Make sure you remember to go through our out-of-town checklist before you go!
1) Put Your Lights on Timers
The trick to keeping your home safe and secure is making it look as normal as possible from the outside. If you're going to be gone for one or two nights, a dark house is probably not a big deal. However, if you're checking out for an extended period of time, a house that is consistently dark could attract not-so-friendly characters. In the winter, especially, when the sun goes down early in the evening, it's easy to pick out houses that are dark and unoccupied. Set up automatic timers so that in the early evening, lights in your living room turn on for a couple hours. Consider setting light timers in your bedroom to light up the room for an hour or so later at night, so it seems as though someone's home.
2) Take Care of All Packages and Newspapers
There's no greater tip-off to thieves than a package that's been sitting on your front step for days or a stack of five newspapers on the driveway. Have a neighbor hold onto your packages and newspapers if there are any. If there aren't any neighbors that can help with this, contact your local post office and postpone any package and newspaper deliveries while you are gone.
3) Make Sure Your Pets are Taken Care of
If you're not taking Fluffy and Fido with you, don't forget to make sure they're well taken-care of or boarded at an extended-stay pet care facility. Consider drafting a care sheet for your furry friend to give to the caretaker with emergency vet phone numbers and details on your pet's feeding/bathroom schedule and how your pet typically behaves.
4) Talk to a Trusted Neighbor
Let a trusted neighbor know what your plans for the trip are and when you expect to be back. Leave a phone number they can reach you at and a key if you have no one house-sitting, in case they need to get inside in the case of an emergency. If you have asked someone else to come over to feed the dog or house-sit, let your neighbor know who will be entering and leaving your house and what kind of vehicle should be expected in your driveway.
5) Get a Motion-Sensor for Garage or Porch Light
There's extra temptation for thieves during the holidays as many people leave town and there are hoards of gifts sitting patiently under trees. Setting a motion sensor on your porch or garage light can give the impression that the house is occupied and a potential thief is being watched.
6) Empty the Fridge
The first thing you'll want to do when you come home from a nice long stay with family and friends is relax... NOT clean out the fridge. If you don't want to come home to smells and sights that definitely do not fit into post vacation bliss, clean it before you leave. Anything that's going to go bad by the time you get home needs to be tossed.
7) Shut Off the Water
Especially if the temperatures could drop below freezing while you're gone, consider shutting off your water. Once you shut off the main water valve, turn on a faucet and let the water drain out of the pipes. This will keep residual water in your pipes from freezing and bursting. Consider flipping the switch on your hot water heater as well to save the costs of running it while you're gone. Vacations can be expensive! Follow these tips so you don't find yourself paying even more out of pocket to repair pipes or a hot water bill once you get back.
8) Change the Settings of Your Thermostat
Turn the heat down. If you have an automatic thermostat, temporarily change the settings so the temperature stays low. Why waste money on a heating bill if you're not going to be home? Make sure any pets you may be leaving behind are comfortable, though.
9) Lock Your Doors and Windows
Don't forget the obvious: make final rounds before you load up in the car to ensure that all points of entry are secure.
10) Don't Tell Social Media Where You're Going
In today's world of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media, it's tempting to share the excitement of your trip, both while you're preparing to leave and while you're gone. DON'T. Save the picture uploads and tweets for when you get back. Telling the entire world you're not at home is broadcasting that your house is empty. So get off Instagram, save the Yelp reviews until you get home, turn off the check-in feature on your smart phone, and stay off Facebook. If you want to share details of your trip before you get back, compose an email address list or start a group text thread before you leave for your friends and family that want updates.