I always feel a little anxious when we leave home for a vacation. What if something happens while we're gone? Our home could be burglarized. It might catch fire. The apocalypse could occur.
None of these things are probable, but there some home security tips we use every time we take a vacation that makes the possibility of a burglary, plumbing disaster or fire less likely. Nothing on this list takes much time. We can accomplish the most of these items while our kids are settling into the car.
Notify a trusted neighbor
We give our neighbor the garage door code or key in case of emergency. The code is easier, but if there is an emergency and the power is out, they won't be able to get in without a key. We've never had an emergency, but our neighbors have kindly picked up packages and stray newspapers for us. It's nice to know that someone has an eye on our home while we're gone.
Hold the newspaper
Nothing says “We're not home. Rob our house!” like a driveway full of newspapers. We contact the newspaper a couple of business days before departure to hold the paper while we're gone. Sometimes, it takes that long for the hold to process. Some papers have an online hold option, others still require a phone call.
Hold the mail
Lots of people still ask their neighbors help with this too, but the U.S. Postal Service offers an easy way to hold the mail for three days or more at USPS.com. The post office will keep our mail for pick-up or deliver it all on the day we request.
We always go with the delivery option. However, one time, I went to the post office for something else shortly after our return from a long vacation and found that they had another stack of our mail that had not been delivered. If you'll be gone for more than a week or two, the pick-up option might be your best bet.
Adjust the thermostat
You can save money and energy by reducing the temperature of your thermostat. Depending on your climate, you may not want to turn it off all the way. In the winter, I set it to about 50 degrees to keep the pipes from freezing and in the summer I turn off the air conditioning.
Turn off appliances
About a year ago, our dishwasher leaked several gallons of water onto our hardwood floor and into our basement within a matter of minutes. We were home at the time and caught it quickly, but imagine if we had not noticed the problem for days or weeks.
I've been tempted many times to leave the dishwasher or dryer running as we walk out the door for a vacation, but it's not a good idea. The risk of fire or water damage is not worth it.
Did you know that your television, Blu-ray player, game console, stereo, and desktop computer are still using energy when they are turned off? Save your wallet and the planet by unplugging them while you're on vacation.
Check window locks
Just before we walk out the door, I make sure that all the windows are locked. Most thieves are opportunists and the harder it is to get into our home, the safer it will be.
Turn off all the lights, except one or two for security
My children are notorious for leaving lights on in the basement. I also find bathroom and closet lights left on more often than I would like. Double-check that all the lights that should be turned off are, in fact, turned off.
A timer for indoor lights and motion sensors for outdoor lights will improve a home's security and save both money and energy.
Close interior doors
Is this absolutely necessary? Probably not. However, I figure that if a fire starts in one of the rooms, a closed door might give firefighters more time to save the rest of our home. Also, it's a good way to see the rooms where I've already checked the lights and windows.
Ours is located in the basement. We don't do this for every overnighter, but for vacations of a few days or more, I can't see a good reason NOT to do this. It's quick and easy, and it will save our house from flooding if anything goes wrong with the plumbing while we're gone. Just make sure everyone has made their last visit to the toilet before turning off the water.
Double-check exterior door locks and gates
With all the details of getting a family onto the road, it's easy to miss little things. Double-checking these easy-access routes into our home saves me from asking a few miles down the road, “Did we lock the front door?”
Here is a printable Home Security Checklist.
It's impossible to prevent everything that might happen, but these home security tips give me peace of mind while we're away from home.