Last updated: 25/11/20
It goes without saying that things are operating differently in 2020. You should always check government coronavirus guidance in your area and take this guidance into consideration when reading any other online content.
Heading off on holiday is undoubtedly exciting, but unfortunately that often means that home security doesn’t factor too highly on the priority list, especially when you’re in a rush to get to the airport on time. But it’s a sad truth that holidaymakers can often be vulnerable to opportunistic thieves as their homes sit empty while they’re away on holiday. That’s why it’s incredibly important to make sure that our homes, and our belongings, are fully protected whenever we go away for any prolonged period of time. To help you feel prepared before you jet off on your travels, here are 10 tips to keep your home safe while you’re away on holiday.
10 tips to keep your home safe while you’re away on holiday
1. Leave a light on
Nowadays it goes against our better nature to leave the lights on, even if we only leave the room for a minute, in an effort to conserve energy and protect the environment. But one of the key things you can do before you go on holiday is make sure your home looks occupied before you leave. There are a number of ways to achieve this, but one of the most effective is to leave a light on while you’re away on holiday. This will make it look as if someone is home, deterring any potential thieves in the neighbourhood.
If you’re going to be away from home for more than a week or two and you’re worried about wasting energy, then it might be worth investing in a timer that will switch lights on and off at specified intervals throughout the day.
Philips Hue lighting, for example, will not only change to over 16 million shades of colour, but will allow you to switch your lights on and off all via an app on your phone. Ultimately, if a thief can’t figure out whether or not you’re home, they’re unlikely to risk trying to break in.
2. Keep the curtains open
As well as leaving your lights on a timer to make it look as if someone’s home, it’s also a good idea to leave a curtain or two open when you go away to add to the effect.
However, if you’re planning on leaving the curtains open to deter thieves, then make sure any belongings or gadgets that you leave at home are hidden safely out of sight. Hiding things under the bed or in a cupboard is a quick way of storing the higher value items, and will ensure you’re not left vulnerable should someone take a look through the window.
3. Try to leave a car on the drive
This isn’t always practical, but if you have multiple cars in the household then it might be a good idea to leave one on the drive to – you’ve guessed it – make it look as if there’s someone at home.
Driving is usually the easiest option when it comes to going on holiday, so if you don’t have too much luggage it may be worth having a look into whether there are any alternative methods of transport that you could take to the airport, such as taking a train or asking for a lift from a particularly doting friend or relative. It might even work out cheaper once you’ve compared the cost of a bus ticket to the cost of airport parking for the duration of your holiday.
4. Cancel any regular deliveries
There’s no bigger giveaway that there’s nobody home than a pile up of post and five bottles of milk at the front door. Make sure to cancel any scheduled deliveries while you’re away on holiday, or arrange to have them delivered elsewhere. If you’re going to be away for more than a few days, try to arrange for a friend, relative or neighbour to collect it for you while you’re on holiday.
But it’s not just the risk of thieves that makes it a good idea to cancel any deliveries while you’re away on holiday – it might even be a stipulation of your home or contents insurance policy to ensure that any mail is picked up regularly if the property house is going to be sitting empty. A pile up of mail could also pose a fire risk, so if you haven’t adhered to the requirements of your insurance policy then this could ultimately result in a repudiated claim.
Check your home insurance documents to find out what is required of you. If you’re going to be away for a longer period of time (usually over 30 days), then you might need to have a look into taking out specialist unoccupied home insurance to protect your investment.
5. Avoid posting on social media
It can be awfully tempting to splash every detail of our travels all over social media – that’s really what an Instagram feed is for, after all.
However, it’s always a good idea to think of the ramifications of your words before you post, especially when it comes to stating when your home will be unoccupied. By announcing on Facebook when you’ll be away over the summer, this also publicises to the world when your home will be sitting empty. A savvy thief could build themselves up quite the timetable by tracking people’s movements on social media – so maybe only post your holidays snaps after you’ve returned from your trip.
6. Butter up your neighbours
Hopefully you’re already on good terms with your neighbours – but if you’re not, then it might be a good idea to start getting to know them a few months prior to your trip. This will put you in good stead when you ask them to keep an eye on your home while you’re away on holiday – and if you ask nicely, you might even be able to get them to pick up your post, feed your cat and water your plants at the same time! That might be pushing it though…
If your neighbours are kind enough to keep an eye on your home whilst you’re away, then it’s a good idea to bring them back a small gift from your holiday to say thanks, as well as ensuring they won’t mind doing it again in the future. You could even offer to return the favour at some point - after all, it’s the neighbourly thing to do.
7. Have yourself a feast
Not so much a chore as a privilege, but it’s probably a good idea to polish off any food that’s left in the fridge before you go away on holiday – otherwise you’ll return home to rotting vegetables and fluffy plates that you inevitably end up naming. It’s surprisingly difficult to throw away a fluffy plate once you’ve named it.
Avoid the faint smell of sour milk upon your return home by devouring all of your remaining fruit, vegetables and perishables in one huge meal the night before you travel. That being said, make sure there’s something ready and waiting to snack on when you get back!
8. Flip the switch
When you’re doing your final checks before you travel, make sure all of your electrical appliances and gadgets are unplugged and switched off at the wall. Not only will it save you money and energy while you’re away on holiday, but it’ll also reduce the risk of power surges.
You might also want to consider switching off your boiler if you’re going to be away for longer than a week or two over the summer. While over the winter it’s a good idea to keep your heating on to prevent the pipes freezing, this isn’t so much of an issue over the summer due to the warmer temperatures, so it’ll be worth switching off the boiler to save yourself some cash.
9. Keep it under lock and key
This is probably common sense, because if you’re not locking up every time you leave your home then it’s a wonder you have any possessions left! But it’s worth reiterating that it’s a good idea to spend ten minutes before you leave for your holiday making sure that all of the windows and doors are locked up tight in the property. Even if the top bedroom window is slightly ajar, it’s not worth the risk of a burglary - especially if you’re planning on leaving a few curtains open.
It’s worth bearing in mind that having a window or door unlocked could even invalidate your house insurance claim in the event of a break-in, so it’s a good idea to check that your burglar alarms are still working properly and that your locks are fit for purpose. It could be time to upgrade.
10. Check your insurance documents
Considering the increased risk of fire and theft when a property is left unoccupied, it’s a good idea to make sure your home and belongings are protected under a comprehensive home insurance policy. If you’ll be going away for longer than a week or two, it’s a good idea to speak to your insurer to find out if there are any special requirements for your home insurance, such as switching off the heating or collecting post. If your insurer is unable to extend your cover past 30 days, then you could have a look into taking out specialist unoccupied home insurance.
As well as making sure you’re protected on the home front, find out whether any valuable items and gadgets that you take with you are protected under your home insurance whilst you’re abroad. It could be that you need to take out travel insurance or gadget insurance to protect your luggage outside of the UK, so check with your insurer to find out what’s covered.