Four Steps to Help Community Members Plan for Summer Vacation
Summertime and the living is easy… With gorgeous weather, a break from school until the end of August and lighter schedules for many, it’s the perfect chance to go to the beach, camping, on cruises and more. Whether you’re road tripping from Baltimore to Ocean City or the Jersey Shore, or hopping a plane across the country, summer vacation offers a breather for everyone.
While fun in the sun and sand might be on your mind, it’s just as important to think about the safety and security of the home you’ll be leaving behind. Whether you live in a high-rise or in a master-planned community, it’s important to know how to prepare your home for your trip.
If you work with a community association management company, you can reach out to your community manager for specific vacation preparation tips. No matter where you live, here are some simple tips to help ensure your home is safe and well maintained while you are off enjoying the summer sun.
1. Keep Up Your Curb Appeal.
If you plan to be gone for more than a few days, make sure you arrange for your lawn to be serviced, your bushes and landscaping to be tended to, and your pool cleaned if necessary. A suddenly untidy front lawn is a sign residents are away. If you are close with your neighbors, ask one of them to park a car in your driveway and bring in your mail or newspapers (if you haven’t suspended these services) so it looks like there is regular activity at your home.
If your pets are staying behind while you travel, consider asking a friend or neighbor to pet sit in your home, rather than boarding them in a kennel. This way, there will be activity in your home as well as less stress on your furry family members. If you don’t know anyone who can care for them, ask your vet for a recommendation or look online; there are websites that connect pet owners with reliable pet sitters and dog walkers.
2. Don’t Make It Obvious No One Is Home.
Don’t let your trip end in the mess of dealing with a break in. In 2014, the FBI recorded about 28,000 burglaries in Maryland. There are those who watch for signs that people aren’t home or will be going on a trip, in order to take advantage of that situation. But it’s easy to make it seem like you’re still at home to the casual observer. Have a landline? Set your voicemail to answer on the second ring, and lower the volume as much as possible. A phone ringing off the hook is a good indication no one is home. Be careful about broadcasting your travel plans on social media such as Facebook or Twitter, regardless of your account privacy settings. That’s a dead giveaway you are out of town and are unable to respond to a crime at your home. Also, if many neighbors are traveling at the same time, residents can contact the local police department and your community manager so extra eyes can be on the neighborhood. Be sure to let your Neighborhood Watch or community’s security team that you will be away and the names of anyone you know will be visiting your home while you are gone, including maintenance professionals and pet sitters.
Don’t pack your car at the curb if possible; use your garage for loading up to reduce the number of people who see you doing so. You should also consider stopping mail and newspaper service while you are gone, so that they don’t pile up. Logon to www.usps.gov to have your mail held and call the circulation desk of your local paper to suspend delivery.
2. Lower Your Summer Energy Bills.
Take advantage of your time away to lower your electric bill. You don’t want to leave your home completely dark, because that’s an obvious sign you are away, but you also don’t want lamps and TVs running all of the time. Instead, set your lights and TVs with a timer so that they are on and off at the same times they would be if you were home. Many smart home devices can now be controlled via smartphone app, allowing you to vary lighting and TV use while you are on the road. Leave your blinds slightly open so that the lights are obvious to passers-by.
Keep your air conditioner on but set at a higher temperature (unless you are leaving pets at home). The AC will automatically kick on as temperatures rise, which helps make it appear that someone is home. Lower the temperature of your hot water heater or even turn off the circuit breaker or gas valve to it. On the flips side, bump the temperature of the fridge up by a degree or two if possible. Turn off your automatic ice maker too!
4. Build a Neighborhood Network and Help Each Other.
Having a friend that you can trust on your block or in your building can go a long way toward helping you relax while you are gone. Make sure you leave keys and alarm codes with them, as well as an emergency contact. Ask them to check on your home every so often to make sure everything is in order. If you need to, ask them to put out your trash and retrieve the cans, so they don’t sit outside for days. Return the favor when your neighbors are away, and bring them a gift or token of your appreciation for taking time out of their schedule to give you peace of mind. This way, you build a reliable network, form stronger friendships and know that any time you have to leave town, you don’t have to worry about what’s going on around your home.
Save money and energy, keep intruders away from your property, and bring yourself peace of mind while you’re enjoying your time away from home by following these simple tips.