How to keep your home safe when you go on holiday

Annie Shaw

Annie Shaw shares her tips for securing your home when you are away and deterring burglars.

Here are five things to remember when going on your travels to keep your home and your belongings secure.

1. Check your household insurance

Make sure you have the cover you need and that it remains valid while you are away. While buying an adequate level of cover for your possessions may seem obvious, are there any exclusions in your policy that could render it void if, for instance, you are away from home for more than a certain number of days? What about if you let a house-sitter live in your home to look after pets? Should you notify the insurer? Are you covered if a non-family member stays in your home?

2. Don’t leave your house looking unoccupied

  • Mow the lawn before you leave so that it doesn’t look like a meadow by the time you get back.
  • Bring in washing from the line, and from drying racks that can be seen through windows.
  • Leave curtains and blinds open – nothing reveals that a house is unoccupied so much as curtains drawn during the day.
  • Cancel milk and newspapers and any other regular deliveries.
  • Ask a neighbour to remove free newspapers and post from your doormat if they can be seen through a glass panel or through the letterbox. Alternatively, you can sign up to Royal Mail’s Keepsafe service, which holds letters and parcels for up to 66 days while you are away and delivers them once you return.
  • Ask your neighbour to water your pot plants, too. This won’t just keep them healthy for your return but will stop them appearing wilted and indicating an absent owner.
  • Install a light on a timer switch that comes on in the evening. You can also get photosensitive bulbs that switch on when a certain level of darkness is reached. If you are using a light on a timer, don’t use it with a table lamp that can be viewed through a window – a dead giveaway.

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3. Keep your valuables safe

Keep valuables out of sight and don’t leave them where they can be seen through a window. 

If you intend to conceal valuables in your home, avoid obvious hiding places such as your sock drawer, in a fake food can in the kitchen – burglars are wise to this trick – and in the freezer, unless you are prepared to wrap absolutely everything in foil to make your jewellery totally indistinguishable from your food. 

Your best bet is not to leave anything you would hate to lose in the house at all, but if you must, then in order to save most of your treasure, your second-best bet is to distribute it around several locations that are difficult to reach, and leave a pile of money and some inexpensive items in a more obvious place. 

Given that most burglars are opportunists and their motive is generally to get in, get something of value and then get out as fast as possible, your intruder might be encouraged to leave after finding your fake hoard rather than ripping the house apart in the hope of finding the real deal.

Five tips to protect your home from burglars

4. Don't tell everyone you're on holiday

Don’t tell people outside immediate friends and family that you are going away or for how long. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to show off your tan or tell your fisherman’s tales when you get back. 

Certainly you should not brag about your upcoming holiday on social media such as Facebook or Twitter – you don’t know who can read your comments, or who they will tell.

5. Protect yourself and your luggage

Make sure you have adequate travel insurance and that you have declared anything that could, if an insurer found out about it later invalidate your claim.

Don’t state your home address on the outside of your luggage. Put a note inside the lid in case of loss, or use a label with an alternative non-residential address, such as your place of work or social club, where you can be found if the case goes astray.

Use TSA standard locks on your luggage. These are either built in to the case on more expensive luggage brands, or you can buy TSA standard padlocks to attach to cheaper bags and holdalls. TSA locks can be opened by authorised persons at airports, particularly in America, using special tools, meaning your bags can be examined by security personnel without causing damage. 

Enjoy your trip.

Read the five travel insurance traps to avoid.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.