In the excitement of holiday planning it’s easy to forget that unoccupied properties can be vulnerable to burglary or vandalism.
Whether you’re planning to be away for a few weeks or a few days, it’s worth investing in simple security precautions to avoid coming home to a disaster and ensure you can rest easy while you’re away.
Home alarm systems
The most effective deterrent for a potential burglar is a visible home alarm system.
If your home is already set up with a home alarm system, you should do some general maintenance before you leave for a holiday. If you are paying someone to monitor your alarm consider checking with them that everything is up to date and that they have the correct contact details for you and your emergency contact. If your home uses a wireless alarm system you should think about when you last changed the batteries and consider testing its reliability.
If you’ve yet to install an alarm system there are two types to consider; choosing between them is all down to your personal preference.
Wireless alarms are generally cheaper, easy to install, communicate using radio signals and can be taken with you if you move house. They are powered by batteries. Wired alarms are more intrusive to install, often more expensive and cannot be taken with you to a new home. They run off mains power.
Once you know which type of alarm you want to choose, you then need to decide what you want to happen if your alarm is triggered. There are three choices; audible-only alarms sound loudly with the aim to alert your neighbours and frighten off would-be burglars, speech diallers which automatically contact you in the event of a break in or monitored alarms, monitored by an outside company who will contact you or the police if the alarm is triggered.
CCTV systems & kits
If you’re concerned about vandalism or who might be entering your property while you’re away, a home CCTV system could bring you some peace of mind.
CCTV is an increasingly popular choice for the security conscious thanks to new, easy installation wireless kits.
Cameras can be bought on their own or as part of kit, but remember that, depending on your choice of camera, you will need to buy extra equipment to connect your camera, record & view footage and, if needed, store any footage you’ve taken.
If you’re not keen on installing a high tech CCTV kit you could instead install a dummy camera which may go some way to deter potential burglars.
However, it’s worth remembering that CCTV is just one element of securing your home, and works best when combined with other measures.
Door & window locks
While visible home alarms & CCTV deter potential burglars, you also need to have the right physical security system in place to ensure your home is completely secure.
If you’re heading off on holiday, check that all your door and window locks are in place, functioning correctly and securely.
Open or unsecured windows are an easy entry or exit route for burglars. Make sure windows are fitted with a good lock appropriate for the window type, and that you know where all the keys are kept.
For added security, consider bolstering your alarm system by installing magnetic contact detectors on windows that will trigger and sound an alarm when their seal is broken.
There are a wide variety of door locks available to purchase; the best choice for your home will be dependent on the type and material of door, and level of security required. It’s a good idea to check that the level of security you have installed on your doors is in line with your insurance companies policy. It may be that they insist that you install a particular lock, and require additional security, such as bolts or a door chain, on your external doors.
If your front door has a letterbox, remember to hide all keys, including car keys, out of sight and away from the letterbox (a device could be used to hook keys through the letterbox).
Magnetic contact detectors are also available for internal doors, as well as windows, and will alert you with an alarm if their magnetic plates are disturbed.
Top tips for holidaying homeowners – pre-holiday home security check list
Make sure you know how many people have keys to your house, and make sure you’ve removed any spare keys that you may have hidden under flower pots or door mats.
Make what’s inside seem uninteresting. Ensure that gadgets and valuables are not on display. Put any valuables you are leaving at home in drawers or cupboards or even hide them in the loft. Pull your curtain half way so that less of your home can be seen from the road.
Make your home look lived in. If you have trustworthy neighbours you could consider asking them to pop in every few days. Ask them to open and close curtains, tidy up the tell-tale pile of post on the front door mat or even park their car on your driveway a few times.
Invest in home automation. If you’ve not got neighbours close by consider investing in handy home automation gadgets. Plug in mechanical timers let you control when your appliances turn on and off; consider setting up the radio to come on in the evenings or leave one lamp on all night.
The Great Outdoors
If you’re going camping, make sure you’ve got all the essentials before you set off.
Ensure that you’ve got enough gas in your camping stove, charge batteries for portable appliances and invest in a travel tool kit to ensure an easy set up when you arrive at your destination.
If you’re taking a stove, pack a portable Carbon Monoxide alarm – essential for alerting you to the very real risk of poisoning from poorly combusting camping and gas stoves.
Head torches and lanterns are ideal for campsite use; remember to stock up on batteries before you leave.
If your car is going to be loaded up, bungee cord can come in useful to keep you’re a roof box firmly closed. And if you’re expecting muddy hikes through the countryside, stock up on tarpaulin or invest in a boot liner to keep your car clean & tidy.
If you’re travelling abroad a travel adaptor is essential to ensure that you can continue using your portable devices.
For flights or train journeys, use luggage locks whilst travelling - if you’re flying to the USA opt for one which is TSA approved meaning it is approved for use while travelling by air to, or within, the US.
If you want to explore while you’re away but are worried about carrying your valuables on you at all times, it’s worth investing in a portable travel safe.
Its integrated steel cable allows it to be fixed to a secure, unmovable object in your hotel room or hostel. Big enough to hold anything from passports, cards and money to mobile devices, gadgets and jewellery, its resettable combination lock will keep your valuables safe while you’re away.
Get ready to go
If you’re taking a long journey by road, it’s a good idea to undertake some simple car maintenance before you leave.
Vehicles that have been solely used for commuting will suddenly find that they are required for long road trips in sweltering conditions, and things could go wrong if your car is not up to scratch.
Engine oil should be checked and topped up if needed.
Tired tyres should have pressure and tread depth checked to ensure that they meet the legal requirements. A portable tyre gauge can come in useful if you’re going to be doing a lot of holiday driving.
Windscreen washer bottle levels should be checked and refilled if necessary. It’s also a good idea to keep bottle of spare fluid in the boot if you’re going on a long journey; bright sunlight, summer insects and dusty roads combined can create a seriously mucky windscreen and impair vision.
It’s also much harder to keep your car clean in summer. Caked-on dust and grime won’t help with the general maintenance of your car – regularly cleaning it, not just before a holiday, will ensure that your lights, windshield, mirrors and paint work stay in tip top condition.
Travelling on the continent
Ensure that your car insurance and breakdown service cover you when you are outside the country.
Check the regulations for each country you will be driving in. Many countries in continental Europe make it a legal requirement for you to carry essentials such as spare headlamp bulbs, warning triangles and first aid kits.
Pack a high-visibility vest for each passenger travelling in the car in case of a breakdown – again, these are a requirement in some European countries.
Enjoy the ride
Don’t forget that phone chargers, rechargeable batteries and data cables will help to make light work of in-car entertainment.
Stock up before you leave so you’re not disappointed by a drained device on a long drive.