We’ll say it now: Your neighbors can be a lifeline when you’re traveling and out of town. See if they’ll mind parking one of their cars in your driveway while you’re away. Since it’s the holiday season, they may not mind at all—especially if they’ve got holiday overflow with family and relatives in town.
The biggest clue that you’ve been out of town for quite a bit? All that mail piling up in your mailbox—not to mention, packages at your front door. Just like you alert your credit card companies before a big trip, give your post office a ring and ask them to put a hold on your mail delivery for the dates you’ll be gone (you can also fill out an online form). They’ll hold your mail at the post office until you get back.
If you know you’ll be away for trash day, enlist a neighbor that you know and trust to cart your bins (both garbage and recycling) out to the edge of your driveway or lawn, even if they’re empty. It’s rare that you miss trash day when you’re home, so having them out at the end of the street on their regularly scheduled removal day makes it look like business as usual when you’re actually out of town.
If the forecast calls for snow, sleet, and ice, enlist a friend or neighbor’s kid to shovel the walk and pay them for their help. Or, hire a local snow removal company to plow your driveway and walk, instead. If you were home, you’d have to deal with the weather immediately. Here, a little bit of quick prep for a small fee will ensure that you’re covered.
Let There Be Light
New technology makes it easy-peasy to make it look like you’re home when you’re not. Case in point: Smart plugs. A Wi-Fi enabled device makes it so you can plug in lamps in your living room, kitchen, even your bedroom, and turn them on and off from anywhere in the world. (You can even set a timer, just in case you’re worried you’ll forget.) WeMo Switch is available at Amazon; $40.
Another tech-savvy alternative on the market these days is the smart bulb. Rather than connecting a whole appliance or floor lamp to WiFi, you can screw BeOn bulbs direcly into your lamps like any other attachment and then control the entire system straight from an app on your smartphone. Even better, they can switch on and off mimicking lighting when you're home and even react anytime your doorbell rings using a built-in microphone and instantly illuminate wherever they are plugged in. Available at beonhome.com; $199.
Since leaving blinds open makes it easy for would-be burglars to see straight into your home and immediately notice you’re out of town, consider investing in programmable window treatments that you can open and close on cue or timer. Most window treatment companies now offer the smart option, which you can set up for every window or just a few.
Nothing makes it look like you’re home quite like the flickering blue light of the television—and now you can recreate that without calling in a house sitter by setting up a Fake TV. This device switches on at dusk (and can be programmed for daytime "viewing," too) and emits colorful light patterns. When seen from the outside, behind a layer of curtains, the glow looks just like that of a television. Available at faketv.com; starting at $25.
Money-saving, time-saving—and yes, sometimes even life-saving—the latest and greatest smart home technologies span from self-programming thermostats to voice-activated TV controls to video doorbells and beyond. Raise your home's IQ!