Easy Ways to Keep a Home Safe While Away for the Holidays

Safety and security is an important concern for many homeowners. Around the holidays, it can be easy to overlook those concerns due to the increasingly busy schedule many people have between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

Unfortunately, putting home security on the backburner during the holiday season can prove to be a grievous error. Because extended vacations to visit family and friends are common during the holiday season, criminals often target this time of year thanks to empty homes they know will not be the hub of activity they usually are. To safeguard your home while you're out of town this holiday season, it's best to take a few precautionary measures to make a home less appealing to prospective burglars and criminals.

Ask a friend or neighbor to pick up the mail. If your home doesn't have a mail slot in the front door, a telltale sign that you're away is an overstuffed mailbox. Before you leave, arrange to have your mail, newspapers and flyers picked up by a neighbor or friend. If you can, arrange to have newspaper delivery suspended for the duration of your trip. If you can't find someone to pick up your mail, you can ask the local post office to suspend delivery while you're out of town.

Leave some lights on, including the Christmas lights. If your beautiful Christmas lights display glows in the weeks leading up to Christmas but then suddenly disappears once the holiday arrives, thieves can probably determine that your house is empty and therefore a good target. By leaving a kitchen light on inside your house and keeping your Christmas lights on a timer, you're at least giving the appearance that someone is home, and a yard illuminated thanks to your decorative lights makes it much more difficult for potential thieves to creep around your house under the cloak of darkness. Be sure to string up some lights in the backyard as well.

Secure all windows. Along with making sure your windows are locked, hang thick curtains or blinds in all windows. These make it difficult for prospective burglars to see into a home and look for valuables as well as determine if the house appears lived in or not. And just as with sliding patio doors, make sure any sliding windows have similar anti-lift protection.

Give someone you trust a spare key to your home. Never leave a spare key in the familiar places, such as under a doormat or in the mailbox. Chances are, even the most incompetent burglar is skilled enough to look under the mat or in the mailbox. Instead, give a key to a neighbor you can trust or a family member. Homeowners who just moved into their new digs should replace the keys and locks immediately, since there's no telling who might have had access to your home before you lived there.

Join or start a neighborhood watch. Many neighborhoods today feature a neighborhood watch program where any suspicious activity can be monitored and reported to police by your neighbors when you're home or away. Particularly when you're out of town, this is a great way to provide yourself with some peace of mind. If you neighborhood doesn't have a watch program, ask the neighbors if they would be interested in one. If so, consult with the local police department for tips on making your neighborhood watch as successful as possible.

Light all of the entrances. Keep each and every entryway well lit while you're away. Doing so makes it harder for prospective burglars to inspect a home and break in. This is even more important for homeowners who do not decorate their homes with Christmas lights. Also, before leaving for an extended period of time, remember to replace all light bulbs with fresh ones, assuring that your lights will burn brightly throughout the duration of your vacation.

Take good care of the lawn. A great place for a burglar to hide and go unnoticed is in bushes that are not well trimmed. Take this option away from him by making sure all of the bushes have been trimmed neatly so he doesn't have easy access to a hiding spot he can use to scope out your house, even while you're home. It's also wise to strategically plant security bushes near any potential points of entry for a burglar. Placing a rose bush, for instance, near all ground floor windows is a serious deterrent for a potential burglar since rose bushes, while beautiful when in bloom, are also loaded with thorns.

Put away patio furniture and other backyard tools. Household items strewn about the yard could facilitate a burglary. Ladders, chairs and boxes should be stored in a locked shed or garage, as a burglar can simply use the ladder to climb up to a second story window. Also, simple garden tools can be used to break windows or shimmy open doors, so lock those away as well.