Your 12-step holiday checklist

Here are the top 12 things you need to do before you go on holidays. We have you covered!

The holiday season has arrived and there’s every chance you will be catching up with family or taking some time out on vacation over the next month or so. We all have a lot of fun but you should be aware it’s also the high season for home burglaries and other criminal activity – so you need to make sure your house or apartment is not a target for these crimes.

How do you do that? Well there are a few basic preventative measures you can take which will ensure your home remains safe – in fact, if you take these actions, it will look like you never went away at all!

So here’s our list of the Top 12 things to do to keep your home safe and sound while you’re our enjoying yourself. It’s going to be well worth it because let’s face it – no-one wants to come home from a relaxing cruise or an island getaway to find something has gone seriously wrong – it would bring all your great holiday vibes undone.

1. Ask a friend or neighbour for help
A simple way to gain peace of mind while traveling is to ask a friend or neighbour to keep an eye on your house or apartment while you're away. It’s best if they live quite close by so it’s easy for them to keep an eye on your home and look out for anything untoward.

You can give this person a key and the code to your security alarm if you have one. They can bring your mail and community newspapers in, feed your cat, water your plants etc. Make sure you give this person your contact information and a copy of your itinerary in case of an emergency.

It’s ideal if you can also talk to at least one of your neighbours so they can literally be looking across at your house or unit, checking everything is OK while you’re away.

2. Put your mail on hold
If you have a friend or neighbour you can trust who is going to collect your mail each day, that’s great. But if you don’t know anyone who can help you out then it’s easy to put your mail on hold with Australia Post.

Just go to their website here and click the ‘Hold mail’ tab and all you have to do is create an account with Australia Post and set up a ‘Hold mail’ for a certain period of time. They will hold your mail for as long as you like.

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It’s best to set up your 'Hold mail' at least a week before you go on your holiday

Australia Post does charge a fee of $42.95 a month but if you have a valid concession card, such as a pensioner’s card, you’ll get a healthy discount.

3. Stop papers being delivered
If you have your papers delivered, it’s best to put a stop to this while you’re away. A pile up of papers on your front lawn is a dead giveaway – you may as well put up a sign saying ‘No-one at Home.’ So make sure you take care of this.

4. Don't tell everyone on Facebook
These days, we all like to chat on social media and tell everyone what we are doing. But if you tell everyone you’re about to go on holiday on Facebook and Twitter, you should think again. By posting your holiday plans you make yourself extremely vulnerable because you can never be completely sure who is reading this information.

It’s best to leave it until you come back from your holiday – then you can post as many photos and information as you like.

As well, be careful what you say on your answering machine or voice mail. Callers don't need to know you're not home - they only need to know you can't come to the phone right now.

5. Do tell your local neighbourhood watch
If there’s an active Neighbourhood Watch program in your area, its worthwhile joining up. It’s a free service and you can let them know you’re going away on holiday and they will note this among their members and this could help make sure your home is safer.

To join up, go to the Neighbourhood Watch Australasia site and find out if there is an active program in your area.

6. The lights are on but no one is home
You don't want to leave your lights on the whole time you are away so the best thing to do is to buy a light switch timer which will turn your lights on and off automatically according to a programmed schedule.

These don’t cost too much and you can buy them from your local hardware or electronics store. It’s good to include a few outside lights in the schedule as when these come on, they will deter anyone who is watching the house.

As the lights flick on and off in your house, everyone around observing it will assume someone is home.

7. Pull the plug
Unplug your television, computer, toaster oven and other appliances to protect them from power surges. If there is a powerful electrical storm and lightning strikes or the power surges, there’s a chance this can do damage to appliances like TVs. This will also save on power usage while you are away.

8. Remove your spare key
That plastic rock isn't really fooling anyone. If someone wants to get into your home, it’s likely they will check all the usual places for your spare key.
So reach under the mat, into the mailbox, above the door frame or into the flower pot and remove your spare key before you leave on your holiday.

9. Check your window locks
Check your window security measures because about 30 per cent of all burglaries start with a window which is not secure window as the entry point. If need be, fit window locks on all your windows before you go away.

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Just to be on the safe side, check your home insurance policy as many policies require window locks on all the windows.

If you end up having to report a burglary and it’s found the burglar accessed your home via a window without a lock, you could have trouble with your claim.

10. Lock away valuables
If you have some valuable documents or items which you are leaving in your house while you’re away, it’s best to put them in a home safe or take them to your bank who will usually deposit them in their own safe for you.

As well, check your home contents insurance policy and make sure any important valuables you are leaving are listed on it as you may have set up the policy some time ago.

Conceal valuables such as laptops and jewellery so they are not visible from the outside. Consider closing some of the curtains and blinds so people can’t see too much from the outside.

11. Make your home fireproof
Safeguarding your home against fire is crucial all year round so check your home insurance policy is current. Fires can, and do, occur in unoccupied houses and units while people are away taking a break.

If you live in a bushfire-prone area, prepare your home properly before you leave – a full preparation checklist can be found at the NSW Rural Fire Service’s website here.

Before you leave, close all the internal doors to help contain any fire if it did occur. Test your smoke alarms and change batteries, if required, to ensure they will function properly.

12. Lock your garden shed
Lock away your gardening and handyman tools as many of these can easily be used to force open doors or windows. You’re not leaving your keys out so don’t leave your axe or shovel lying around for anyone to use.

Last minute check
Just before you leave for your holiday, do a last minute check to ensure all the windows and doors are locked - including garage doors, side gates and sheds. Turn on the security alarm if you have one.

Now that you have taken the time to render your home far less vulnerable to criminals, you can have a great holiday, relaxing in the knowledge your home is now safe and secure!


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