Out of town travel can be a lot of fun.
But it can also be a perfect opportunity for thieves to break into your home and make off with your valuables. For peace of mind, you could spend thousands on an elaborate security system . . . or you could follow a few, common-sense guidelines to protect your home when you aren't around to do it yourself.
The key to securing your home when you're on the road is to create the appearance that your home is occupied. Unoccupied homes present thieves with fewer obstacles and a longer lead time before the crime is reported. Without realizing it, travelers often leave subtle clues that no one is home. Although it's impossible to make your home completely secure, here are some of the most effective things you can do to prevent a break-in.
Lock doors & windows. Obviously, you want to make sure your doors are locked whenever you leave your house. Yet everyday travelers lock their front doors only to leave back doors, garage doors, and basement doors unlocked and accessible to crooks. Likewise, you need to make sure all your windows are locked – including the ones on the upper floors of your house.
Tell a neighbor. When you go out of town, your neighbors become your allies in the struggle to protect your home. Tell your neighbors you are leaving and when you expect to return. If you really trust them, you might also want to give them a key and ask them to pop in for a site visit every once in while.
Stop mail & newspaper deliveries. A mailbox full of mail and a stack of newspapers on the front porch are practically an invitation for theft. With a little advance planning, you can easily suspend mail and paper deliveries, and arrange for delivery to resume the day you return.
Park cars in the driveway. Your instincts probably tell you to secure your car in the garage when you're not home, but in this case, your instincts are wrong. From a thief's perspective, an empty driveway signals an empty house. Nine times out of ten a locked car is perfectly safe in the driveway. More importantly, a car in the driveway is a strong deterrent for criminal activity.
Be smart about lighting. Lighting is another powerful deterrent for thieves. Always leave a small light on in the house when you travel. If possible, take the additional precaution of installing motion activated lights in the driveway and at other key points around the exterior of your home.
Don't adjust window treatments. Shades and blinds are a tricky topic when it comes to home security. On the one hand, it is helpful to draw shades and blinds to prevent would-be burglars from peering in through first floor windows. But on the other hand, if your blinds are normally open and you only close them when you go out of town, you might as well put a "bon voyage" sign in the front yard. The best advice: Don't close your shades and blinds if they are normally left open.
Leave your answering machine message alone. Finally, don't mess around with your answering machine message. Although you might want to use your answering machine message to tell your friends you will be out of town for a while, organized thieves frequently call their targets to fish for information.