>> Apr 11, 2013
Going away on vacation doesn't mean you have to leave your home unprotected. Before you gather the kids and beach toys, consider these eight ways to leave burglars second-guessing and heading to another neighborhood instead.
Don't Advertise Your Absence
An empty house makes an easy target so don't go turning off every light and making it look like you'll be gone for days. Also, no matter how exciting a week you have planned, don't share the news online until you get back. Hold your kids to the same standard. Posting about upcoming vacations on social media sites can make your home more vulnerable. It's easier than you think for a thief to look up your address and sneak in while you are away.
Illuminate Any Escape Routes
Tall fences and dense vegetation may offer you the privacy you seek, but it also weakens your home's security. If neighbors' prying eyes can't see into your yard they won't be able to see someone suspicious lurking around your back door either. Clear away any thick shrubbery and use motion-activated lights to illuminate dark areas around your home. See your home as a burglar would, then remedy any potential hiding spots or escape routes.
Go Digital and Get Automated
Burglars aren't the only threat to your home while you are away. Natural disasters, flooding and fire all pose a serious threat, especially if you aren't home to catch them early on. A HS-700 HomeSitter ($77 at Amazon.com) can monitor your home's temperature and alert you if there's a sudden change, which can prevent burst or frozen pipes. Or consider wireless home security at LifeShield, an advanced alarm system that allows users to remotely check in via a free app.
Enlist Your Neighbors' Help
If there are newspapers and packages piled at your doorsteps, it's an easy give away that you aren't home and haven't been in a while. An unmaintained yard and no cars in the garage also alert burglars that you are out of town. Before you leave, tell your neighbors. Ask them to park in your driveway and keep an eye on your home. If they see or hear anything suspicious, encourage them to call you and the police.
Get a Pet — Or Pretend to Have One
A "Beware of Dog" sign may not keep every burglar away, but it will definitely make most of them think twice. Even if you don't have a dog, hang a warning in a visible place. Make it believable by tossing a few chew toys around the yard and setting a water dish outside your front door.
If you get a flat screen TV the day before you leave on vacation, don't put the packaging outside for everyone to see — that includes in your trash bin. You may as well open your doors and give everyone a peep show of your expensive display of electronics. Instead, fold up the boxes and dispose of them at work or a store across town.
Hire a House Sitter
Ask a friend, family member or trusted teenage neighbor to stay in your home while you are away. This is especially useful if the reason you are away is a publicized affair — namely spring break, a wedding or a funeral. Even just someone who spends a few hours at your place every day will help lessen the chances of your home being broken into without anyone knowing.
Request Vacation Home Checks
Some police departments offer a "volunteers on patrol" program where police officers or certified volunteers will patrol areas and check on your house while you are away. Call your local department to see if your community has a similar service. While you are at it, put a hold on your mail so an over-stuffed mailbox doesn't give you away.