I travel all the time and as such I have worried about the vulnerability of my home. Not much could be worse than returning home, as I once did, to find your home ransacked. We don't often want to think about the possibility but it's always on our minds especially in this economy when we hear so many stories of people committing desperate acts. It is far better to be well prepared than to spend time worrying while your away.
Here are some things to consider: First, thieves don't just rob houses while you're away on vacation and they almost always case neighborhoods to discover routines. Do you repeat the same routine daily? Do you always go away the same time each year? The absolute number one thing you can do is vary your routine. Do not keep a schedule so rigid a thief can set his watch to it. Here are some simple solutions: trade cars or carpool with your spouse a couple times a week (never on the same days), vary your work, workout, school, etc. schedules and have a neighbor sometimes park in your driveway when you're away. My cousin, a police captain, would leave his TV on all day so thieves would hear voices and think someone was home. A talk radio show might work just as well and, of course, use those wonderful timers for your lights. Don't load luggage into the car in overtly obvious ways. If at all possible be discrete load it in the early morning or in the evening and pull your vehicle up close to the door or garage door. Don't ever put boxes from expensive gifts out by the side of the road on trash day. Break them down and put them in the recycling bin inside out. Get to know your neighbors and ask them to keep an eye on your house (If you trust them let them know if someone is coming by). Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to collect mail and put the trash out. Have a friend stay at your house while you're away or come by and use your pool. Do not tell the pool service, the lawn service, the mail person, etc. that you'll be away.
After the robbery in my home I asked the police officer what I should do to protect myself going forward. Incidentally, I'd only been gone for 2 hours but the thieves who'd cased our neighborhood knew that I went to workout everyday at the same time for roughly two hours (they also robbed several other homes in our neighborhood). His response was, "Get a dog." According to many law enforcement officers this is still the best deterrent. The reason is simple most thieves will avoid this confrontation and go to an easier target. While I don't think protecting your home should be your only reason for getting a dog it's comforting to know that a dog is a great deterrent to crime. I can tell you our dogs have given us a solid sense of security. Never tell service people your dog doesn't bite or let them become friendly with your dog. Finally, even if you don't have a dog or alarm put up a "beware of dog" sign or alarm stickers and signs. (pictured right - the dog is real, the leg is fake)
Having a dog, however, can present another problem. Who cares for the dogs while your away? If your lucky you have a family member or friend willing to shoulder the responsibility of scheduled feedings and walks while you're gone. If you're not so lucky your home security guard just became your new dilemma. Our initial solution was boarding. It worked because we new our dogs were being cared for but this left our house vulnerable and frankly a kennel isn't a doggy vacation. What I really wanted was to be able to leave them at home without having to cut a dog door in my door and frankly the whole feeding thing wouldn't have worked because our lab, bless her heart, would have eaten all the food the first day. For a time it appeared the kennel was our only option but I eventually found another way thanks to the internet. I found a dog care service. Let me say this was not something I initially thought would work. I had to wonder who I'd potentially be letting into my house. Fortunately, this is an industry that has come a long way and after careful consideration and interviews we found a company (or should I say pet sitter) whom we liked and we couldn't be happier. Fetch! Pet Care was founded in 2002 and is the brain child of Paul Mann who had a simple pet care problem. He needed a pet sitter while he was traveling. Someone he could trust in his home. Fetch! is bonded and insured and franchise owners and employees are put through a background check. As a result our pets are well cared for and our home is protected. Although I can't tell you this is true for the entire company we are very happy with the service we get from our local Fetch! Pet Care. We've been using them for almost 2 years and it's worked out wonderfully. I caution though that if you should choose to contact them or any equivalent service do your homework! I can't vouch for the entire company but it's certainly a good place to start.
If you follow even some of these steps you'll have a less stressful, more enjoyable trip! For more ideas check out some of these crime prevention tips: Burglary Prevention, Home Safety. The following are some great ways to hide your valuables: