Pre-Vacation Checklist: Take Care of Your Home When You're Not Home

'Tis the season for long vacations. Tips on keeping your home safe and sound while you're gone.

It’s time for a holiday getaway! Before you take to the skies or hit the road, use this pre-vacation checklist to make sure you'll be safeguarding your home and possessions when you're not home.

More than two million home burglaries are reported each year in the United States, and unoccupied homes with easy access are the top targets. Consider the costs of a security system with central monitoring.

Don’t leave telltale signs that you’re not home, like an overflowing mailbox. It takes two minutes to request a mail delivery stop via the U.S. Postal Service website. If your newspaper is delivered, contact the circulation department for a temporary hold.

Make your house look lived in. Put timer switches, set to different times, on lamps in various rooms. Consider installing a motion sensor light over the driveway.

Don’t post your plans on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. You’re announcing to the world that your home will be empty and vulnerable. Share those envy-inducing photos after you get back.

Ask a trusted neighbor to stop in to water the plants or feed the goldfish, and offer to reciprocate when they go away. Even better, pay their teenage children to do these tasks. Make sure they know how to reach you in case of an emergency.

Take preventative maintenance measures, especially if you live in a cold climate. Prevent bursting water pipes by leaving one faucet slowly dripping. This keeps water moving through the pipes so it can’t freeze. Arrange for a plow service to remove snow from your driveway, or hire a local kid to shovel your walkway.

Set it “off.” Unplug electronics and appliances that draw ghost energy even when not turned on, like cable boxes. This will not only save money on the electric bill, it will prevent damage in case of a power surge. Don’t turn off the heat completely; set your thermostat to the recommended range between 50-55 degrees to prevent frozen pipes and appliances.

Shore it up. Before you leave, make sure all windows and doors are locked, and all window coverings are drawn.