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In Vacation Mode: Tips for When You're Not at Home

House with lights on

The best vacations are true departures from everyday life. To accomplish that feeling, however, you need to leave your cares behind. Here are some tips to help you do that whenever you leave your home unoccupied for several days.

1.     Set Your Home’s Systems to Vacation Mode

Raise the cooling and lower the heating settings on your system and water heater. This not only reduces the amount of activity the equipment experiences in your absence, it also reduces your energy costs.

You can further boost that savings by unplugging unattended appliances—which still draw energy just by being plugged in—including TVs, game consoles, and computers. This also protects them and your home in the event there is a power surge while you are gone.

2.     Be Preemptive With a Safety Check

Prior to leaving, test your alarms—fire, carbon monoxide, and burglar—to ensure all are functioning correctly. Alerting your security company, especially if you will be gone for an extended period, and the local police are also a good idea. Most police departments are usually willing to pay extra attention on their regular patrols as they pass your home.

Just before leaving, make sure all entry points to your home are secured. This means locking windows and garage doors as well as doors.. Also, remove spare keys from “hidden” outdoor spots. Often, they are the same spots burglars look.

 3.     Give Notice

It’s a good idea to notify credit card issuers if you will be using your cards outside of your area, and especially if you will be out of the country. Unusual activity on your card will trigger fraud alerts and, potentially, lead to a hold being put on your card if you have a particularly vigilant card issuer.

4.     Take Advantage of Your Absence

It’s a good policy to use trips as a time to go through your refrigerator and pantry to get rid of perishables and items that are expired or will pass their expiration dates before your return. 

An unoccupied home also provides a good opportunity to spray the perimeter of your home with insect repellent to ensure it remains free of bugs.

5.     Appear Home Until You Are

Security experts are fairly universal in their advice: make your home look occupied even when you are gone. This includes finding a way to duplicate your home’s lighting patterns in your absence using timers or new remote-control mobile options.

While you may be inclined to close drapes and shutters, unless that is something you do daily, refrain from restricting visibility into your home. It makes it harder for police, friends, and neighbors to keep an eye on your property in your absence.

Similarly, suspend mail and any newspaper or other regular deliveries that can signal no one is home. Arrangements for your mail are easy to make. The U.S. Postal Service has a simple online form that enables you to suspend and restart delivery without making a trip to your local post office. It also means not having to rely on neighbors or friends to remember to stop by to pick it up.

For trips that last long enough for your lawn to look unmowed, arrange for lawn care. Similarly, during months where icy or snowy sidewalks are obvious signs that you are gone. Hire someone to maintain them while you are out of town.

6.     Delay Posting

As exciting as it is to share photos of your trip and live updates on social channels, if they are visible to the outside world, it can broadcast that you have an unattended house. A better practice is to post when you return. It has the added advantage of letting you hang onto your trip a little longer.

While it may add a few extra steps to your packing and departing ritual, setting your home to vacation mode can literally let you leave your cares behind. That means the only thing left for you to do is to have a great trip!

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