There’s a lot to do before heading out of town for the holidays – you have to make reservations, pack, tie up loose ends at work, get all your gifts in order…

In the hustle and bustle of it all, it’s not surprising that many homeowners often leave one very important item off of their pre-travel to-do list: preparing their home for their absence. After all, you’re in and out of your house all the time, so why should this be any different? Here’s one good reason for you: crime rates tend to spike during the holidays.

If you’re traveling this holiday season, use this checklist to keep your home safe while you’re gone (and make sure you check it twice).

  1. Don’t let your mail overflow. Overflowing mailboxes and packages piling up at the door are a sure sign that no one is home. Before you leave, arrange for a neighbor to take in your mail for you or ask the post office to stop deliveries altogether for the duration of your trip.
  2. Make it look like there’s activity. An easy way to give off the impression that someone is home is by having your lights turn on and off just like they would on any other day. You can do this by setting up a timer that matches your usual routine.
  3. Drop off spare keys. If you’re having someone come over to check on your house, give them a spare key BEFORE you leave. Even if you think they are well hidden, leaving keys somewhere on your property is an open invitation for someone to come in while you’re gone.
  4. Put your ladders away. This tip might not seem so obvious, but it’s an important one to remember. If you store ladders in your yard or up against the side of your house, it makes it easy for people to get access to your second floor.
  5. Lock your windows and doors. While this tip DOES seem obvious, you’d be surprised at how often it’s forgotten. Triple check that all windows and doors are locked tight (even on the second floor) and also check that your garage and cars are secure too. (Yes, do this even if you have an alarm system)

Last but certainly not least, there are also things you can do while you’re away to keep your home safe. Specifically, be careful about what you post on social media. Social media is a great tool for sharing updates with family and friends, but advertising that you’re on vacation instantly makes your home a target.

For more home break-in prevention tips, check out the following video from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.