bottom of the container when you return, it means the water completely melted during a blackout. Toss or smell any perishables before eating them.

Leave A Key With Someone

A woman holds out a key in front of a house.
Gonzales Photo/PYMCA/Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Gonzales Photo/PYMCA/Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

There are a plethora of reasons to leave a key with someone trusted. For one, if a blackout does occur, they could go in and check your perishable food right away. They also could perform any necessary duties, like taking out your trash bins, if you don’t want to trouble the neighbors.

They also can keep up any small household duties, like watering the plants, while you’re away. Seeing someone walk in and out of the home will help dissuade burglars. Plus, they can offer you peace of mind if you suddenly question whether or not you left the stove on as your plane is taking off.

Keep Valuables Somewhere Unusual

Items sit on kitchen shelves.
Getty Images
Getty Images

One way to help protect valuables while away is to put them somewhere a potential burglar wouldn’t look. No one wants to linger in a home they’ve broken into, so the criminal will probably be in a hurry.

According to Reader’s Digest, the first places a burglar will look are in dressers, bedside tables, and the medicine cabinet. Instead, bury valuables under the kitchen sink or in a cracker box in the pantry — the more inconspicuous, the better.

Install An Outdoor Sensor Light

Light illuminate the front of a home at night.
Kurt Wittman/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Kurt Wittman/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A sensor light is an inexpensive and easy-to-install way to keep burglars on their toes. While you may not be able to catch a criminal off-guard by being physically present, becoming unexpectedly bathed in bright light can be jarring.

Additionally, if someone is scouting the neighborhood for an easy home to target, they may be turned off by the light sensor. Not only is it inconvenient, but it also suggests that the homeowners may have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Secure Your Garage Door

A couple with suitcase walk through a garage door.
VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images
VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images

With so much technological hacking going on these days, it’s wise to rely on remote locks as little as possible. Electronically controlled garages can sometimes be hacked into; while leaving for an extended time, you may want to attach a manual lock.

Additionally, be sure to lock the door between the garage and the house. It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s something that can easily slip your mind. Since garages can sometimes be easier to break into, you may want to bring any valuables into the house temporarily.

Have Someone Take Out Your Car

A red Tesla is parked in a driveway.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

If you’ll be gone for an extended period and won’t be driving, you may want someone to take your car out for a drive every once in a while. Just like a house needs protection, so does your car. A stagnant vehicle isn’t a healthy one.

According to Drifted, “When a car sits for more than a couple of weeks, it begins to break down systematically.” Additionally, a burglar will notice if a car has remained in the same spot for a while. Give someone trusted your spare car key and let them borrow it every so often.

Don’t Leave Out A Key

A welcome mat reads
Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images
Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Your spare house and car key should be handed directly to a trusted person, never left out. The old under-the-mat, in-the-pot, or in-the-fake-rock tricks are well known. Burglars will likely look for a key long before they try to break in.

Neighbors are more likely to call the authorities for suspicious behavior if someone is noticeably sneaking in. If a passerby watches a burglar walk in the front door with a key they found outside, odds are they won’t be getting caught.

Make A Security Checklist

A woman marks a checklist.
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

When preparing for a trip, you may find it useful to create a checklist for everything you need. Be sure to have a security checklist that is separate from the packing checklist and from your itinerary.

Having a separate list that is designated for security can make it easier to ensure that everything is covered. Since your home’s protection is one of the most important parts of travel, making sure all of the tasks are taken care of before you depart is vital.