A Guide to Protecting Your Home While on Vacation
Whether you’re planning a summer vacation for the whole family, or you and your spouse are headed on a romantic getaway, you want to be sure that your home will be safe while you’re gone. And no matter the time of year you travel, you’ll need to take steps to ensure your property. Home security companies often talk about how summer is the peak time of year for burglaries, but the difference is slight—burglaries only increase by about 10% during summer months.
The real difference comes down to whether a home looks unoccupied and vulnerable, or not. But don’t worry! By following Bay Alarm’s step-by-step guide to securing your home while on vacation, you can be confident that your home will be just fine, allowing you to focus on the fun.
1. Stop mail and newspaper delivery.
Allowing mail to accumulate in your mailbox or newspapers to pile up on your doorstep is a telltale sign that you’re on a trip.
The Postal Service’s online Hold Mail Service is free, and makes it easy to schedule the suspension of mail delivery as much as 30 days in advance of your vacation, or as soon as midnight before the day you want your mail stopped.
If you’re going to be gone for more than 30 days, you will need to sign up for the USPS’s Premium Forwarding Service Residential service. Enrolling for mail forwarding costs about $19, and an additional $21 for each week of service. But rather than holding your mail, the USPS will actually package and deliver your mail to you wherever you are.
If you subscribe to a newspaper, you will want to pause delivery as well. This can usually be done online. For your convenience, here are the customer service pages for some of the larger newspapers in our service region:
- Arizona Republic
- Los Angeles Times
- Mercury News
- Orange County Register
- Sacramento Bee
- San Diego Union-Tribune
- San Francisco Chronicle
- Seattle Times
Alternatively, if you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, in some select markets we offer vacation watch services. While you’re on vacation, Bay Alarm Agents will pick up your mail and newspapers, and check your home to ensure that it’s safe.
2. Inform trusted neighbors about your travel plans, or even pay someone to keep an eye on things.
Tell neighbors—that you’re on very good terms with!—ahead of time when you’ll be gone. This will ensure that they keep an eye out for suspicious activity, and contact the police if need be. They may even be willing to park their car in your driveway so that it appears that you’re still coming and going.
Also, they can grab flyers or scheduled deliveries you forgot about off your porch and stash them.
If this isn’t an option, pay a friend to stop by and keep an eye on things, grab packages off the porch, and take your trash out. Whatever you do, don’t allow your home to look neglected.
3. Don’t stop routine gardening or pool maintenance services.
If someone comes by every week to trim the hedges or clean the pool, don’t suspend these services while you’re gone. Keep your routine. If you’re the one house on the block that the lawn guy skips, that may tip a burglar off that you’re out of town.
4. Put away any spare keys or hide-a-keys.
It’s often helpful to have a spare key tucked away. But if you’re on vacation, it’ll only be a liability. Put it in your home while you’re gone (but don’t forget to replace it after you get back from vacation). Give a key to anyone who needs access to your home while you’re gone.
5. Schedule lights to turn on in the evenings while you’re gone.
Maintaining the natural rhythm of your home life helps ensure that you don’t look like an easy mark. Something as simple as a mechanical timer on a living room light, or using your alarm system’s phone app to turn lights on and off, can make your home look occupied and lively.
6. Disable your garage door.
The fancy electronics that allow you to open your garage door with a phone app, a button in your car, or an old-fashioned clicker make life a little more convenient. But they also make your garage door vulnerable to intruders. The security codes used by many commercial garage doors can be easily spoofed—a would-be intruder does not need access to your garage door opener to get into your garage.
Some security companies recommend disabling the garage door opener while you’re gone by pulling the cord on the opener. But this means that your garage door can be easily opened by hand! Instead, check your garage door system’s manual (or find it online) to see how to enable ‘vacation,’ ‘lock,’ or ‘security’ mode, all of which will disable garage door opener remotes until you return the system to normal operation.
7. Avoid posting on social media about your vacation until you return.
While it can be tempting to share your adventures as they’re happening, wait until you get back. Even if you’re careful to protect your posts or tweets from being seen by friends-of-friends or even strangers, you’re putting yourself at risk.
This may sound a bit over the top, but it’s not.
- In 2019, the Houston Police Department arrested a group of burglars who were monitoring social media posts to determine when wealth homeowners would be on vacation.
- The daughter of a Fontana, California family posted about their vacation to Las Vegas on Facebook. Her friends used it as an opportunity to burglarize their home. They were caught by police in the act of placing their ill-gotten goods into a rented U-Haul van.
- Police in Los Angeles arrested burglars who were targeting the homes of celebrities when they posted about their travels on social media.
Enjoy your vacation while you’re on vacation. Social media can wait.