Home security for travellers

Retirement is a special time when the burdens of employment are over and you have freedom to travel whenever you want.  

Whether you choose to journey to far reaching areas of the globe, enjoy visiting family and friends interstate or love hitting the open road with your caravan – travelling means leaving your home and valuables behind.

Sadly, in 2017 one home was burgled every three minutes across Australia.  It means homeowners across the country have returned, some from the holiday of a life time, to find their home had been burgled and valuables gone.

The good news is, there are many ways homeowners can make their houses more secure to deter criminals and enable them to holiday with peace of mind.

It is ideal to have a trusted family member, friend or professional house sitter look after your home while you travel.  However, if unable to find someone to stay at your home, you should take steps to secure and protect your property.

RACV Educator Mel Higgins, who recently presented on Personal and Home Safety at Uniting AgeWell’s Amarco Apartments, said improving home security could involve simple routine changes or the purchase of affordable technological solutions.

“If you go away on holidays, make the home look as though there’s still somebody there,” he said.

“We encourage people to set timers for the lights in their living areas, so they turn on and off as normal, leaving washing on the line and ensuring the bins are emptied and taken in.”

Neighbours are often willing to support older people going on extended holidays by monitoring the home for any unusual activity and helping to ensure the home looks lived in.

“Along with taking the bins in, it’s a good idea to make sure one of the neighbours mows your lawn and brings in your mail,” Mel said.

“If you go away for a lengthy period, junk mail will build up and there’s an immediate indicator there’s nobody home.  So, I do recommend getting a ‘No junk mail’ sign.”

Mel said homeowners should ensure access points to the home were clearly visible and secure before leaving for a holiday.  It means cutting back bushes or shrubs in front of the windows; locking all the windows, external doors and security doors; installing motion sensor lights; and, if possible, a home alarm system.

“Nowadays you can buy a sophisticated home security system for relatively affordable prices,” Mel said.

“Even the most basic alarm is a deterrent, but there are systems now that enable people to monitor their homes on their smart phone or tablet from anywhere in the world.

“Not only having the alarm installed, but having a sticker on your window that says, ‘This house is protected by 24/7 security’, lets anybody from the road know there is a system in the home.”

Most importantly, Mel says to be cautious about posting holiday snaps online while away from home.  Posting photos on social media could not only share your holiday news with friends and relatives, but alert burglars to the fact that your home is empty.

“You should really only send photos to friends and relatives via email or privately because you never know who is watching,” he said.

“Even when you’re not on holidays, be careful about putting anything on social media showing valuables.”

Both Victoria and Tasmania Police have ‘Absence from residence’ registers and encourage homeowners to notify local police of the dates and times they will be away from home.  Leaving your contact details with police means they can make contact in case of an incident or perform checks during usual patrols, if possible.

Victorians can register their absence online or at their local police station, while Tasmanians can do so at their local station.

Increasing security around your home, calling on support from trusted friends and neighbours, and being careful what you post online are all positive steps towards minimising the risk of home burglaries.  It means you can relax and enjoy that well-deserved holiday, knowing your home is protected.

Holiday home security checklist

 Cut back shrubs around your windows and doors
 Install a ‘No junk mail’ sign on your letterbox
 Arrange a neighbour to collect your mail, mow your lawn and take in your rubbish bins
 Register your absence with your local police
 Put away any tools that could be used to enter your home
 Put some washing on the clothes line
 Ensure external sensor lights are working
 Conceal valuables like jewellery and electronics
 Set timers for lights
 Check all windows are locked
 Ensure alarm system is on
 Deadlock your external doors and security doors