When going on holiday, leaving an empty home is often a problem, even just for a weekend. To avoid nasty surprises on your return, a number of precautions should be taken before leaving.
One of the first concerns of the holiday-maker is the fear of burglary. Several solutions exist to discourage this inconvenience during your absence:
The simplest and least expensive method is to simulate a presence:
Avoid letting the letterbox overflow by asking the caretaker/apartment manager to empty it or by requesting the post office to forward your mail to another address in the case of a long absence. The post office can also keep your mail until you return, but these services always carry a charge.
Keep your existing message on your home voicemail: do not change it to inform of your absence. Even better, have calls forwarded to your mobile or to a family member who can answer on your behalf.
Use timers to switch on lamps and possibly a little radio in the evening.
Leave your shutters open because permanently closed shutters are an obvious indication of absence for passers-by. However, certain insurance policies do not cover burglaries if all the shutters are not closed. The decision to close the shutters or not depends on your personal situation.
If simulating a presence is not sufficient, another idea is to ask someone to visit your home during your absence. Of course, this means accepting someone else having access to your home by giving them a copy of your keys, and returning the favour to them.
Ask the caretaker/ apartment manager, a neighbour, friend or family member to drop in regularly to take care of your little household tasks. Don’t forget that they may later ask for the same favour in return.
Request the services of a caretaking company or an association that can provide a regular or permanent presence. For example, certain associations can put you in touch with pensioners keen to spend their holiday in another house.
Swap your house or apartment with other holiday-makers. There are many house-swapping schemes in place.
In every case, it is also wise to take the following measures:
Give your neighbour or caretaker your departure and return dates, and leave them the contact details of your holiday home so that they can get in touch with you if necessary.
If necessary, inform the local police, who sometimes offer to patrol around unoccupied homes to check if everything looks normal.
Put valuables in a safe hiding place or even store them away from your house.
To be able to make an insurance claim in case of a theft, keep receipts and photos of your valuables stored away from your house.
Now that you have safeguarded against burglaries, it is also a good idea to protect yourself against other potential damage, such as flooding or plumbing problems:
Turn the gas and water mains off.
Turn the water-heater off so that it does not operate unnecessarily. Also, switch off any electrical equipment on standby (TV, computer, DVD player etc.) It is better not to turn the electricity off at the mains because of the freezer, aquariums, any timers you may have set to simulate a presence, etc.
Give away, freeze, or take with you all perishable food. Also make sure that you have not left anything in the oven.
Empty all bins in the house.
In certain cases, place traps for ants, cockroaches and mites to avoid excessive proliferation during a long absence.
TAKING CARE OF PETS
People often share their homes with pets. Here are a few solutions for looking after them when you go on holiday:
The easiest, if possible, is to take them with you on holiday.
Certain animals can be left on their own if the absence is going to be short (a weekend or long weekend): generally cats, birds and fish. You just need to make sure you leave them a sufficient amount of food and water. For fish, also check that the aquarium is working properly to avoid technical problems while you are away.
For other animals, or in the case of a long absence, someone can come to your place on a regular basis to take care of it. This person can be your neighbour, caretaker, a friend, family member or someone from a caretaking company or an association.
Friends or family members might offer to look after them at their house, sometimes in exchange for a returned favour. Otherwise, you will need to a find host family to look after the animal or book them into a paying kennel.
TAKING CARE OF PLANTS
In the same way, plants need to be taken care of during your holiday:
Ask somebody (neighbour, caretaker, friend, family member) to drop in on a regular basis to water them. This can be rather binding though, especially in the summer when it is hot and they need frequent watering.
Use the services of an association or a caretaking company (there will be a charge).
Set up an automatic irrigation system. Several mechanisms exist depending on the type of plant and access to running water, including timers, pots with built-in water stores and watering spikes that can be screwed on to a bottle of water.