Top Ten Travel Tips : Keeping Your Home Safe While You Are Away

Hunter Douglas shades with motorization can be controlled remotely with your smart phone via the Platinum App.

Summer is upon us and many folks use this time to travel. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a longer time to really unwind, there are certain precautions that you can take to keep your home safe while you are away.

1. Ask a friend to stop by / hire a house sitter

This is a simple solution to keeping an eye on your home while you are away. Just knowing there is someone checking on things while you are gone can give you great peace of mind. Give the person a key so they can water plants and take in your mail. It’s a good idea to leave your car key, as well, just in case they need to move your car for some reason. And if you have more than one person checking on your house, make sure they know about each other. You don’t want your friend to call the police on someone who looks like they’re casing the joint if they are just another friend checking on the same house!

If you have pets to care for, you might want to hire a house sitter. This is typically someone you know and trust who would live in your home while you are away. This is ideal if you have pets that need to be let out and / or if you are going to be gone for a longer time. This also might be a way to help someone out who is in transition and in need of a place to stay for a couple of weeks, especially if your vacation coincides with their need.

2. Don't advertise your absence

We like to post our pictures of our beautiful vacations in real time, but all that does is tell people that you aren’t home. You might think you can trust every single one of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but do you really know all of them that well? What about the guy whose friend request you accepted because you went to high school with him? What has been doing in the 25 years since you were teenagers?

Be careful about your answering machine or voice mail messages. No need to state that you are gone for two weeks. Rather, just say you can’t come to the phone and will get back to them as soon as possible. (This is another benefit to having a house sitter –  he/she can listen to messages and contact you if there are any that are urgent.

3. The Curtain Debate: open or closed?

There are two schools of thought on this one…  If you close your curtains to prevent people from peering inside, you may keep potential burglars at bay. However, you may also prevent the police or others who may be trying to help from seeing inside, as well. Some say you should leave your curtains exactly as you usually keep them when you’re at home. But if you manually open your curtains in the morning and close them in the evening, this isn’t possible.

A great solution is to have motorized blinds and shades that can be adjusted from an app on your smart phone or even programed to open and close at set times. Almost all Hunter Douglas shades and blinds at Window Fashions of Texas are available with the option for motorized lifting, tilting, and sliding systems. The Hunter Douglas Platinum App allows you to control your window coverings even when your away from home.

At any rate, be sure to move expensive items like jewelry or computers out of sight if they are visible from the window.

4. “Why, yes, I keep my lights on all hours of the day and night.”

Leaving the lights on while you are gone may seem like the way to go so that it looks like someone is in the house. However, not only will your electric bill skyrocket, but lights on throughout the night might seem like a dead giveaway that no one is home.

This is another place where automation helps. Purchase a timer that plugs into the wall. All you do it plug a lamp (or radio or TV) into the timer and set it for the times you want it to turn on and off. Criminals who might be casing your home will likely assume that lights flipping on and off are being flipped by someone in the home.

5. Put a hold on mail / papers / deliveries

To put a hold on your mail, it’s as easy as going online to USPS.com. Or you can arrange to have a friend or neighbor pick up your mail. If you have given them a key and they take the mail in the house for you, ask them not to leave it in a pile near a window with the blinds open. In addition, put a hold on any newspapers you have delivered and make sure you are not expecting any other packages during the time you will be away.

6. Unplug it all

Some appliances use power even when they’re turned off, so it’s a good idea to unplug them while you’re away to save on electricity. Here in Texas, you never really know when a thunderstorm will crop up, so unplugging items like your television, computer, toaster oven and other appliances will also protect them from power surges. (Yes, this goes a little against #4, but you can leave a couple of things plugged into timers so the house looks occupied.)

7. Remove your spare key

Hiding your key under a pot on the front porch, in the mailbox, under the mat, above the door frame, or in that oh-so-realistic-looking plastic rock may seem pretty clever, but if a criminal figures out that you’re away, he/she will likely check all those common places before breaking in. Just give your spare to a trusted neighbor or friend and if someone else needs to get into your house, give them the “key-holder’s” phone number.

8. Tell the neighbors

Even if you aren’t very close with your neighbors, it’s good to have someone right next door who knows you aren’t home in case something major happens in your neighborhood. If you have a good relationship with them, this is a great person to leave your spare key with.

9. Lock the doors and windows

I know, it seems like a no-brainer, but just put it on your to-do list. In the rush of getting out the door, you might overlook this simple, routine thing. And while you’re locking things, unplug the power to your automatic garage door to keep thieves from opening it with a universal remote.

10. In general, try to make it look like business as usual

Have your lawn mowing service come while you are gone. Ask a neighbor to put your trash bins out on trash day. If someone is coming by, ask them to make sure the front porch doesn’t have flyers on the door or the yellow pages lying around. The more your home looks like someone is home, the less likely it will be a target for burglary.

These are some basic tips for keeping your home safe while you are away. Now, get going on that beach vacation and let yourself totally relax.