10 Things to Do to Protect Your Home When Your Family Is on Vacation

You’ve planned your family vacation for this summer, which is finally here! But while you’re out of town, are you concerned about your home? We usually are, and we triple-check everything to ensure nothing goes wrong. Experts shared the top 10 things to do in your home to prevent potential property damage and financial problems while you’re having fun on your family vacation.

Summer is fast approaching, which means it’s time for sun, fun, and a family vacation. Unfortunately, it’s also busy season for criminals who take advantage of the fact that homeowners will be away for days or weeks at a time. Most home burglaries take place in July and August, when windows are more likely to be left open and families leave for excursions, according to information from Esurance.

As if property theft wasn’t enough to threaten your house while you’re away, plumbing and other utility mishaps could result in property damage and big financial problems when you return.

The good news? There are some simple things you can do to prepare your house before you leave to help prevent these catastrophes from occurring. The below list of tips from home-protection experts will help you enjoy a stress-free and relaxing holiday without worrying about things back home.

Make Your House Look Occupied

The simplest yet most effective thing you can do to thwart burglars is to leave a few lights on around the house, giving the appearance that someone is home. Dale Martin, co-vice president of claims at Franklin Mutual Insurance, recommends setting interior and exterior lights on an automatic timer.

Another telltale sign no one is home is a full mailbox. “Have a family member or trusted neighbor collect the mail, newspaper, and packages, or have the post office put a temporary hold on delivery,” Martin says.

Arrange for Yard Care

An unkempt lawn can be another clear indicator that a house is empty. Mow your lawn before you leave, or “ask a trusted neighbor or lawn service to keep the yard cut and maintained while you’re away,” Martin advises.  

Prevent Potential Water Damage

Avoid a plumbing disaster by turning off the main water supply valve to your home before you head out, Martin recommends. Doing so will help prevent small leaks that may occur from turning into a nightmare scenario of a flooded house, destroyed property, and huge repair bills. You can also do a quick search for leaks or cracks in water lines that lead to sinks and toilets, and get them fixed before you leave.

And make sure gutters, downspouts, and drains are clear. “If water overflows from its proper channels, it can seep under siding and flood the basement,” says Kristie Bergey, a leasing and sales agent at Very Real Estate in Philadelphia.

Run the Dishwasher

“After the cycle has finished, empty the dishwasher, then leave the door open,” Bergey recommends. “That will allow the interior to dry, and it won’t smell musty by the time you get home.”

Bergey also recommends flushing the toilet and leaving the lid up so the water doesn’t become stagnant.

Unplug Appliances

Do a double check before you leave to unplug small appliances, especially ones you’ll be using right before you walk out the door. “Make sure you unplug things like hair curlers, irons. You’re packing and you’re in a rush, you can leave something plugged in that is potentially a dangerous situation,” says Anthony Marino, a licensed associate real estate broker based in southwest and downtown Brooklyn. 

Pay Your Bills

Or make sure you schedule payments so you don’t miss important due dates. Travelers often use credit cards, so it’s especially important to make sure those bills are paid. “Sometimes, if you don’t pay your credit card on time, they’ll lock your account until it’s paid. Then, all of a sudden you’re making calls or having to pay over the phone,” Marino says.

It’s also a good idea to let your credit card companies, bank, and cellphone service know in advance you’ll be traveling. Otherwise, your out-of-town purchases can look like suspicious activity, resulting in a hold being placed on your cards. 

Arm the Alarms

Bergey advises homeowners to let their security companies know they’ll be away. “Give a family member or friend your alarm code, the security company’s phone number, your itinerary, and contact numbers,” she says. “Press the test button on your smoke alarms to make sure they work, and change the battery if necessary.”

Consider Smart-Home Technology

Smart home cameras and surveillance systems are all the rage in home security these days. They tend to be easier to install than full-fledged security systems, and being wire-free, it’s much harder for a burglar to take apart the system before attempting to break in. The technology works through your cellphone or tablet, allowing you to see what’s going on back home. “When people go on vacation, they tend to make changes to household care routines to make sure things run smoothly while they’re gone, like coordinating with the house cleaner and keeping the dog walker on a tighter schedule,” according to Alex Teichman, CEO and co-founder of Lighthouse AI, which manufactures a 3-D sensing smart-home security camera. “Smart home cameras ensure your home continues to run normally while you’re away on holiday or even if you’re traveling locally.”

Move the Car

If you’re going away without your car, make sure you’re parked for alternate side of the street laws. You don’t want to come back with a bunch of tickets on your windshield. “Depending on how long and when you’re going to be away, try to find a place where you can either park and have it okay for the week, or have someone, like a family member, potentially move your car for you,” Marino says.

If your house has a driveway, have that be your car’s home while you’re away. If you have a garage, Bergey recommends parking your car outside against the doors to block access. “Remove garage door remotes from the car and unplug the electric door opener—the box unit attached to the garage ceiling—so that the door can’t be opened while you’re away,” she says. “Make sure to lock the car and garage doors.”

Don’t Post Your Trip on Social Media

It may be tempting to tell the world about your upcoming tropical getaway or camping experience, but doing so could be dangerous. Most home-security experts will agree that announcing you’re not home on social media is an open invitation to burglars. Wait until you return to post that selfie of you with a palm tree or exploring the Grand Canyon.

Some things seem obvious to do before you say, “bon voyage,” but a gentle reminder can’t hurt. If possible, ask a trusted neighbor or family member to check in on the house every so often. And of course, make arrangements for your beloved pets and plants, and take the time to make sure all your doors and windows are locked. A double check for peace of mind before you get going is a good idea, too. It’ll make lounging on the beach much more relaxing.

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