Travel offers a wonderful reprieve from the pressures of daily life, but it can be hard to fully immerse yourself in the experience and enjoy it if you are constantly worrying about whether your home and possessions are safe while you’re away.
Purchasing a monitored security system might be the safest way to go, but for many older adults this option is financially prohibitive.
Luckily, there are many affordable, and even free, things you can do to keep your home safe and secure while you’re on vacation.
Find a house sitter
Ask a trusted friend or family member to stay in your home while you are away. If you don’t have anyone you can ask to do this for you, try calling a local university and asking if it is possible to get references for a trustworthy student who would enjoy the pay and would take good care of your home.
There are lots of great college students with solid references (make sure you follow through with checking them) that would appreciate the pay and an opportunity to get out of the dorms and have a quiet place to study.
Have someone pick up your mail
If no one will be staying in your home, have someone pick up your mail. Give them a key so they can take it inside, and perhaps spend a bit of time watering your plants or even just watching TV before they leave again.
If no one is available to do this task, you can ask the post office to stop delivery while you’re gone.
Allowing mail to pile up in your box is a sure sign that you’re away. The same is true for newspaper delivery; either have someone bring it inside or make sure that they aren’t delivered while you’re away.
Leave your car at home
Burglars often take notice of homes whose cars have disappeared for several days. Getting a ride to the airport and leaving your car in the driveway can lend to the appearance that someone is home.
Use timers to set your lights
This creates the illusion of activity in your home. Lights should come on in the evenings and go off around the time that you would normally go to bed. Remember to set lights in different rooms for different times.
Install cheap alarms
If you can’t afford to purchase an entire home security system, this can be a great alternative. Almost all hardware stores sell inexpensive alarms that are easy to install on door and windows.
They typically have a small box where you punch in a code to disable the alarm. They’re less expensive, because no one is monitoring them, and they don’t send an alert to the police, but they do create a terrible racket that can be heard by your neighbors and people walking down the street.
Have neighbors keep an eye on your home
Don’t go out of town without alerting a few trusted neighbors that you will be gone. When one home in a neighborhood is robbed, there is a greater risk for future home invasions for everyone, so most neighbors will be more than willing to keep an eye out for suspicious activity. Let them know that you will be happy to return the favor when they go out of town.
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a neighborhood watch association, be sure to join and attend the meetings.
When you are actively involved in keeping your neighborhood safe, people will know who you are and where you live, and you’ll have an entire network of concerned individuals looking out for your home while you’re away.
Keep up with landscaping
If you’re going to be away from home for more than a few days, the state of your landscaping can be a dead giveaway that no one is there.
Pay someone to keep up with shoveling snow, raking leaves or mowing the lawn while you’re gone. You’ll have more activity on your property, and thieves don’t like unpredictable comings and goings.
Make it harder for thieves
Be sure to lock all doors and windows before you leave. This might sound like common sense, but most burglars gain access to homes through an unlocked door or window. They don’t even have to break in. Don’t leave a spare key outside your home, as this is another typical way thieves get in. Criminals know all of the typical hiding places for spare keys.
Eliminate exterior hiding places by installing motion-detecting lights. Keep landscaping trimmed.
Buy property insurance
While it won’t protect against the emotional trauma of a home invasion or prevent the loss of keepsakes whose real value is emotional, insurance, at the very least, allows you to replace expensive items that might be stolen.
There are many affordable plans available, and some of them offer discounts to seniors.
Remember: By being proactive, you lower your risk, because criminals prefer easy targets.
After you’ve taken reasonable measures and ensure that your home will be safe, relax and enjoy your trip!
By Mani Canaday