In theory, a vacation is your chance to kick back and relax. You’re supposed to stay up late, sleep in, and spend time with the people you love. Whether you’re traveling near or far, spending time away from home is supposed to ease the stress of daily life.

In actuality, vacations are a lot of work. There is a lot of preparation leading up to that tropical excursion or snowy getaway. The laundry list of things to get done includes the dreaded job of packing, a seemingly simple process that usually turns out to be a combination of laundry, toiletry shopping, and organizing your whole life all in one. But figuring out which shoes match the most outfits and how the TSA-approved allotment of shampoo will last you a whole week aren’t the only tasks you have to tackle before you can head off worry-free. You also have to prepare your home.

Bungalow, brownstone, or barndominium, your home is where your heart — and all your stuff — will remain while you are traveling. That’s why it’s a good idea to take some precautions to protect it. Some of the preventive measures homeowners can take are quick and easy, while others take some planning. Instead of waiting until you’re over-stuffing your suitcase, plan to spend some time in the weeks leading up to your trip following these three tips (and avoiding a common mistake) to ensure your return home is a happy one.

Tip # 1- Use What You’ve Got

If your home has a security system, you should most definitely use it. If you recently moved in to a home with a security system and haven’t activated it, now is a good time to remedy that. Research shows that homes with security systems are broken into far less often than homes without one. If you doubt the statistics, just ask the perpetrators. According to one study, the presence of a home security system alone was enough of a deterrent for many burglars to pick another target.

Here are a few ways to ensure you get the best protection your system has to offer:

  • Monitoring matters. When a monitored system is triggered by a break-in, fire, or other emergency, emergency services are automatically notified by the security team, giving you peace of mind while you’re vacationing.
  • So does maintenance. Before you head out, clean and test your security panel, and inspect all cameras and lights. If you have time, consider requesting an inspection from your service provider, especially if you haven’t had one in the past year.
  • Stick ‘em up. Most security systems come with stickers and signage to indicate your home is protected. Place these on your windows and in your yard so they are visible to prospective robbers at every entrance.  

Tip # 2- Be Smart

If your home doesn’t have a security system, don’t worry. You can install one, of course, but many modern homes already have some smart features in place that can help you keep your home secure in your absence. Phone-controlled locks, smart light bulbs, and video doorbells aren’t just more convenient, these products can help you automate your home safety routine.

Depending on what features you have, here are a few of the ways you can use them during your vacation:

  • Automated locks Not sure if you locked the back door? Use your phone to double-check from anywhere. Better yet, program your exterior doors and garage door to lock automatically in the morning, at night, or whenever they have been unlocked for a short period. An added bonus of automatic locks is that you never need to leave a spare key outside. Your phone is your key, and you can give your pet sitter or plant waterer access from afar.
  • Programmable lights Leaving your lights on while you’re gone will wreak havoc on your electric bill. Plus, a lit house overnight may arouse more suspicions than it quells. With smart bulbs or smart outlets, you can program your lights to match your normal routine.
  • Notifications Set your doorbell camera notifications to alert you when someone approaches your door and your locks to inform you of an unusual pattern — like doors being opened and closed repeatedly or staying ajar for long periods — so you can check the feed and call for help, if needed.
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Tip # 3 – Make Good Choices

You can spend a lot of time and money outfitting your home to make it safer, but it won’t matter if you don’t make the right choices when it comes to choosing and installing those features. The wrong door latch or an ill-placed light might do more harm than good.  

  • Lighting You should install lights all the way around your home to eliminate blind spots, and avoid lights that are too bright; they cast shadows where burglars love to hide. Finally, do a quick check to make sure all of your lights are working before you go. You don’t want to do the criminals any favors.
  • Locks All doors are not created equally, and your front door isn’t the only one you need to be concerned about. Different types of doors need different types of locks to be secure. Lock your gates and garage door with a padlock to secure outdoor equipment and valuables. For windows, use a pin lock that is visible from the outside. Sliding glass doors require an extra latch at the opening and one at the base to be secure.
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The Mistake – Oversharing

One of the most common things people do to put their homes at risk may not be what you’d expect. It actually has nothing to do with your home at all. It’s your presence on social media. The temptation to share every gourmet meal, family photo, or special moment from your vacation is strong. After all, Facebook and Instagram are how we document our lives and communicate with the people we love.

All of those likes you’re getting may not be a good thing. Posting pictures of where you are tells everyone where you’re not — home. To reduce the likelihood of making your home a target, wait to post all of your memories until you get back. You should also ensure your accounts are private, and disable the geo-location features on your phone, tablet, and computer. Don’t post details of your trip before you go, including the dates you’ll be away, and ensure the rest of your friends and family members do the same with their own accounts.   

The last thing you want to be on your vacation is stressed out. Taking the time to prepare your home before you venture off is a great way to give you the peace of mind you need to truly relax. Use the security tools at your disposal, be smart, and spend time engaging with your loved ones instead of posting on social media. Your home will be safe and sound, and you’ll get the restful vacation you planned.