Traveling can be a fun adventure, especially if you got a great deal on airline tickets. However, you don't want to just up and go without making some preparations first, and we don't just mean packing and planning your sightseeing destinations.
Taking the time to prepare your home for an extended leave is very important as well. It can give you peace of mind and save you money. We're going to look at how to protect your empty home against inflated utility bills, burglars, and other threats. We've also included a couple of things NOT to do.
1. Save your electric bill
You won't be using any of your gadgets when you're away, so shut them off. And that doesn't just mean putting them in sleep mode; that still drains electricity. Click here to learn more about these energy vampires and how to slay them.
You actually want to flip the off switch on your power strip or unplug the gadget. That will make sure they aren't even drawing the slightest bit of power. There are a few caveats, of course.
Instead of turning the thermostat off, just set it very high - say the mid-80s. In winter, you can set it low. This way you save power, but your home temperature doesn't get so hot it hurts the wood floor or furniture, or so cold that it hurts your electronics. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to bring the house to a good temperature just before you get back.
The other caveat is if you're accessing your home computer remotely with a program like TeamViewer. In that case, you'll need to leave the computer running. Just be sure to log out of every online account and clear your passwords from your browser in case a thief gets in.
2. Keep your valuables and information secure
Speaking of thieves, you want to make sure you aren't just leaving things lying around for them to take. Throw any sensitive documents, expensive jewelry or any gadgets you're leaving behind into a secure place, like this lockbox. For larger gadgets like a computer, make sure they're password protected.
3. Hold your mail
You also don't want potentially sensitive information showing up on your doorstep anyone can walk away with. Put a hold on your mail for the duration of your trip to protect yourself from identity thieves.
Also, mail stacking up is another sign to burglars that you're away, so it might tempt them to break in when they wouldn't otherwise. The United States Postal Service lets you put a hold on your mail through its website. No need to wait in line.
4. Let a trustworthy neighbor know
Day-old newspapers are a dead giveaway for burglars hunting for vacant houses to rob. A trustworthy neighbor or friend can make sure that your newspaper subscription doesn't make you a target. They can also keep a watchful eye over your home and belongings or water plants.
Just remember that if someone is going to be in your house unsupervised, make sure sensitive information and gadgets are safely put away. A large number of identity thieves are friends and family members.
5. Install a security system
If something were to happen, a security system would notify you and the police immediately. Studies show that they are a great deterrent; 84 percent of burglars said if they were confronted with a home security system they would not attack the home. As long as you remember to set the alarm and lock your doors, you've added a huge layer of protection.
Some security companies will charge you hundreds of dollars to install the alarm, monitor your home, and for the actual device. But SimpliSafe is a cheaper and just as effective option. You only pay for the hardware and $15 a month for monitoring. It's a wireless system that you can easily install yourself. And once you do, you'll be able to save money on home owner's insurance.
Now that we've covered what you should do before you leave, there are two things you shouldn't do. Many people going on vacation make these mistakes and it actually makes burglars more likely to break in.
1. Don't leave a light on
Just about everyone thinks that leaving a light on will fool burglars into moving to the next house. However, no one actually leaves the same light on 24 hours a day. It will actually make your home more conspicuous, and any burglar casing your house or area will easily pick up on it. Plus, it's a huge waste of electricity.
If you want to leave a light on, put it on a timer. You can set it to go on for a few hours at night like it normally would. Or you can pick up a burglar deterrent unit that makes it look like the TV is on. If you get one like the model in our shop, it has a light sensor and a timer, so it runs for a believable amount of time.
2. Don't post about your vacation on social media
Think of how many people you know who post about upcoming trips on Facebook, or give updates about how their vacation is going. This is as good as telling hundreds of people your home is unguarded.
Even something as simple as sharing a photo is dangerous. Vacation pictures usually get likes, comments, and shares from your friends, which then goes out to friends of friends. This means that people who you don't know might end up seeing your picture. So even if you make sure your Facebook privacy settings are really secure, the information might still get out.
Burglars have started crawling social media websites to find times when a house will be empty. Find out how burglars find targets through social media. Just wait until you get home to share your vacation photos and stories.