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Travel Safety: Protecting You and Your Home

Jun 05, 2018|

Using the Vivint app on vacation

There's nothing quite like a well-deserved vacation. Taking time to rejuvenate, try new things, and get away from the demands of everyday life can be deeply satisfying.

The bad news is most Americans aren't very good at taking vacations. In fact, 54% of employees didn't use all their allotted vacation days last year, leaving a collective 662 million vacation days on the table. Think of all the places you could go with that time!

There are lots of reasons why employees aren't using their vacation days—financial considerations, worries about job security, perceptions among coworkers of not being in the office enough, or not wanting to get behind in workload. While these are often legitimate concerns, the reality is vacations can help reduce stress, improve your health, and even make you a more effective employee.

So go ahead and take that vacation! You've earned it.

How to keep your home safe while on vacation

Before you jet off to your exciting destination, however, make sure you take steps to protect your home and yourself. Your home still needs attention while you're gone. And by taking simple precautions, you can ensure your home is safe and protected while you're away—allowing you to travel with peace of mind.

While many home security measures come down to common sense, advances in home security systems and home automation have made securing and monitoring your home easier than ever. Take a look at our tips below:

Don't telegraph your absence

Without meaning to, your home can give off the appearance of not being occupied, particularly when you go on longer trips. Protect yourself against tell-tale signs you're not home.

Avoid posting about your trip on social media

As excited as you may be to share your vacation with friends on social media, be mindful of others who may have access to that information. Your new Instagram post may be chalking up the likes, but it could also alert opportunists that you're not home. So be selective with what you share, when, and with whom.

Automate your lights

A house that remains dark night after night may signal to would-be thieves that a home is unoccupied. Automating when lights turn on and off can help give your home the appearance of being occupied. While analog automatic timers have been around for decades, there's a better solution: smart lighting. With Vivint and Philips Hue, for instance, you can set your own custom schedules for your lights to make it look like you’re home when you're not.

Vivint protected Smart Home
Use smart lighting to give your home the appearance of being occupied when you're away on vacation.

Don't let the weather give you away

Mother Nature can sometimes work against you. Weather and seasonal events, like snow storms, falling leaves, or un-mowed grass, can alert people to your not being home. Find out what to expect from the weather while you're gone and make any necessary plans for snow removal, mowing, or watering, for example, ahead of time.

Don't leave packages on the porch

Packages left on a porch overnight or a mailbox stuffed with delivered mail can be dead giveaways you're not home. They also serve as an attractive target for porch pirates. Protect your home and packages by placing orders such that they arrive before or after your trip. You can also request the US Post Office to hold your mail.

Even with your best efforts to avoid package delivery, they may still happen. That's where a doorbell camera comes in handy.

A doorbell camera can notify you on your smartphone when someone is on your doorstep so you can see when a package is delivered. When part of a comprehensive smart home, you can even speak to the delivery person through the doorbell camera and request they leave the package in your garage. Open the garage with remote garage door control from your same smartphone app, and close it again after the delivery is complete.

Other tell-tale signs you're not home

  • Fliers and door hangers left on the door.
  • Garbage not taken out to the curb on garbage pickup day.
  • Blinds or curtains that aren't adjusted daily.

Secure your home's doors and windows

This may seem obvious, but it's an easy step to forget—particularly if your home has exterior doors and windows on multiple floors. Rather than patrol the house checking each door and window, simplify the process with home automation. Install sensors throughout the home, and you can see which doors and windows are open from your smart home app.

Outside of a home
Door and window sensors let you know when an entry to your home is open.

You can also secure two of the most common access points to your home—the front door and garage door—from anywhere with smart locks and remote garage door control.

Ditch the spare keys

Let's face it. Everyone knows you're hiding your spare key under that rock, the planter, or even the doormat. Spare keys are easy to lose, and each missing key can potentially allow for unauthorized access to your home.

Avoid dealing with keys altogether by installing a smart lock. With a smart lock, you can enjoy keyless front-door entry by typing in an access code. If you have a neighbor taking care of your home while you're away, simplify things for them and yourself by giving them a unique access code to your smart lock. You'll be notified when they enter, and you can remotely control your locks wherever you are.

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Keep valuables out of sight

Your windows can reveal valuables to anyone who looks in. Jewelry, gaming consoles, computers, and other high-end consumer electronics are common targets of thieves.

Reduce the risk. Avoid easy and inviting opportunities for theft by keeping valuables out of sight.

Make sure someone you trust is watching your home

While you don't want to make your absence widely known, it is helpful to have a trusted neighbor or friend keep an eye on your home. So arrange for someone to periodically check in.

While a personal touch is nice, you can't expect a neighbor to constantly watch over your home. That's where professional home security monitoring comes in. With 24/7 monitoring and support, you can rest assured that a team of experts is tracking your home to respond to potential break-ins, fire, carbon monoxide, or floods. In the event of a crisis, they will notify you and send emergency assistance if needed.

Protect the inside of your home (and save money)

While most tips for protecting your home while you're away involve the exterior of your home, there are also security considerations within the home. There's nothing worse than coming home from a trip to discover your pipes froze, you left the AC running full blast, or your basement is flooded.

comprehensive smart home system can monitor and protect your home while you're away. Safety sensors like a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and flood/freeze sensors can trigger an alert if something goes wrong. And professional monitoring services will notify you and assist.

Change the thermostat

There's no need to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home if no one is there to enjoy it. So change your thermostat before you go. While traveling in the winter, avoid turning the heat too low, so your pipes don't freeze. While this is a simple step, it's easy to forget when you're rushing out the door to make a flight. A smart thermostat can take care of this for you by automatically adjusting the temperature based on home activity to save you money. You can also remotely control your thermostat from your smartphone.

Vivint Thermostat
Adjust your thermostat settings before you leave on a vacation to save energy.

 

Turn off the water

Water damage can lead to a lot of frustration and, in many cases, significant costs. The good news is it's often avoidable. Turn off the water main or shut off the valves to toilets, the dishwasher, or washing machine. Place flood sensors next to these areas to alert you if they start to leak.

Unplug electronic devices

Your electronics are drawing energy even when you're not using them or if the power is off. Unplug your electronic devices and save a little money on your utility spend each month while protecting against potential electrical surges or power failure.

Learn more about what a smart home can do for you.

Keep yourself safe on the go

Once you've taken care of protecting your home, now it's time to focus on keeping yourself safe and protected while you travel.

There's always an inherent risk in traveling, and the risks may vary depending on whether you travel domestically or internationally. But here are a few personal travel safety tips to follow:

Where possible, avoid traveling alone

Not only is a vacation more enjoyable when it's with people you love, but it's also safer. Traveling in groups can protect you from possible scam artists and thieves, and provides a support network should something happen.

Let’s be neighbors.

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Let an emergency contact know where you're going

I know, I just told you not to publicize your travel plans, but it's important to let a trusted emergency contact know your travel itinerary. Let them know details like:

  • flight plans (airline, flight number, departure/arrival times, destinations)
  • hotels you will be staying at
  • daily travel methods (Uber, walking, or train, for example)
  • daily activity plans

Should things go awry, your contact will be able to assist emergency personnel.

Give your bank and credit cards a heads-up

Few things are as infuriating as swiping your card to pay for an amazing experience or even a simple lunch to find out your card has been blocked. Many credit card companies flag purchases made in locations and venues that are out of the norm for the cardholder.

While this can be helpful in terms of fraud protection, it's not something you want to deal with when you're making a legitimate purchase. Avoid having your cards locked down by giving your bank or credit card institutions a heads up about your travel plans.

Watch your tongue

No, we're not necessarily suggesting you control your language. Instead, watch what you say and to whom. You never know who may overhear your conversation and use that information to compromise your safety. Be especially careful about telling fellow travelers you don't know where you're staying or too much about your plans—even if it seems harmless and part of a normal conversation.

Check with your airline if you use smart luggage

Most of us pack smart devices with us wherever we go, and that's particularly true on vacation. Smart luggage offers the ability to charge your devices through a charging station on the luggage. This sounds great, but hold up. Many airlines have restrictions on smart luggage. Some allow this luggage if the battery is removable though. Check with your airline to understand their restrictions before you select a piece of smart luggage.

Be careful on public WiFi

Free public WiFi is on the rise, which is great when you need to check your social media feeds or travel details. But it comes with risk. Public WiFi is generally not secure, and information you send and receive online can potentially be compromised. There are ways to protect yourself:

  • Be careful about what you do online when traveling. Be cautious about sharing private information or accessing confidential financial information.
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) where possible. A VPN is a service that allows you to participate online by routing your activity through another server. This can help protect you from prying eyes. There are many paid VPN options out there, but the Opera web browser provides free VPN for both laptops and mobile devices.
  • You can also use your phone's data plan as a hotspot for your laptop.

Be aware of pickpockets

Pickpockets can be found in many large cities, and obvious travelers are definite targets. Don't be an easy mark for them. Avoid leaving valuables in plain sight. Secure your purse with a zipper or clasp, and be aware of anything you may be carrying behind you that would be easy for a pickpocket to snag. A wallet in the back pocket, for example, is also easier to grab than one in a front pocket.

Secure your valuables

Think carefully about what you're bringing on your vacation. If you really don't need it, don't bring it. If you do bring something valuable, take advantage of that hotel safe.

With a little advanced preparation and awareness, you can protect your home and yourself while traveling and contribute to a vacation you'll be glad you took. If you're going to travel, you might as well enjoy peace of mind and relax.

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