Is Your Home Vacation Ready? A Simple Checklist

BY Beth Williams

Before you leave on your trip, make sure your home is vacation ready too. Home burglary prevention can be as simple as doing a little maintenance.  You don’t have to throw steel bars up on all your windows and doors, just give a little extra thought to the below ideas and you will feel a lot better that you will return home to a house just as you left it.

  • Tour your house before becoming a tourist. Make sure all windows and doors are locked before you leave, including doors to the house from the garage or porches. Don’t forget outbuildings and sheds that might have items that are valuable or handy to use to break into the house.
  •  Cover up. Close the blinds or drapes windows where people could look inside your home.
  • Retool your locks. If you have deadbolts, replace short screws in the strike plate with 3-inch ones that screw through to the frame of the house and are more difficult to pull out. Place secondary locks like a Door Jammer on all doors other than one you’ll use when you return.
  • Finish the yard work. Nothing advertises a vacant home like uncut grass, untrimmed shrubs or weedy flowerbeds.
  • Stop it. The mail, newspaper, the UPS delivery from the Home Shopping Channel. (A burglar can tell you’re not home by the sticky tag the delivery person left on your door.) Alternatively, have a trusted neighbor or relative watch the house and pick up the items.
  • Prickly predicament. If there are low-to-the ground windows, use shrubbery with thorns or needles – juniper, ground pine, barberry, pyracantha, hawthorn, ground-cover roses or rose bushes. Make getting to the windows uncomfortable.
  • Trim trees and shrubs. Especially if trees are close to the house, keep lower branches six to 10 feet above ground level to make access to the roof or upper-story windows difficult. Keep foundation shrubs around windowsill height so burglars can’t hide behind them.
  • A four-legged alarm. You may want to Fido or or Fluffy while you’re away, but police say burglars tell them they avoid homes if they think a dog or other animal is inside, so having a dog sitter visit who can also pick up advertisements thrown on the driveway, turn on lights etc. may be an alternative to consider.  If you want the look of a dog, but don’t have one, buy a beware of dog sign and put it on the gate to your back yard.  For an even more “dog at home look” buy a large dog bowl and chain and leave it near the back door.  Maybe even give the new dog bowl to a friend that has a dog, and you take the old one so it looks used
  • Shed some light. Motion-sensor lights at key entry points – doors, windows, garage, carport – can startle an intruder and alert neighbors. Leave a porch light on, not just when you’re on vacation, a timer makes it easy. Use lights along walkways and spotlight areas of the house where someone might hide. Motion-sensor lights and solar lights at energy efficient and cost efficient.
  • Tidy up outside. Put away porch furniture, children’s toys and sports equipment, grills, tools, planters and garden equipment. You can prevent the items from being stolen and keep them from being used to break a window.
  • Tire Tracks. If your driveway is not plowed when it’s snowing, have a neighbor drive on your driveway to create tire tracks so it looks like you are home.
  • Open invites. Don’t leave your garage door open, even if you’re home. An open door provides a visible inventory of possessions. Don’t leave a garage door opener in a vehicle left parked outside – vehicle windows can be easily broken.
  • Perfect timing. Put some indoor lights on timers so the lights turn on and off in the evening to simulate household activity.

    Home Inventory App

    Home Inventory App

  • Window pains. It’s easy to break a pane and unlatch a window or door. For vulnerable windows, such as to a basement, consider security glass. Avoid using landscaping rocks or bricks that could be used as projectiles.
  • Alarming? A loud alarm, an alarm that alerts police or a security company and a security camera are options. New systems can be programmed to send a video alert to a smartphone when particular circumstances occur such as a car in the driveway or a person at the door. A sign that an alarm is present – even if it’s not – can be a deterrent.
  • Be safe. Put small valuables, such as jewelry, electronics, money and important papers, such as a house inventory, in a locked safe that’s difficult to move. Or use a safety deposit box.
  • Bar the (sliding) door. Place a rod inside the track to back up the door lock.
  • Silence is golden. A long-ringing phone signals an empty house. Silence it, and don’t leave a message on the answering machine that indicates you’re gone.
  • Key to security. Don’t leave your extra key outside under a rock or on top of a door frame where a burglar might look. Leave it with a trusted relative or neighbor.
  • Social Media. Don’t Share your vacation plans before or during your trip on public share sites.  Do it after, or if you must send photos to family and friends do it via email.
  • Home Inventory Apps.  As a last just in case measure, consider downloading a home inventory app that will take a picture of your valuables, and related serial numbers so you can provide them to the police if your home is broken into and you have to provide the information to the police.  For more information, visit the Home Inventory App article here.