Thousands of Americans escape from the area every day to explore the open road. In today’s travel planning, taking the extra steps to protect yourself and your home is essential prior to your departure.

There are many common things that can go wrong while you are away, so make sure to cover all the basics and secure your home before leaving it unattended.

Here are 16 Ways to Secure Your Home:

  1. Secure important papers and valuables. Use a personal safe or lock box, or invest in renting a security box from a local company to safeguard any essential valuables that cannot be replaced.
  2. Review your insurance coverage. Check insurance policies for home, auto, and life. Keep a copy of your insurance papers with your important papers.
  3. Tell trusted neighbors your travel plans. Alert trusted friends and neighbors to your vacation. Aware community members are the easiest way to help protect your home if they know that you will be gone.
  4. Check your windows. Make sure that all windows are closed properly and that valuables are not visible from the outside of your home.
  5. Hire a housesitter. This can be a personal friend or a professional. Maintaining your home (plants, animals, etc.) and protecting it by giving the appearance of being occupied is easily accomplished by hiring a local responsible teenager or using a housesitting service.
  6. Don’t tell the world your plans. Do not advertise your vacation with people you are not personal friends with. One of the biggest mistakes of going on vacation is bragging to the wrong people at the wrong time (before you leave). Save your vacation stories for after you have returned.
  7. Secure your mail. If you do not have a secure locking mailbox, either invest in one or put mail on hold. The post office will hold you mail for a specific time with a simple request. However secure locking mailboxes with high capacity can simplify the process if you are consistently traveling.
  8. Install automatic timers for your lights. Most home improvement stores carry a variety of digital timers that can turn on at random or programmed intervals. Lights create the illusion of an occupied residence.
  9. Leave your car in the driveway. This too creates the illusion that there are people home. Just make sure not to leave a garage door opener in your vehicle.
  10. Secure the garage entrance. Lock your garage door externally and internally. Garage doors are created with a mechanism that can be forced open from the outside.
  11. Leave a key with a friend or neighbor. A trusted individual can double-check your property or be available in case of an emergency.
  12. Document your valuables. The easiest way to do this is by photographing or taking video of each room, with a quick shot of any specific high-value items. Store the information somewhere else (security box at the bank, family members house, etc.). In the event of loss, this will help you file an insurance claim and make sure you didn’t forget anything.
  13. Mark your valuables with an Operation ID number. Your local police department probably has a pamphlet on this process. You can engrave or etch your drivers license number on to valuables. If stolen and later recovered, police can track you down through the department of motor vehicles.
  14. Start a community watch and look out for your neighbors. Everyone goes on vacation, and this is an easy opportunity to establish a good-faith relationship with your community and enhance your overall safety and security.
  15. Turn off all appliances. Don’t forget to unplug them. This will minimize the risk of an electrical fire.
  16. Forward your home phone number. Direct incoming calls to your cell phone (or to a family member) to answer calls while you are away.

Finally: Create a departure checklist for each family member traveling. Include items on this list, but also include important conversations with children and teenagers to make sure that they are not advertising your absence with the wrong people.