Leaving this Holiday? Don’t Forget to Protect the Nest

Finding a flooded basement or a ransacked house is something no one wants to return after a trip to paradise. Take action now to keep your property safe throughout the holidays with these tips.

November 26, 2013

Whether taking a plane to a foreign country thousands of miles away or simply driving three hours to visit parents, holiday travelers should take added measures to keep their homes safe while their away.

"There's nothing worse than returning home from a week in paradise to find your basement flooded or worse - that a burglar has capitalized on an empty house and stolen all of your prized and sometimes irreplaceable belongings. Accidents happen, but there are easy steps you can take to protect your home and make you feel even more cheerful during the holidays," says Frank N. Darras, America's top insurance lawyer.

One of the easiest, but most crucial ways to protect a home while the owner is away is to ask a friend or neighbor for help. It can be as simple as asking them to keep an eye on the home during vacation or give them a key and ask them to bring the mail in, feed the cat, water the pants, etc. Having these seemingly "simple" and everyday tasks taken care of signals to any potential burglars or vandals driving by that someone is home.

There's nothing more pleasing to a burglar than a home with no lights on, lawn not cut, mail and newspapers piling up at the front door, and the curtains drawn. Even just the sight of a car in the driveway occasionally can be enough of a deterrent for a burglar even if all the other "everyday" tasks are not taken care of, to pick another house.

On the flip side, an easy, but crucial mistake holiday travelers' make when leaving their homes unoccupied is to advertise their travel plans on social media, It takes just a few seconds to post that status update, but the consequences can take weeks and months to repair if the wrong eyes read that post.

There have been reports that that opportunists are able to track down an address from a website posting within 60 seconds. So be careful not to post, "packing my bags" or "just landed", when you arrive at your vacation destination. When using popular geo-tracking apps, such as FourSquare and Glympse, that might be signaling burglars that you're not home. Read more.

Frank Darras also gives these other tips for protecting an empty home from damages that could have easily been avoided: unplug everything possible, make sure appliances are off, consider shutting the water off depending on location and length of vacation, secure sliding doors, lock all doors and windows, install timers and outdoor lights, and consider installing a security system.

"Here it goes...the number one tip I can give you as you prepare to embark on your holiday travel plans: invest in and/or update your homeowner's insurance policy. Make sure you have an up-to-date policy that includes all of your valuable belongings in a line-item list. Hold on to your policy card and keep another copy in a fire-proof safe. Most people have homeowner's or renter's insurance, but many do not regularly update their policies to include new purchases or valuable heirlooms. Don't make this mistake before leaving for the holidays - or this will certainly be a holiday to remember," said Darras.