The holiday season is all about spending time with friends and family. While it might be the most wonderful time of the year, it’s also a prime time for thieves to target your home. Many people travel out of town or to other states during the holidays to visit with loved ones which means leaving their homes unattended. Those who are at home during the holidays often have lots of valuable new gifts sitting inside. If we’ve learned anything from Home Alone, it’s that the bad guys know to be on look out for holiday goodies to steal.
So, how can you keep your home safe during the holidays? Here are our 13 top holiday safety tips to help you protect home while traveling.
1. Invest in a home security system
Whether you want a professional to install a home security system, or you’d rather do it yourself, having a security alarm makes your home less likely to be broken into. In fact, homes without security systems are more likely to be the subject of a burglary.
Security systems can alert you, along with the authorities, if someone has broken into your home, and send dispatchers right away. Even DIY systems that are not professionally monitored can allow you to view what is happening in your home via security cameras that you can check in on through an app on your phone. If you do have a professionally monitored system, you can even call your home security company to let them know that you’ll be traveling. That way, if there is any unusual activity that happens during that time, they will alert the authorities right away.
2. Notify police to protect your home while traveling
One of the most simple vacation safety tips is to alert your police department you are out of town.
“Requesting this lets the authorities know you will be out of town and no one should be on the property. Also, in the request let them know if a pet like a dog will be on the property,” says SecurityNerd expert and former police officer James Banta.
Most of the time, this involves submitting a form with the dates you’ll be gone, along with any vehicles they can expect to be in the driveway. While this is certainly no guarantee your house won’t get broken into, at least you know a professional will keep an eye on your home intermittently while you’re away.
3. Put a stop on your mail and deliveries
Nothing looks more inviting to the bad guys than a stack of piled up newspapers on the driveway or an overstuffed mailbox. A stack of Amazon boxes at the front door also signals to potential thieves you aren’t home. Most of us get a lot of packages during the holidays and you should figure out how to handle packages that will arrive after you’ve left for your destination. In all cases, definitely make sure to plan ahead if you’re going to be out of town for three days or more.
USPS provides a hold mail option, so you don’t have to worry about an overfilled mailbox. Call your local newspaper to make sure delivery stops or simply ask a trusted neighbor to pick them up for you. And if you’re planning on ordering something from Amazon that you could receive while away, give Amazon Locker a try. Your package will be delivered safely to a locker nearby to pick up when you’re back in town.
4. Keep up with regular lawn and home maintenance
Another one of the simpler holiday safety tips is to keep your lawn and home maintenance on its regular schedule. If you have a landscaping or pool company come to the house weekly, don’t cancel. If potential thieves are casing your home, they may realize something’s off when your grass is overgrown. If you live in a climate where it snows, have a neighbor or family member keep your sidewalks and driveway well kept. Nothing says “No one’s home” like a driveway that hasn’t been shoveled in days. (Read our full guide for more things that make your house look like an easy target for burglars.)
5. Put your hidden keys inside
We’ve all left a key hidden for a family member or friend to get inside the house while we’re not home. If you have any keys hidden, remove them before leaving town. The bad guys know all the popular hiding places. Besides, why leave a key outside while you’re out of town? If you’re planning on having friends or family members check in on your home while you’re gone, just give them a key in person.
6. Don’t post your vacation plans to social media
Social media makes it pretty tempting to share what an amazing time you’re having on vacation with your friends and family. But they aren’t the only ones watching social media sites and apps. If you’re concerned about keeping your home safe while you’re away, don’t let the world know you’re gone. Giving away plans like where you’re going, and when you’ll be back is basically an invitation to thieves, giving them a perfect game plan of when to break in.
7. Put your valuables in a safe
Everyone knows it’s not smart to carry expensive items while traveling. It makes sense to leave your nice jewelry and electronics at home so that they’re not lost or stolen while you’re on vacation. But that doesn’t mean they should just stay unsecured in your home for thieves to take.
If you have cash, jewelry and other high dollar items at home, put them in a safe. There are multiple sizes and features to choose from with home safes, and it adds an extra layer of security to your home while you’re traveling.
8. Use smart lights to your advantage
Smart lights can be incredibly useful. They allow users to turn them on and off while away, and even schedule times for lights to turn on around the time you get home every day. There are even lights with vacation mode, which can be set up on a random schedule for lights to turn on and off to mimic what would normally happen if someone was home. After all, if a bad guy is watching your house, they may notice your dining room lights go on at 7 PM no matter what. If the lights are randomly turning on and off like someone’s home, it may be enough to make a thief think someone’s inside.
9. Install outdoor floodlights
Outdoor lights with motion detectors are useful even while you’re home. So why not install a floodlight that automatically turns on when it detects motion while you’re on vacation? The light alone may be enough to deter a possible thief. Some models even have cameras on the floodlight for an added layer of security.
10. Ask Alexa to keep your home safe while away
While you may already use one of Alexa’s many skills on a day-to-day basis, did you know Alexa has an Away Mode? She will play pre-recorded conversations that sound real in the middle of the day while you’re not home to fool would-be thieves into thinking that people are inside. Quite a bit more high tech than just having a friend or neighbor do a quick house check.
11. Install environmental sensors
Not every one of these vacation safety tips has to do with keeping burglars away. This one could help keep your house from falling prey to environmental damages. Environmental sensors can alert you to smoke, carbon monoxide, leaks, fires and even frozen pipes. This small investment can pay off big time if you are alerted to a big problem in your home while you’re out of town.
12. Turn off your water supply
It may seem a little too cautious, but simply shutting off your home’s water supply could save you a massive bill if anything goes wrong. Especially during the winter with the increased chance of frozen pipes, turning off your water supply simply reduces the chance that you’ll come home to a flooded home and broken pipes. It only takes a few seconds to do, and it can really pay off.
13. Use smart locks and a smart doorbell
If you invest in a smart doorbell, you can use it even while you’re home for an added convenience. But the great part about having a smart doorbell while you’re away is, there are models that can play pre-recorded responses, or even allow you to speak remotely with whoever is at your door to give the illusion that you’re still home.
There are also smart doorbell options that work with smart locks, which can not only allow you to give key access to someone remotely, but also alert you if someone has entered. Even while you’re far away, you’ll be able to see who’s at your door and make sure no one’s tried to get inside.
While vacations should be fun and worry-free, the truth is they are an ideal time for thieves to target your home. Some of these vacation safety tips require an investment, but others only take a few minutes to complete and each of them could make a huge difference. Following these simple holiday safety tips will reduce chances that you fall prey to a home burglary while you’re traveling.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.