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Don't let the anticipation of a well-deserved vacation blind you to the risks of leaving your home unprotected. There is plenty that goes into planning your Outer Banks vacation, but taking some time to plan how you will leave your home shouldn't be overlooked and can definitely help in the long run. Here are some tips and precautions to take before you leave.

The Insurance Information Institute reports that the majority of residential break-ins occur during the prime vacation months of July and August. Preventing burglaries and other problems when you are away takes a minimal amount of planning and can increase your peace of mind greatly while you travel. Experts in home security say that the key to keeping your home secure while on vacation is simply to make your home the least appealing target on your block.

Following the tips below, you can make your house harder to break into and give yourself peace of mind that you have taken all the precautions for proper home security.

Shhhhh...Stay Quiet

While using social media or web pages may be a convenient way to keep in touch with friends, sharing your itinerary can cause problems while you are away from home. Show some caution when you talk about your trip. Your blog isn't the best place to announce that you'll be away from home for a month. If you do share photos and information from your trip, make sure your friends list is tight knit with people you know and trust.

Being aware of who's around when you discuss your trip in restaurants and even at work isn't a bad idea either. Make sure that your children are discreet too if possible. No one is saying that you should be suspicious of everyone you meet, but even a chance remark has the potential to lead to unintended and unfortunate consequences. The less information you put out there, the less likely it is to reach the wrong ears and eyes.

Tip: recommends only notifying key people that you will be away and avoiding posting your vacation plans on Internet sites, answering machines or voice mail messages.

Lock Up Everything

Before you leave for vacation, be sure you physically secure and check all windows and doors. This seems so obvious, but hey, it's easy to forget. If you keep a window unlocked to allow the cat easy access or never bother to turn the deadbolt on the kitchen door, now's the time to do so. Locking your home makes it less attractive to opportunistic burglars. If you don't make it easy, there's a better chance that when you get home, your house will be in the same condition as you left it.

Tip: If you have an alarm system for home security, don’t forget to arm it before you go on vacation. It helps to make a list of things you need to do before leaving the house the day of your trip so that you make sure to set the alarm and double check the doors, especially if you are in a rush and are worried you might forget.

Unplug Electronics

Disconnecting the power to some of your electronics (such as your desktop computer, coffee pot and television) can save you money while you're gone and eliminate the worry that you've accidentally left them on by mistake. Turning off your garage door is also an effective way to keep thieves from opening it with a universal remote.

Tip: Don't leave a portable GPS in your car when you use long-term parking at the airport. It can alert thieves that you're not home and give them a convenient map right to your house.

Maintaining Appearances

If your house is obviously uninhabited, you may be at risk of becoming a target for a burglar. An occupied home is obvious. Lights go on and off while people and cars come and go. When you're away, everything stops. To help create the illusion that the residence is still occupied, invest in timers that turn on the interior lights for a few hours every evening. If you can, get a trusted friend or neighbor to take out your garbage and put the cans back after the garbage pickup which is another way to send the message that everything is proceeding normally at your house.

Paying someone to keep the yard mowed while you are away is a good idea if you will be gone for a significant amount of time in the spring or summer. Parking a car in your driveway also can make it appear as though someone is at home.

Tip: Don't close your blinds completely when you leave on vacation if you usually keep them open. The more normal your home looks, the better.

Mail Delivery

Like with the garbage cans left out by the curb, piles of mail and newspapers can make it clear that you are away. While you can temporarily stop mail and newspaper delivery while you're on vacation, the doesn't recommend this practice because newspaper delivery workers and postal workers will know you are away. Failing to receive regular deliveries also can tip off burglars that you aren't at home.

Tip: Ask a friend or relative to pick up mail and newspapers daily to prevent telltale piles from accumulating.

Protecting Your Home

A burglar alarm, while not fool proof, can help secure your home. While alarm systems are expensive, the Insurance Information Institute reports that a sophisticated alarm system can result in insurance discounts of 15 to 20 percent. If you don't have an alarm system, installing deadbolts on doors and windows can make it more difficult for thieves to enter your home. The Insurance Information Institute also recommends turning your computer off and locking up important documents to prevent burglars from accessing financial and personal information. Locking up expensive jewelry and small electronic devices before leaving home will help you avoid the theft of your most valuable possessions.

Tip: If you have a home security provider, make sure to notify them that you are going to be on vacation. If you’re going to be gone for longer than a week, notify the police, who will keep that in mind and possibly drive by your home if in the area.

Enlist the Help of Neighbors

Tell your closest neighbors you’re going out of town and ask them to watch your home. By leaving them a key they can enter the home if there’s an emergency or even turn lights off and on periodically.

If you have a neighborhood watch group in your area, you can ask them to keep an eye on your home too. It's another way to make sure someone reliable is paying attention to the premises while you're gone.

Tip: Keep track of all the keys to your home and make sure they're in safe hands. Locking your doors is important but up to 50 percent of burglaries involve the use of a key. Don't hide a key outdoors in a protected spot either. Burglars know the best hiding places better than you do. Be sure if you do keep a spare key hidden that it’s in a very uncommon place.

Consider Hiring a House or Pet Sitter

The best way to make sure your house is safe while you're gone is to have someone you trust still living in it. You may be lucky enough to have a tidy and conscientious relative who'll move in temporarily and water the plants, feed the pets and pick up the newspapers. If not, there are services you can use for house-sitting and pet-sitting while you're away. This can be a pricey option, but it's a solution that touches all the bases. Plus, having that peace of mind that your house is alright is a worthy investment.

Tip: If you have a number of pets, it may be more cost effective to have a pet sitter come to your home than to board your furry friends. In many areas, a pet sitter can cost about the same amount as a stay in a kennel for two or three animals. Plus, your pets can stay in their own home which could cut down on their stress levels while you are away.

Preventative Maintenance

Bursts or leaking pipes can make you quickly forget all about your relaxing vacation. Shutting off the main water supply may help eliminate the possibility of plumbing problems when you are out of town. Insulating pipes and keeping the heat on during a cold snap will help prevent burst pipes.

Returning from Vacation

When you get back from your trip, be sure you inspect your home thoroughly upon your return. Look for signs of entry or missing items. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, be sure to call the police immediately. It’s a good idea to wait outside the home until help arrives and when they do be sure to allow them to collect fingerprints and evidence. Be sure not to allow anyone to walk on the lawn or touch/remove anything until the police have left.