It's easy to get caught up in the hype and excitement when you're preparing for your summer holiday - but don't forget that a home left unattended for a week can draw the attentions of burglars. Here's how to lock up properly and make sure that your home is as secure as possible.
1) The best course of action is to move a friend or family member in, if you can. Not only will they be able to water plants, feed pets and pick up newspapers and mail, they'll also show thieves that the property is inhabited. Your house-sitter will be extra willing to go the extra mile if you stock the fridge before you leave and give them access to your Netflix account. If there's nobody available, there are services you can use for house-sitting and pet-sitting while you're away - they're pricey, but could be worth it.
2) Stay off social media in the run-up to the holiday. That means you, your partner and your kids shouldn't be smugly boasting about your two week-break online; you never know who's reading your updates. On a related note, social media use can also invalidate your travel insurance. Just be careful what you say.
3) If you don't want a house-sitter, make sure that you cancel your papers, your milk, and any other deliveries which could pile up and show burglars that you're not living in the property. If you're leaving for more than a couple of days, call your local post office to stop mail delivery until you get back.
4) Consider getting timers fitted, so certain lights will be illuminated around the house during the day and night, giving the impression that someone's living there. It's not quite as inventive as the bit in Home Alone but it'll definitely help to deter intruders. Your neighbours can also help; putting your bins out on the collection day and taking them back into your driveway can help your home look lived-in.
5) Most households have a window they leave unlocked, whether for ventilation or to allow a cat access. Now is the time to check your whole house, top to bottom, and find any rogue windows which haven't been closed and locked. Don't forget to lock garden gates and garages.
6) Unplug electronics such as computers and the TV - this will save you money while you're gone, and you won't worry that you've left them on by mistake. Thieves have been known to open electronic garage doors with a universal remote, so make sure the power is shut off.
7) Never, ever leave your GPS displayed in your car when you're in long-term parking at the airport. Thieves will know you're not at home, and they'll use your GPS to travel to your house.
8) It might be worth installing a home security system, or even just exterior lights that run on timers. These aren't just a good idea for when you're on holiday - they'll work all year round for you, and will help to discourage burglars whether you're away or not. Thieves look out for these sorts of things, and it'll make your property far less attractive.
9) Make sure that keys aren't visible and are hidden out of sight - many thieves have been known to use cat flaps and letterboxes to hook keys off of surfaces, and let themselves into houses. It's also worth checking that valuables aren't on display, so make sure that tablets and laptops are all out of sight.
10) Finally, if appropriate, let a few of your neighbours know that you're going away, so they can keep an eye on the property and make their presence known. If they spot any potential trouble, they can call the police and make sure that your property's looked after.