We all know that the holidays are a busy time of year. While we focus our efforts on shopping for the best online deals and planning the perfect holiday vacation, it’s easy to overlook what goes on at our homes.

But when we go away for vacations, we leave our homes vulnerable to break-ins and burglaries. So this holiday season, use the security tips below to make sure your home is secure while you’re away.

Physically Secure Your Home

Burglars can’t steal your property if they can’t break into your house. Here are some extra precautions you should take before leaving for your vacation.

Don’t Leave Spare Keys Outside

Burglars are surprisingly good at finding spare keys. In fact, stats show that over 6,000 robberies took place in 2014 because the burglar was able to find a spare key.

Before going away for the holidays, be sure to remove all spare keys from outside your property. You can also consider hiding fake spare keys in a key vault, which can delay a burglar from breaking into your home or prevent a break-in altogether.

Secure Your Entryways

Doors and windows are the most vulnerable areas of your home. In addition to double-checking your locks before you leave, consider these tips to secure your entryways:

  • Replace hollow wooden doors with metal doors; burglars can easily kick through hollow wood.
  • Unplug your garage door opener, so thieves can’t open it with a universal remote.
  • Secure sliding doors with a long piece of wood or metal placed between the door and the wall.
  • Install deadbolts. Many robbers will break windows to unlock doors, but deadbolts that require keys will prevent this.

Make It Look Like You’re at Home

Thieves know all the signs that show a family isn’t home, and these signs are what drive burglars to break-in. As such, one of the most effective ways to prevent a burglary is by making it seem like you’re at home, even when you’re away.

Take Care of Your Chores

Before you leave for vacation, make sure you have a plan to maintain the outside of your home:

  • If you live in a cold climate, arrange for snow removal ahead of time.
  • For those in warmer climates, arrange to have your lawn maintained while you’re on vacation.
  • Don’t close your curtains; instead, leave your house looking as it normally looks when you’re at home.
  • Instead of having your mail stopped altogether, ask a trustworthy neighbor to collect your mail and packages for you. Clever burglars will notice homes that don’t get mail delivered for a few days.
  • Have your neighbor take out and bring in your trash on collection days.

Automate Your Home

New technology is making it easier to keep your home secure while you’re away. With smart home devices, you can use automation to make burglars believe you’re still at home while on vacation. Here’s how:

  • Put lights on automatic timers, so they turn on during the night.
  • Use motion-activated outdoor lights that turn on every time someone steps on your property.
  • You can also get smart sockets, which let you plug in electronics and control them from an app, so you can turn them on while you’re on vacation.

Bonus tip: Don’t just set your timers and forget them. Savvy burglars will recognize if the same lights turn on at the same times. Instead, vary your schedule, and use apps to manually turn on and off devices to confuse thieves.

Get Smart Home Security

Smart surveillance cameras and security devices can keep you connected to your home, even when you’re halfway around the world.

For example, Ring Video Doorbells send instant alerts to your smartphone, tablet or PC when anyone presses your Doorbell or triggers its built-in motion sensors. And from the free Ring app, you can see, hear and speak to visitors while you’re on vacation.

For added security, Ring Stick Up Cam is a versatile surveillance camera that can be mounted anywhere in your yard. Like the Video Doorbells, Stick Up Cam sends you alerts whenever it detects motion, and you can use the app to see, hear and speak to people on your property.

Hire a House Sitter

Instead of making it look like someone’s at home, you can hire a trustworthy house sitter to actually be at your home while you’re away. The majority of burglaries occur because thieves recognize when a home is empty and vulnerable, but with a house sitter, your home will always be occupied.

Avoid Social Media

Do you trust all your “friends” on social media? Keri McMullen trusted her Facebook friends when she let them know that she was going to a concert one night. A few hours after the post, one of her “friends” broke into her home and ransacked the place.

If you’re going to post your vacation on social media, do it privately, with a group of friends and family that you completely trust.

Protect Your Home for the Holidays

You can never be too safe when you leave for a vacation. The holidays are stressful enough; you don’t need the added headaches of dealing with a burglary. So use our home security checklist to make sure your property is protected before you leave for your well-deserved vacation.

For more tips on securing your home for the holidays, check out our article on the best ways to prevent package theft.