How to Protect Your Home During Extended Vacations, From Security Systems to House Sitters

Expecting something important to arrive? Anissia West, a DEI consultant and life coach who leaves home for extended periods at least five times per year, recommends a virtual mailbox like iPostal1. The company collects your mail, uploads photos of it through an app, then allows you the option to discard it, forward it, or have it scanned so you can digitally read your mail from anywhere.

Make it look like someone is home.

Another way to ward off would-be robbers is to create the illusion that you never left home. That could be as simple as arranging for regular landscaping service, but Royal Williams goes the extra mile. “To make the house seem lived in, I use light timers, so for a few hours every night, the living room lights turn on,” says the online teacher and graduate student who splits her time between California and Colombia. Light timers like this Amazon bestseller are relatively inexpensive, but “smart” lights can also be programmed to periodically turn on and off without the extra purchase.

Find someone to care for your plants and pets.

Whether you’re leaving for a few days or a few months, TrustedHousesitters connects homeowners with travelers who will take care of their property, pets, and plants in exchange for free accommodation. I once spent two weeks taking care of an adorable kitten at her apartment in downtown Miami, but not everyone is comfortable with a stranger setting up camp in their private space. That’s where digital marketing specialist and travel influencer Lauren Kokoskie suggests using TaskRabbit, a website that allows users to hire local gig workers for special errands. Kokoski, for example, once hired a landscaper to care for her indoor plants. “I met with them in person and showed them how to water my plants. They returned weekly while I was gone,” she says. “I made sure to lock up my valuables since it was still a stranger in my home, [but] I had a positive experience.”

Install smart home security.

Long gone are the days of leaving a spare key under a flower pot by the door. Instead, invest in a smart lock and make it easier to grant access to your home as needed. There are dozens of options on the market, but I personally use a keypad deadbolt from Schlage. When I go on vacation or work trips, I give the cat sitter a temporary code that only works during the designated times she’s scheduled to be at the house. I get notifications whenever the door is unlocked and can also remotely control the deadbolt from my phone using the Schlage app, Apple Home, Alexa, Ring, and other home automation systems. Several of these systems, including Ring and Nest, also offer other smart home security services such as indoor and outdoor cameras, motion-activated floodlights, alarms, and more.

Prepare for a smooth return.

It may feel like a burden to tack on extra cleaning before a long trip, but you’ll thank yourself later when you have an inviting space to welcome you home. For freelance writer Giulia Alvarez-Katz, that pre-trip cleaning routine includes covering furniture with blankets to prevent excessive dust build up and eating all the food in her refrigerator so there’s nothing left to spoil should her appliances lose power. Alvarez-Katz also stocks up on key supplies she’ll need to make her return as stress-free as possible. “There’s nothing worse than coming home to an apartment with no toilet paper,” she says.

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