Among the fastest ways to kill a post-vacation buzz is returning home and discovering your house is in shambles. Maybe a water pipe broke and now you’re trudging through ankle-deep sludge. Perhaps a burglar slipped inside, ransacked the place and gallivanted away with your most valued possessions. Or it could be that you forgot to clean out the fridge before leaving, and now mold has infested every nook and cranny. Just like it’s important to shop for an excellent vacation deal, it’s crucial to make sure returning from that well-earned trip isn’t a headache or disaster. Here are six easily-skipped steps to keep in mind while you’re planning that enticing itinerary.
Of Course Somebody is Home
Hiring a house or pet sitter is the best – albeit costly – method to ensure your home stays just like you left it. House sitters can vary from a trusted friend or family member, to somebody who is a professional. Typically a house sitter will take care of any pets you’re leaving behind, water plants, collect the mail and sometimes other small tasks. It’s challenging to trust somebody enough to be in your home for days on end, but their presence ensures burglars avoid your place and that your appliances and utilities don’t decide to take a vacation of their own.
Celebrate on Social Media After the Trip
Booking a vacation is exciting. It’s a break from the daily grind, and that’s often something we want to share with our friends, family and acquaintances via social media. But you should probably hold off on announcing to the whole Internet that your home is vacant and ripe for the picking. Websites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy for complete strangers to gather your personal information and then find out where you live with a quick online search.
If you can’t help yourself from announcing the trip and posting photos, then do yourself a favor and greatly restrict who can see and share the information. The same plan of action holds true for automatic email responses and voicemail systems. The rule of thumb is that if you’re not comfortable with somebody being in your house when you’re not there, then don’t tell them – even indirectly – that you’re heading off on some sweet adventure. Scoundrels might seize that announcement as an open house invitation, and you might return to an open front door.
Burning the Midnight Oil
Casing a house is a common tactic for many home invaders. They spend days – sometimes even weeks – monitoring when you’re home, what rooms you’re in, what you’re doing and who you’re with. They’ll know your daily habits better than you do. The best way to thwart these folks is to make sure it genuinely looks like somebody is home. Set up an app-controlled light timer. You can even set up a timer-controlled power supply to stereos or TVs. But don’t keep the same timer settings day by day. Vary when lights come on, which rooms they pop on and for how long everything is running. Also be sure to use compact florescent light bulbs to save electricity and your energy bill.
Lock it Down, Regardless of Where You Live
It’s oddly common that in small, homely towns where “everybody knows each other” folks leave their homes and cars unlocked. If you’re involved with this mindset, then you may very well leave your door unlocked during an extended absence. And unlocked doors are the biggest “burglarize me” signals out there. More than 30 percent of home burglaries happen from an unlocked entrance. Don’t be the person who forgot to close and lock the windows or sliding glass door. Put a dowel rod behind any type of sliding entrance, and be sure to lock the deadbolt. It’s easy to prevent an easy crime.
This Needs Power, This Doesn’t
Imagine how devastating it feels to show up back home after your trip and discover a charred pile of rubble where your home once stood. Let that feeling sink in for a few moments, and then take a look around at what electronics and appliances you currently have plugged into the wall throughout your home. A power outage or surge could trip these devices and cause a fire if the device isn’t plugged into a surge protector or turned off. Now since you’re leaving certain electronics on timers to discourage home invasions, make sure what you do leave plugged in is plugged into a surge protector. You can group electronics and appliances close together to limit the number of protectors you’ll need to buy.
Otherwise, think about how much energy appliances like your refrigerator, water heater or climate control require and consume. If you don’t have plants, animals or open food, then you can pretty much turn off your climate control depending on what the outside weather is like. Set your water heater to vacation mode to reserve energy consumption. And last, either remove perishables from the fridge, turn it off and open the door to prevent mildew, or make sure the appliance is completely full of non-perishable items. If you have empty space then fill jugs of water there to insulate your fridge and lower energy consumption.
Finally, if you’re off on an adventure during the winter, ask a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to come by and run the facet for about 5 minutes every day or two. If your pipes are properly insulated, this should help prevent them from freezing over or breaking.
A Tidy Home is a Lived in Home
The final step that is extremely easy to skip on longer or seasonal trips is how your home looks. Sure, you have lights popping on and off at random times, but is your yard unkempt? Are mail flyers, newspapers and packages creating the next great pyramid on your doorstep? These are signals to anybody paying attention that you’re not home. Either stop packages, the newspaper and your mail from being deposited, or get somebody you trust to pick everything up for you. Plus if you’re leaving in the winter and it snows, make sure they shovel your driveway or sidewalk.