The holiday season is creeping closer, which means many of us will be traveling to visit family and friends. According to the United States Department of Transportation, the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s holidays are the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year. The number of long-distance trips (50 miles or more) increases 54 percent over Thanksgiving and 23 percent over Christmas and New Year’s.
So before you head out the door, make sure you’ve followed these 13 important steps to keep your home safe while you’re away. There are few things worse than coming home to a disaster after a fantastic holiday.
1. Make sure all doors and windows are locked, including outbuildings, doggy doors, and the garage door. Criminals can scan electronic garage door openers to get in.
2. Try to make your house look like someone is living there – leave some of the blinds open, install and set up timers for outdoor lights, stop your newspaper and mail delivery so it doesn’t pile up, make sure your trash/recycle is brought out and taken in by someone you know, if it’s going to snow then arrange for someone to shovel, and maybe have a neighbor park in your driveway.
3. Turn your heat down, somewhere around 55-60 degrees, to conserve energy but save your pipes from freezing.
4. Turn off your water supply to minimize flood concerns.
5. Unplug unnecessary appliances like the toaster, TVs, computers, coffee machine, etc. It will save energy and protect your house in case of an electrical emergency. If you do want to leave anything plugged in, consider purchasing a surge protector.
6. Keep valuables in a safe place, especially personal and financial information as identity theft is on the rise.
7. You also might want to call your credit card companies and make them aware of your travel plans. If they see a charge out of your normal area it could raise a red flag.
8. Get rid of perishables in the refrigerator. You don’t want to come home to a smelly house.
9. Provide family, friends, and/or neighbors with your itinerary and contact information. You want to make sure they can reach you in case of emergency and they’ll know of your whereabouts in case something happens to you. You can also provide them with a spare key if you trust them to enter your house and check in.
10. Make arrangements for your pets. If you’re leaving them at home consider pet-proofing the house because they may act differently while you’re gone – put away things that may injure them, put anything up high that you don’t want them to get into, and protect fragile items. If you’re sending your pet(s) to a kennel or sitter make sure they also know when you’re picking them up and what your contact information is.
11. Make sure your plants are taken care of also – they’re living things, just like your pets!
12. If you’re going to be away for an extensive period of time, pay any bills that might be due while you’re gone.
13. And if you’re a bit paranoid, ask your community police watch service or the local police to swing by your house on a regular basis.