Know Your Home is Safe While Traveling Internationally

travel security

It's February and the last place you want to be is where you are, so you're packing up your things and heading to some place sunnier—or some place snowier—than where you live. Maybe you're skiing in the Swiss Alps; maybe you're sunning yourself on a Mexican beach. Either way, you're going to have to prep your home for an extended absence. The last thing you want to be doing on your international getaway is worrying about whether someone's broken in and robbed you blind. Here are some tips to keep your home snug as a bug in a rug while you ride South African waves or take in Italian Opera.

House Sitter is Best:

The number one best thing you can do if you're going to be away from home for a while is hire a person to live in your house for you. This does a few things—first, your house isn't unoccupied and consequently doesn't look unoccupied. If a burglar is selecting targets based on outward appearance, this will deter them. Why pick an occupied house? It's just too difficult. Second, if your pipes freeze or a leak springs or any number of minor things that can turn major if attention isn't paid to them quickly, someone will be there to catch it and handle it. And third, you get the added bonus of everyday maintenance things being taken care of—plants watered, mail brought in, and, if you have a pet, your house sitter can watch them too!

When selecting a house sitter, select someone you trust from your circle of friends or family members to be as secure with your possessions and pets as you are. Not all friends and family, no matter how wonderful they are, make good house sitters—some forget to lock doors. You'd be surprised how many of your friends will take on this responsibility for a spot of cash and access to your movie collection/game system/bar. If you live in a popular city with loads to do or somewhere with excellent access to nature and will be gone for a good long time, consider a trade with someone you know and trust who lives elsewhere—they'll stay in your house or apartment for free if they take care of a few small things for you. They can then go take in a Broadway show or hike some beautiful Colorado terrain while you jet set about. Everyone wins!

protect home travel

Emergency Captain Is Okay, Too:

If you can't get a house sitter, tell your neighbors you're leaving. Ask if one of them will be your emergency captain, in charge of calling or emailing you if something goes terribly awry. Make sure to bring them back a souvenir in exchange for this peace of mind they're giving you. Telling more than one neighbor to keep an eye out is cool too—if they know you'll be gone from x date to y date and they see someone pulling up with a U-Haul during that time, they can call the police and email you posthaste. When you ask someone or several someones to be your emergency captain, make sure you're super willing to return the favor when they go away. Or better yet, organize a coalition of emergency captains in your neighborhood that performs this service for each other all the time; everyone will be grateful for the zero-worry travel time.

Check Your Email Once a Day:

Or your phone or the desk at your hotel. When you have a house sitter or emergency captain, and you give them a way to contact you, make sure you touch base with that mode of contact at least once a day. And you should give your house sitter and emergency captain a way to get in touch! If you're not planning on paying for data while you're out, leave your itinerary and your hotel's phone numbers. Research if the hotel has a computer in the lobby for checking email, or if internet cafés are prevalent in the area (and if there are filters that might make checking your email difficult, like in China or Tunisia for example).

Stop Your Mail:

If you don't have a house sitter doing it for you, ask the post office to stop your mail for the range of dates you'll be away. It sounds like such a pain to do, but cross my heart, nothing says “THIS HOUSE IS RIPE FOR THE PICKING” like a giant pile of mail on the porch or an over-stuffed mailbox. The post office is there for you in your time of need—they'll collect all your mail and you'll either pick it up when you get back, or they'll deliver it all to you on the date you specify, depending on where you live and what services your post office offers. Speaking of keeping up normal, habitual appearances.

safe house travel

Use a Light Timer:

Set some lights in your house, along with the porch light, on a timer so they pop on when it gets dark and pop off when you'd normally go to bed. In the same theme, if you have a snow or lawn service, keep them coming while you're away. The name of the game is to make it look like nothing is different about your house while you're gone.

Change the Primary Contacts for Your Home Alarm System:

If you won't be able to be reached while traveling out of the country, you will want to consider temporarily changing your Primary Contacts for your home alarm system. In the case of an emergency, these are the numbers that are contacted before the police are dispatched. Since you'll be out of reach, consider changing these numbers to your house sitter, a trusted neighbor, or a family member. This person will be able to handle the situation in the moment, and then can contact you through agreed upon means after the fact. This way, you don't have to worry about what's happening at home because it's in good hands, but you'll still know if anything does happen! Once you return from your trip, it's easy to switch your Primary Contacts back to you or to whoever you'd like!

Share Your Photos After You Get Back:

It. Is. So. Tempting. You know what I mean—the urge to announce your trip as soon as you book it so strong, especially if you got a good deal or something. Or the overwhelming need to post a photo of your smiling family to your public Instagram, all sitting in a row on the plane. It's tempting because everyone you know will be jealous of your awesome life, and being jealous-worthy feels a little bit grand. Stay off of social media before and during your trip; save the bragging for after you get back. This is because, especially if your social media is public, this broadcasts to the world that your house is unoccupied. And you'd be surprised how easy it is for a burglar to figure out your address if they don't know it already; it's also very easy to have accidentally allowed a ne'er-do-well into your list of Facebook friends. So do yourself a favor and just wait. This has a whole bunch of other pros, too: you won't have to pay for data on your cellphone if you've vowed not to post photos as you go. It'll also make for a better vacation in which you are far more present—put down that phone and experience the gelato or the Mona Lisa or the slopes or the desert sunsets and ancient ruins. Disconnect to reconnect.

Now get out there, you lucky thing, and do some traveling.