How to Secure Your Home When Travelling

From leaving the stove on to fearing a home invasion, there are plenty of things that can go wrong with your home while you are away. However, when traveling on holiday (both in Australia and overseas), you should feel relaxed and not have a single worry in the world.

For this reason, it’s useful to know how to secure your home when traveling, so you’ll worry less.

“Your inbox is full!”

The computer notifies you when the inbox is full but the same won’t occur with the old mailbox in front of the house. Depending on the duration of your trip, it is going to keep filing with mail until it becomes clear that no one’s home.

A full mailbox is an open invitation to burglars, so make sure a friend or a neighbor picks up your mail regularly. The alternative is to request a temporary mail hold which can be done online on the mail carrier’s website.

Double-check that all the doors are locked

It might seem like the most obvious thing to do but you’d be surprised by the number of Australians who fail to lock up during the holiday season, for example. Few people would forget to lock and bolt shut the front door but the back door and the windows are a different story.

Some estimates show that a third of all burglars gain access to people’s homes through unlocked doors and windows. To additionally secure the doors, make sure the back door has no glass panels. In the case of the windows, install locks on all windows, including the upstairs ones. 

Hide the valuables from plain sight

An open door is really a crime of opportunity but the crook first has to be motivated to break inside your home. You can easily demotivate criminals by hiding away any valuable and expensive pieces you know.

Keeping the jewelry box near the window, for example, is a foolish move even when you are home. If you have a safe inside the house, even a modified toolbox is the best way to protect everything valuable.

The alternative is to take all the gold, money, and jewelry you own to a bank and put it in a safe deposit box. Remember that a social security card, a debit card, or a mobile phone also contain valuable information that can lure in burglars.

The car should stay in the driveway

Unless you are going for a road trip in the family car, it’s better you left the (locked) vehicle in the driveway. For burglars and their aids, a passenger vehicle sitting in the driveway is a huge deterrent. For them, this is an unmistakable sign that someone’s home.

If you don’t own a car or are driving it to the vacation destination, a neat trick to warn off criminals is to let the neighbor par in your spot. Apart from boosting security, this move is bound to improve the relationship you have with your next-door neighbors.

Don’t share too much online

During the past couple of years, there have been a number of cases of folks who got arrested because they shared too much info on Facebook. If the Blue Heelers have time to go through people’s timelines, so do criminals. 

We understand that you wish to share vacation photos on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook but sharing travel plans can get you into danger. Not only will crooks back home know for long will you be away but you risk getting mugged at the holiday destination!

Before sharing holiday photos, make sure the privacy setting on your accounts are not public!

A spruced-up yard for a safer home 

If you plan to travel away for a week or longer, then the foliage in the backyard and front of the house will grow noticeably. As time goes by, it will become clear there is no one in the house to look after the lawn and flowers, so burglars will target your home.

As mentioned earlier, you can ask a neighbor or a friend to help. However, you shouldn’t ask them to do more than water the plants. Trimming bushes and mowing the lawn should be left to professional landscapers whom you can hire before setting off.

Check the pipes before you leave

Apart from a home invasion, the biggest threat to your property is a house fire or a residential flood. Checking electric installation, making sure that gas fittings are in order, and closing all water taps are among the most important pre-departure chores.

Luckily, plumbing in Canberra and other Australian cities is widely available and affordable. Have a local plumber/gasfitter inspect the residence before you leave, just to be on the safe side. The last thing is to receive a call from ACT Fire and Rescue saying that a section of your home had burnt down!

Invest in a home security system

Another way to prevent a house fire is to install smoke detectors in rooms like the kitchen. Furthermore, you can invest in a sprinkler system that would be part of a larger home security system. This would also include security cameras, safety signage (“beware of dog”), motion sensors, etc. 

The best thing about a security system is the fact that it’s programmable, meaning it will be fully armed, i.e. on while you are away. More modern systems offer the possibility to control the system remotely using a phone app. Of course, make sure the camera lenses aren’t smudged or something like that.

A programmable thermostat

Speaking of automated devices, a programmable thermostat is a great way to control utility bills when traveling. Namely, program the thermostat to lower the temperature or turn off the heating completely during the period you are away from home.

A smart thermostat can also be set using an application, so you’ll return from a skiing holiday to a warm house. Cooling an empty room in summer isn’t only a waste of money but a safety hazard, as the HVAC system is left to run unattended.

Letting the police know

Depending on the part of Canberra you live in, crime might be a reoccurring problem. Therefore, it’s worth letting the police know your residence will be empty for the next couple of weeks. The police rely on citizens’ help to patrol the streets, so they would appreciate this info.

Perhaps your next-door neighbors will decide to travel away at the same time, so more patrol cars will be needed in your street. If there is a local neighborhood watch program, notify them as well. The more info you share with the authorities, the safer will your property be.

Lights that go on and off automatically

Leaving the light on or off is one of the biggest dilemmas homeowners face. On the one side, a lit-up home acts as a deterrent against home invasions but on the other side, you won’t be happy with the electricity bill when you return from your travels.

The best solution is to get a light switch timer that will turn the lights on and off according to a preset program. This way, it will appear that someone is home and turning the lights on at night and then turning them off before bedtime. 

Insulating the pipes

We have mentioned earlier that you should have a gasfitter come over and inspect the piping before you set off on a long trip. One of the tips they might give you is to insulate the pipes running underneath the house or through the basement.

Some part of Australia such as Tasmania, can get pretty cold in winter, so the water in pipes can freeze overnight. Insulating the pipes is the best way to ensure exposed pipes don’t freeze or crack while you are away. If you have a backyard tap, consider dismantling it before the trip. 

Where do you keep the spare key?

Storing the spare key under the doormat or the window sill is so 1950s and it provides little to no safety. Looking for the spare key is the first thing an experienced crook would do.

You should remove all the spare keys you hid away and give them to a person you can trust. The alternative is to install a hidden lockbox that would be hard to pick without arousing suspicion.

A vacation is a time when you should feel relaxed the most. However, if you have failed to secure your house or apartment, this will prove an impossible task. From a state-of-the-art security system to inviting a plumber over to inspect the house, home security is child’s play with the 13 tips listed above.