Do you know the tell-tale signs that your home is empty? Photo by Saxon.

Leaving for a holiday is always an exciting time, and in the hurry to pack and head off on your adventure, it’s easy to neglect what you’re leaving behind: your home. But the sobering fact is that a home is broken into every 15 seconds in the US and an empty home has a big target sign slapped all over it. The last thing you want is to get back at the end of a relaxing vacation to find you’ve been burgled.

So what should you do to protect your home?

Obviously, you should set your home alarm system – if you have one – and notify the alarm company of your travel plans. If you’re really concerned you can even set up surveillance systems around your house that you can check from any phone or computer with internet access. And of course, you’ll want to double check you’ve locked up properly – including any doors or windows that you normally leave open for fresh air or easy access.

But don’t stop there, because a smart thief has ways of knowing you’re not at home. Read on to learn what you should do to avoid tipping off potential burglars.

1. Stop newspaper delivery. Piles of unopened newspapers strewn on your front lawn send a clear signal that you’re not home.

2. Have someone collect your mail. Ask the post office to hold your mail for you or have a neighbor collect it.

3. Ask someone to mow the lawn. An out of control garden could indicate you’ve been gone for a while, and while you might think that the lawn will be fine during your week or so away, the right mix of rainfall and temperatures can sometimes spur crazy, unexpected growth. It could be worth asking a friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your lawn and tend to it if it gets unruly.

4. Don’t let snow pile up. If it’s winter and you live in a snow-prone area, have a neighbor shovel your front steps and any access ways to your house.

5. Put clothes on your clothesline. For those in live in areas with hills hoists or outdoor clothes lines, you might want to consider hanging up some laundry while you’re gone. This works best for short trips (e.g. a weekend away) since it would be weird to have the same clothes hanging on the line for a whole month.

6. Set timers on your lights. A cheap timer like this one can be programmed so your lights turn on automatically around the time you’d normally turn them on (e.g. when you get home from work) and off when it’s bedtime, making it appear as though someone is home. You can use energy-saving light bulbs if you’re concerned about wasting power.

7. Watch what you say online. You probably want to tell everyone about your travel plans, but be wary of advertising your absence via social media. You never know who’s reading your posts, especially on social media channels like Twitter where anyone can see what you tweet.

8. Don’t change your personal voicemail message. It might feel like you’re being courteous, but don’t change your answering message to indicate that you’re on vacation, especially if you have a landline in your home.

9. Drape your windows in a way that doesn’t make it look like you’re away. Most people are inclined to shut all their curtains while they’re gone, but how many people really shut out all the natural light on a day-to-day basis? Try to find a way to drape the windows such that it still maintains the privacy of the house – so if you live in a two-storey house, you might want to open the blinds on the top floor and shut them three quarters of the way on the ground floor so it’s harder to peek inside. If you’ve got any pricey belongings in view like a big plasma TV or expensive antiques, move them out of view of the windows.

These are just a handful of tips about how to keep your house safe while you’re gone. If you want to know what else you should do before leaving home, you might want to check out this post.

What do you think? Do you have any other suggestions for keeping your home and belongings safe while you travel?