Whether your holiday plans include a weekend visit to the in-laws’, jetting off to Jamaica, or something in between, we’ve put together your ultimate winter getaway home preparation checklist. Use as many of these tips as you can to keep your place secure, and set yourself up for a happy, hassle-free return home.
If you’re going for an extended holiday, consider hiring a professional house sitter, or enlist the help of a trustworthy neighbor. Tell them about your away-dates, and ask they keep a watchful eye out for unusual or suspicious activity around your home. Similarly, you might want to let your close neighbors know that the unfamiliar person entering your house is watering the houseplants, not making off with your flat screen TV.
Depending on the length of your getaway, consider having your mail held by Canada Post, so that your overflowing mailbox doesn’t tip off local thieves that you’re away. Make sure to provide at least three business days notice before you want your service to start. It’s simple to arrange online or set it up at your local postal outlet.
Still stashing a spare key below a false rock in the garden, or under the welcome mat? Sorry, but it isn’t exactly a well-kept secret to potential thieves. Please take any hidden keys inside before you head for a holiday. Better yet, keep a spare set nearby with someone you trust, so they’re accessible, instead of ready for an unwelcome intruder to discover.
LOCK IT DOWN
At this time of year in British Columbia, it’s pretty likely that a windstorm or two is bound to happen. When you’re happily sunbathing somewhere else, you don’t want your belongings being blown about the yard. Avoid potential damage to your home or your neighbors’ by having a quick scan around and identify what can be brought inside or chained down, i.e. ladders, or outdoor furniture.
Speaking of storms, if there’s a heavy rainfall warning in effect while you’re away, are there any leaves or broken branches clogging up your gutters? Take a moment to be sure there aren’t, and you won’t have any nasty surprises to return home to, like a leaky roof, or a flooded basement.
If you’ve been exchanging wrapped gifts, take a few minutes to sweep or vacuum and get rid of bits of tinsel, glitter, or ribbon. Not only will your home be tidier when you get back, you’ll be removing the temptation for pets who like to nibble on things they shouldn’t.
Do the rounds and unplug any appliances and electronics that won’t be in use, or might be drawing phantom power. You’ll save on your energy bill, and avoid damage if there’s a power outage. What’s most frequently forgotten? Modems and routers.
When was the last time you put fresh batteries in your smoke detectors? No time like the present. Be sure you’ve installed them correctly, by doing a quick test.
PREPARE YOUR PETS
Leave all emergency contacts, including your vet’s number, with your pet-sitter or kennel. Have ample pet supplies, (especially food) on hand for your sitter, just in case you get delayed on your return home.
Eat those leftovers, and give away what you can’t finish so you won’t return to a funky fridge. Put a few ice cubes in a plastic container or freezer bag, and when you get home, you’ll be able to tell whether the power went out while you were away (if they’ve melted or changed shape). This way you can avoid consuming any foods that may have spoiled.
Make sure all window locks are fastened, and leave your blinds or curtains as you normally would (closing the shades actually makes it easier for a burglar to move about your home unnoticed). However, do keep tempting items out of site, like electronics, jewelry or purses.
Wash a load of laundry featuring bedding before you go, so you can return home to the comfort and cleanliness of fresh sheets.
PREVENT WATER DAMAGE
Avoid leaks and water damage by turning off the main water valve in your house. These are typically found in the basement, near the front of the house. While you’re at it, head to the bathroom and sprinkle a little bit of baking soda in your toilet bowl. This prevents mildew from building up while it’s not in use.
If you have valuables that aren’t in a safe deposit box, please don’t keep them all in one place (like under the mattress). Avoid the most common places, like jewelry boxes, desk drawers, or anywhere in your master bedroom. Other popular places that thieves notoriously check include toilet tanks, filing cabinets, and purses. Check out these lesser-known hiding spots.
Make the most of Smart Home devices if you have them. Program your thermostat for optimal energy efficiency, and set up variable timed lights to help your home appear inhabited.
If you haven’t already done so, take photos of your valuables for insurance proof. You may wish to take a photo of your passport details as well (or at least write them down). That said, when it comes to vacation pictures and posts, please don’t announce your travel plans on social media. Doing so can be very tempting, but also alerts would-be thieves that your home is unattended. Yes, that means skipping the humblebrag “Later winter, heading to the Dominican for a week!!” Make sure your teenagers know the rules as well.
SET FOR SECURITY
If you use a home monitoring or surveillance system, contact customer service and let them know you will be away.
From all of us at Johnston Meier Insurance: safe travels, and happy holidays!
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