The Consummate Traveler: Keeping Your Home Safe While on the Road

March 2, 2015 Updated: April 29, 2019

I am currently in Europe on a business trip and received a call this weekend that would rattle any homeowner. The property manager of my townhome complex left four messages on my mobile phone that my smoke alarms were ringing. This prompted my neighbors to call the fire department, who thankfully did not detect any flames or smoke from the outside, and concluded that there was no fire.

However, the bad news was that my alarms continued to ring non-stop and needed to be turned off manually at the circuit breaker. Being a single homeowner and 3,000 miles away, I needed help fast and turned to my family to come to the rescue. I was relieved that they already were equipped with a spare set of keys to my house and were able to take care of the situation easily.

This experience has caused me to reflect on some key points for homeowners to consider before locking up their house for a trip. Here are my favorites:

  1. Turn off the water main—The next worst disaster after a fire is flooding within your home. I always make it a point to turn off the main water valve into the house in case the pipes or water lines in the appliances burst while I am away.
  2. Home surveillance cameras—Wouldn’t it be ideal to have an easy and inexpensive way of checking
    up on your home while you are thousands of miles away, without bugging family and friends for help? Luckily, today’s technology advances have not only made this possible, but some solutions may also be free. Check out apps like Presence and Athome Camera that turn television screens, computer monitors or old mobile phones into camera devices that will stream live video to your cell phone to keep you informed of what is happening.
  3. Access to home phone calls—If you still have a separate house phone that is used as your primary
    point of contact number, check with your provider to find out how to access these calls while you are away. For instance, if your phone is provided via a cable company, sign up for any online phone message retrieval services they may offer. Or, if you have a traditional landline, contact your provider to learn how to forward those calls to your mobile phone.
  4. Spare car and house keys—If your personal circumstances allow, give a spare set of house keys and
    car keys to trusted family, neighbors or co-workers in case an emergency occurs and immediate responses are required while you are gone.
  5. Automatic light timer—To make it seem like you are home, even when you are not, the best trick is to place a few strategically located indoor lamps on timers. Pick a location visible from the outside such as a bedroom window or entry foyer. For as little as $20, you can pick up a package of two easy to use plug-in timers that can be set up in minutes.

As always, I wish you the happiest of travels!

*Image of passenger traveler woman in airport via Shutterstock