Not every home can have a Kevin McCallister. Still, that doesn't mean you have to go unprotected. Here are a few basic tips you can follow to help keep home and hearth healthy while you're away.
- Don't broadcast the fact that you're leaving.
Just as you wouldn't grab the PA system at the grocery store and declare loudly that you're going to be gone for two weeks, so too should you not get on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and announce your impending vacation. This may not seem like as much of a problem if you're only friends on Facebook with close personal real-life friends, or if you have your privacy settings worked out really well. Still, it's a big risk to take, and it's not just one that "the kids" are taking. Facebook's user base includes pretty much everyone at this point.
- Have a friend check in with you.
This one may be a little harder around the holidays when everyone is gone, but there are plenty of reasons to have an actual person swing by your house. They can check on pets, check the faucets in cold weather, grab any mail, and more. Also, this keeps activity in and out of your house, cars in the driveway, lights on and off—just in case somebody is casing the neighborhood. You might offer cookies, beer, or whatever helps ease the burden on their part. If you don't have any friends, that's a separate problem, and this is not the article for you.
- Unplug your stuff.
Lots of people only think about burglars when they think about threats to the home, but there's more to it than that. Before you leave, unplug all of your electronics. It may be a pain to set the clock on your microwave again, but it's better than coming home to find that a lightning storm rolled through and fried it. Plus, many newer electronics such as TVs and media players don't "turn off" anymore. They go into a "standby mode" that lets them turn back on faster, but drains more of your power. Unplugging them means you won't be paying for that electricity while you're gone.
- Make it look like someone is home.
People do weird things before they leave, and some are more helpful than others in making it look like someone's home. There's the ever-present debate about whether to leave your blinds open or shut. The answer is to leave them the way you tend to leave them. A change in the status quo is a tipoff that you're gone. Don't leave the lights on. Unless you're a dashing, nocturnal internet writer who's always awake at 4 a.m., seeing lights on in the middle of the night is a big tipoff to burglars, as well. If you're going to do anything with your lights, then put them on a timer to create the sense that someone's still home. If nobody's getting your mail or newspapers, put them on hold so they don't pile up outside of the house.
- Lock up, and take the key with you.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but if you have a window you leave open for some reason, or a door to the backyard that you often forget about, make sure it's all locked up. Don't leave a spare key in a fake rock. Nobody falls for that anyway, and you're just inviting a stranger to use it. You're not going to need a spare key while on vacation.