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How to keep your home safe while travelling

Advice for short or long-term getaways, from Heritage Home Hardware

Everyone deserves a break from work now and then. If you’re lucky enough to be headed off on a vacation somewhere, you deserve peace of mind while you’re away.

In your absence, you’ll want to know that your home is safe and sound. No one wants to worry about potential break-ins, water or weather damage when they should be enjoying themselves.

We spoke to Ashleigh from Heritage Home Hardware in Sault Ste. Marie to find out how to keep your home safe while travelling. Start by making sure that your home is secure, she says, inside and out.

Check all entry points

Before you leave, make sure that all of the entry points to your home are secure. Double-check that you have secure locks on all of the following: 

  • Windows on all levels, including the basement 
  • Front, back, patio and basement doors 
  • Garage doors and windows 
  • Sheds 
  • Pool houses 
  • Any other entry points.

For an added bit of home protection, you can place a piece of wood or metal on the track of your sliding doors, which can prevent the doors from being pushed opened.

You’ll also want to remove any spare keys from obvious hiding spots; intruders know that homeowners often leave spare keys under rocks, mats or above door jambs.

Invest in a home security system

For true peace of mind, make sure to install a home security system, which adds another layer of protection while you are away.

Before you leave, notify your home alarm system company that you’ll be away so they can keep a watch out for any suspicious or unusual activity in and around your home.

Install smart security cameras

Equip your home with smart security cameras for both the indoors and outdoors. Home security cameras that have smart capabilities let you monitor your residence from wherever you happen to be, via mobile apps. The apps will send you alerts if any unusual activity is detected.

If you have cameras placed in visible areas, they can act as a deterrent. They’re also quite practical, as if any criminal activity does take place, these cameras will provide recorded evidence.

Smart locks

Another way to beef up your home security is by investing in smart locks. Never again will you have to wonder if you remembered to lock all of your doors; using mobile apps, you can check quickly. The digital key application even eliminates the need to keep spare keys on hand.

Use timers to control your lights

Create the appearance that someone is at home throughout the day by setting timers on your indoor and outdoor lighting.

There are two options: analog timers or smart switches and outlets. The smart versions allow you to program your lights; you can have them turn on or off, or simply dim, at scheduled times you have personally selected. Some smart home systems even offer pre-programmed home security settings, like vacation mode, that turns on your TVs or stereos at pre-set intervals, creating the impression that you’re at home.

Automate your window treatments

It’s often recommended that you leave at least a few drapes or blinds open on a few of your windows, to help make it look as though your home is currently lived-in and not empty. If you have power drapes or blinds, consider them an extra layer of home security. These can be incorporated into your smart home security system too.

Stay off social media

You risk undermining all of your hard work implementing home security measures if you share information about your travels on social media. While it’s certainly tempting, it’s not a safe move. Never disclose that you’re away from home and make sure your accounts are private.

Tell friends and a trusted neighbour when you’ll be away

Experts always recommend reaching out to a trusted neighbour and asking them to keep an eye on your home while you’re away. It will give you some extra peace of mind and spare you from spending your entire vacation worried or compulsively checking your phone for possible alerts.

Another good strategy is to ask friends or family members to drop by periodically and check in to see if all is well. They can water your plants or collect your mail—though you can always put a hold on mail delivery for the duration of your trip, if you prefer.

If you’ll be gone for several weeks, you might consider scheduling lawn or garden care to prevent the yard from looking messy and unkempt.

Home systems

There are additional measures you can put in place, such as backing up your regular home safety systems.

An important one is backing up your sump pump to help prevent flooding. If you are vacationing in the winter, don’t turn off the heat entirely; set your thermostat high enough that you’ll avoid the risk of burst pipes. Many smart home systems are perfect for this—you can pre-program a smart thermostat, for example, so that the heat will turn on and off periodically.

Clean and dispose

We don’t often think about this before leaving for vacation, but it’s a good idea to do a thorough cleaning of your home before you go.

To prevent smells, bugs and rodents, make sure to clear away all of your garbage and recycling. Wipe down your counters, clean out your fridge to avoid food spoilage and throw out any leftovers or fruit in bowls. Make sure you haven’t left any laundry in the washing machine or any dishes in the dishwasher.

Take inventory

Ashleigh recommends making a thorough list of all of your valuables—and taking photographs of them. It’s an extra precaution that serves as a checklist you can consult upon your return; it can also be helpful if you ever have to file an insurance claim in the event of a theft or damage. If you have any high-end valuables, such as jewelry or heirlooms, keep them in a safety deposit box.

Extended-stay travel

If you’ll be away for a month or more, you may want to consider renting out your home. This way it will be lived in and won’t appear empty for weeks on end, making it a target.

You could rent to a family member, friend or colleague, as these are people in your life that you already know and trust. You could reach out to a realtor or place an ad online; the only downside is that this can be time-consuming and not everyone feels comfortable with a stranger staying in their home.

Alternatively, you could ask a friend or family member to house sit for you. You could also work with a local agency to hire a professional house sitter.

Pet safety

If you’re a dog owner, it’s probably best to leave her with a sitter or at a kennel. Cats can generally be left on their own.

You can use automatic feeders, though it’s a good idea to also have a sitter or a friend come by and check on your cat once in a while to clean the litter box. You can even monitor your pets and talk to them via two-way audio with many smart home security cameras.

For more information on keeping your home safe while travelling, visit Heritage Home Hardware or call 705-759-5101.