Home security tips for when you're on vacation
When you’re away for a little relaxation, the last thing you want to worry about is the safety of your home. To keep it off your mind, take some steps before you head out:
- Don’t post about it on social media
- Hold your mail or arrange for pickup
- Ask someone you trust to drive by
- Adjust your thermostat safely
- Check your windows, doors, and other openings
- Inspect your safety detectors
- Set light timers
- Check your security system
Taking measures before you leave can keep your home and valuables safe from theft, damage, and other unexpected issues.
1. Don’t post about it on social media
As tempting as it may be, don’t post about your upcoming vacation on any of your social media accounts—and refrain from posting updates and photos while on vacation. Doing so can put your home at risk, as it broadcasts to burglars that you won’t be around. If possible, wait to publicly share your favorite vacation photos until after you’re home.
2. Hold your mail or arrange for pickup
Piling packages and mail could attract unwanted attention from thieves. So arrange to have your mail held or picked up while you’re away, and ask a trusted neighbor or friend to grab any packages while you’re gone. If you have a porch or doorbell camera, be sure to adjust the notification settings to alert you to any deliveries.
3. Ask someone you trust to drive by
If you have a reliable neighbor, see if they wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on your place. If not, ask a friend or family member if they can drive by every now and then just to make sure everything is A-OK.
And while it may make sense to leave your recycling or garbage bins on the curb before you go, it’s better to ask someone you know to put them out and take them in for you. Leaving them out too long can look suspicious and signal to thieves that nobody’s home.
4. Adjust your thermostat safely
Whatever you do, do not turn off your thermostat for your time away. Too high or too low of temperatures could cause damage to your home, like burst pipes and mold—and it could decimate your food stores. For electric HVAC systems, don’t go any further than five degrees from your normal preference. For gas, stay within six or seven degrees of your usual. (1)
If you have a smart thermostat, set your preferred away settings. Then every time you leave for a trip, you can just turn them on and slip away. Remotely turn your thermostat back to your regular settings a few hours before you get home so the temp is just the way you like it when you walk in the door.
5. Check your windows, doors, and other openings
Seems simple, but if you haven’t already, do a quick sweep of your windows and exterior doors. Make sure they’re closed properly and locked. If you have window or door sensors, confirm they’re still intact and on full battery to avoid any nasty surprises.
6. Inspect your safety detectors
If you’ve been thinking about switching your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to smart devices, now’s a good time to do it. No matter how far from home you are, smart detectors can notify you of issues right away so you can take action if needed. It might also be a good time to invest in flood and temperature sensors for that extra coverage.
Already have smart detectors? Take a minute to test them and confirm they’re ready for anything.
7. Set light timers
To trick would-be burglars into thinking you’re home, set light timers so your lights turn on automatically when you’re not there. There are a few options on the market: timer bulbs, plug-in timers, light switch timers, and smart bulbs. Depending on what type of lighting you have in and outside your home, you may find one solution is better than another. But if you’re fond of remote operation, smart bulbs are an easy way to go.
Set a timer schedule that’s close to your general lighting habits and movements around your home—leaving a light on all night could give you away. And with a smart bulb, you can set a varying schedule to further sell the facade.
8. Check your security system
Before you head out, double-check that your smart security devices are connected and accessible from your phone. Ensure your notification settings are set correctly and that any cameras are angled properly. And if you were considering bulking up your DIY system before you go, cut out some time for quick installs between packing and printing plane tickets.
With some systems, like Abode and SimpliSafe, you can get contract-free professional monitoring anytime you need it. So whether you’re gone for one week or two, you can pay a little more to have extra eyes on your place just for the time you’re on vacation. If you’re considering it, see if your particular system comes with that service and set it up plenty of time beforehand.
For security systems with arming capabilities, verify that everything is online and operational, and be sure to set it to Armed Away (which sets the whole system—door alarms, window sensors, and motion sensors) instead of Armed Stay (which simply covers entries and exits while you’re at home).
These days, you have a lot of options and can choose from a variety of DIY and professional security systems. DIY systems are generally cheaper but require self-installation, while pricier professional systems offer more convenience. So be sure to weigh your options before deciding which one is right for you.
If you’re not sure what you’d need, start looking at doorbell cameras, smart locks, door and window sensors, exterior and interior cameras, and smart lights. See which are most fitting for your home and location to whittle the list down to what you need and work from there.
With just a handful of careful steps, you can ensure your home is secure and prepared for anything. So whether you’re out on sandy beaches or up in the snowy mountains, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a stress-free vacation. And if you’re worried about keeping yourself and your valuables safe at your hotel, take a look at our quick tips.
Laura West is an editorial expert with a specialty in simplifying concepts, software, and tech for the everyday person. She’s worked in a variety of topics, including solar, home security, and B2B finance software, and she’s passionate about providing clear, concise answers in the most useful ways. In her free time, Laura writes creatively and rants about her current TV obsessions—usually with a steady stream of coffee.
Eric Paulsen is a writer, editor, and strategist who has been creating content in the B2B, healthcare, FinTech, home security, and government sectors for more than five years. He holds an MFA in creative writing and lets everyone in his life hang that over his head. When he doesn’t have his hands deep in some piece of content, he’s either watching baseball or praying for the offseason to end quickly.
Endnotes and sources
1. "What Temperature Should You Set the Thermostat to While on Vacation?" Angi. Accessed 5 October 2022.