Is Your House Safe While You’re On Vacation?

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Unless you plan on hiring a house sitter, you'll probably have to make arrangements for the care and maintenance of a few things while you're on your next vacation. This could be as simple as having someone come in a couple of times a week to water your Ficus plant or paying to board your fabulous feline for the duration of your holiday. While we're talking about living things, your plants and lawn fall under that category, too. If you own a home and don't have a timer on your sprinkler system, it's a good idea to ask a friend or neighbor to check to make sure your landscape doesn't get too crispy while you're away. It'll save you the trouble of having to review the weather report periodically for updates from the old homestead. While someone is checking your home, have him look at the condition of your lawn. It may need to be mowed once or twice while you're away.

The weather can cause all sorts of problems when you're not there to deal with seasonal changes, too. If you're vacationing in the fall, disconnect outdoor hoses and turn off the water if there might be a hard freeze while you're gone. It's also a good idea to remove loose or light items from your deck or patio that may blow away in a big storm.

Making Your Home Look Lived In

Keeping your home, pets and property safe often involves more than just making sure the plants get watered. It's important to avoid making your home a target for robbers, too. The best way to do that is eliminating clues that tell would-be robbers your home is unoccupied. From yellowing newspapers in the driveway to an overflowing mailbox, signs of your absence become obvious quickly if you're not careful. Stop newspaper delivery before you go on vacation, and make arrangements to have your mail held at the post office. You can even stop postal delivery by filling out a brief form online: USPS Hold Mail Page.

Once you handle the obvious stuff, make sure you have all the bases covered by asking someone you trust to check your home every few days. You can arrange to have your mail held, but you can't stop someone from putting a flier under your doormat or attaching an advertisement to your front door. Someone making a brief drive-by check on your behalf can eliminate the clutter fast before your home starts to look like a target.

Now that you home looks lived in during the day, make sure it looks occupied at night by placing your interior lights on a timer. A dark house looks like an empty house, so keep the lights on for a few hours every evening.

Safety First

Before you head out the door, make sure to lock everything. This includes doors, windows, and even the doggie door. If you typically leave a window open for ventilation, it's easy to forget and head out for a fun trip without thinking to secure it. Most robbers enter homes through unlocked doors and windows. Double check to be sure everything is locked up tight.

It's also a good idea to downplay your trip. If you tell everyone at work you'll be on vacation -- and your kids tell everyone at school -- and you all blog and chat about the trip online, hundreds of people could be in on your plans and know that your house will be left untended. Do yourself a favor and chat about the trip after you get home.

Here's another potential wrinkle you may not have considered: Robbers have been stealing handheld GPS devices from vehicles left in long term airport parking lots. They use them to plot a return path right to the owner's doorstep. The electronic age has spawned some interesting ways to get ripped off. Leave your GPS device at home unless you're going on a car trip. Even then, stow the GPS out of easy view when you aren't in the car.

Oh, and consider turning off your electric garage door, too. Some older style garage doors can be opened without a code using a universal remote device.

Home Safety Checklist

This checklist will help you get a handle on all the details before leaving on your trip:

  • Schedule pet accommodations - Make sure caregivers know the number where you'll be staying as well as the number to your vet. If you're using a popular pet hotel, schedule your pet's stay two months in advance during the summer season.
  • Make arrangements for someone to water your landscape and houseplants.
  • Arrange for a friend to drive by - Make arrangements for someone to keep an eye on your property by driving past your home every couple of days to check for anything out of the ordinary.
  • Stop the mail - You can do this ahead of time.
  • Stop the newspaper.
  • Leave an emergency key (and number where you can be reached) with a neighbor.
  • Stow lightweight lawn ornaments and patio cushions indoors.
  • Mow the lawn - Make arrangements to have someone mow your lawn if you'll be gone during the spring or summer months for a period longer than a week or so.
  • Set your interior lights on automatic timers.
  • Lock your home's windows and doors.
  • Turn off the water to exterior faucets and to your washing machine.
  • Unplug small appliances and electronics - You'll save energy and may prevent a fire.
  • Reset or turn off your HVAC system.
  • Turn off your electric garage door opener.

Have a wonderful vacation!

Last Updated: July 24, 2012
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About Sara Elliot Sara Elliott is a freelance copywriter and dedicated blogger. Her popular gardening, cooking and crafting blog, The Herb Gardener, was cited by The Wall Street Journal for its fun and frugal tips. Sara has a degree in English, and you can find her health, crafting, and lifestyle pieces on sites like,, and

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