You’re leaving for vacation. You’ve packed your bags, cleaned out the fridge and locked the doors. But is simply locking the doors enough to keep your home protected and robbery-free?

Not a chance.

1 in every 36 homes will be burglarized this year, which means you’ll want to think twice before crossing your fingers and hoping nothing will happen while you’re gone. Not only is it upsetting to come home to a robbed house, but it can psychologically affect you as well.

I’ve compiled a list of the 15 ways you forgot to protect your home the last time you vacationed. Use this as a checklist the next time you plan on leaving your home unattended for a period of time.

1. Hire a house sitter

If you and your family will be gone for a long time, things around the house need kept up. Hiring someone to water plants, pick up newspapers, and feed the pets can be helpful.

While they’re inside, you can instruct them to rearrange items in the house to make it seem like someone’s living there. Have them park in the driveway while they’re there, so it appears that the house is occupied. You can have them take out the trash for pickup and then put the trash bins back again.

There’s no need to spend a lot of money, as it could be as simple as paying a trustworthy neighborhood kid to take care of things. Not only would they earn a bit of money, but they’d be developing an understanding of all that goes into taking care of a home.

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2. Do a 3-point window check

During the summer, windows are the #1 way that someone will enter your home. You’ll want to cover these three points to ensure your protection.

-Notice your curtains

Don’t assume that closing all your window blinds is the right move. If it’s typical for you to keep your blinds open, then leave them open. You don’t want to alert anyone that something out of the ordinary is happening. It’s small but noticeable for someone who is observing your home over a period of time.

-Close all windows

Even if it’s going to be nice outside while you’re away, your house becomes an easy target simply because of an open window. If you have screens on your windows, this isn’t enough to deter someone from entering through this easily accessible entry point.

– Lock each window

Make sure you’ve secured every window. For first floor windows, observe their locks. If it’s not using a lock and just using a latch, you may want to look into having a second level of protection.

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3. Stop your mail

The last thing you want is an overstuffed mailbox and packages at your doorstep. If hiring a house sitter to take care of your mail isn’t in your budget, you will want to stop the mail.

Not only will this protect against someone seeing how much mail is piled up, but it will protect against a burglar stealing mail and packages.

Mail also has a date and time stamp on it which could indicate how long you’ve been away. Since many people vacation for a week at a time, it could tip off the burglar as to how long you’ve been away and when you might be returning.

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4. Social media

Depending on how important social media is to you, consider what you post online.
If your posts aren’t properly secured to be visible to just people you know, someone could easily learn about all the details of your trip.

Some people enjoy posting photos of their vacation and saying things like “Last day in…”. This is giving a potential robber a timeframe on when you’d be getting back based on where you are and how long it will take to get home.

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5. Remove your spare key

One in three burglaries uses a key or some other non-invasive way to enter homes. If you plan on someone coming over to house sit or feed your pets, don’t leave the spare key out.

Keep track of all the spare keys and make sure to remove them from areas outdoors. Give them to the people you can trust who will be entering and leaving your home.

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6. Remove GPS in vehicle

Robberies don’t always begin at the home.

With thousands of cars in a long-term parking lot at the airport, thieves don’t just have access to hundreds of GPS systems. They can use the GPS device to their advantage. It gives them an easy map to your home and guarantees that no one will be there.

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7. Put lights on a cycle

We have our habits and routines at home. Lights are a good indicator that someone is home. Not only is keeping lights on important but making sure they’re on a typical cycle is helpful in indicating a someone is at home and going about their normal routine.

Spend a day or two documenting a rough schedule of when you use lights in each room. Think about when you use your bedroom lights, your kitchen lights, and family room lights. Get a light timer in the rooms that get the most use and set them up to follow your schedule.

8. Lock up all valuables

Take a look from the street and see if there’s anything valuable that is visible. You’ll want to lock up any small valuables into safes. If you own any weapons and won’t be taking them with you, make sure to invest in a gun safe that is bolted down to keep them protected.

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9. Outdoor maintenance

An overgrown yard that is typically well-maintained can indicate that someone is not home. Make sure to hire the neighborhood boy to take care of your lawn while you’re away in the summer.

Even though the winter months are the lowest times for robberies, consider hiring someone to be on call in case of a snowstorm. Not only will it be nice to come home to a shoveled driveway, but it indicates that someone is home and maintaining their property.

10. Turn off electronics and garage door

Is it a good idea to conserve energy and keep your electric bill low. Turning off electronics that won’t be used is a smart thing to remember when you’ll be away for a while.

Something that not many people consider is the possibility that thieves can use a universal remote to open garage doors. Turning off the power to your garage door will prevent your garage from becoming an easy access point of entry for a robber.

11. Home security alarm

If you have the money to invest in a home security alarm system, this is one of the best ways to deter a burglar. The FBI states that homes without a home security system have a 300% greater chance of being robbed.

An alarm system never sleeps and is connected to a company that is alerted when someone is trying to enter. This should be the first item to invest in when trying to fully secure your home.

12. Secure sliding doors

If your sliding door in the back doesn’t have a deadbolt lock, it will be more susceptible to being broken into. A cheap and effective way to keep this from happening is by putting a wooden rod into the track of the door. This prevents it from being opened regardless of whether a burglar can unlock the door.

13. Cover your garage windows

You may want to hang curtains in your garage windows or have blinds in there. This is a great way to prevent thieves from seeing if your car is parked inside. Not only that, but it also hides any valuables that might be visible as well. Many people store their gun safes in their garages. If you are one of these people, you won’t want to tip off a potential burglar that you have a nice collection of valuable guns.

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14. Secure outdoor furniture or toys

Summertime weather can be unpredictable in some regions. If your area has variable weather, consider securing your outdoor furniture or any outdoor toys. If a large storm passes through and blows over your furniture or large kids toys, it could be devastating. Not only could they get ruined, but it’s a tip to burglars that you aren’t home if they haven’t been set upright again.

15. Inspect your home when you return

Do a full inspection of your home when you return from your trip. See if you notice anything out of the ordinary. Check the inside of your home for any misplaced items, or indication that someone has been inside. Do a perimeter check of the outside as well. Look for footprints near windows or any strange items that could indicate there was someone on your property that shouldn’t have been.

Overall, you want to have the peace of mind knowing that your home and valuables are secured while you are away. No one wants to be worried about what is going on at home while they’re on a relaxing vacation. Taking precautions like the ones mentioned above will bring you that peace of mind. Are there any actions you take that I didn’t outline?

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