How to protect your home when you travel for the holidays

Philips Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor installed outdoors overlooking a home's entrance
Philips Hue Outdoor Motion Sensor installed outdoors overlooking a home's entrance (Image credit: Signify)

Traveling is synonymous with the holidays, and unfortunately, so are break-ins and package theft. However, you can fight back, and keep your home protected using smart accessories and alarm systems. There are devices for just about every situation that can occur while you are gone, so here are our tips on how to secure your home for the holidays.

Keep the lights on

Two Philips Hue PAR38 light bulbs in an outdoor fixture shining downward

Two Philips Hue PAR38 light bulbs in an outdoor fixture shining downward (Image credit: Signify)

Just because you are away from your home, it doesn't mean that it has to look like no one is around. The easiest way to deter would-be intruders is to make your home look like it does every day, using smart lighting.

Most smart home lighting products, such as light bulbs, switches, and smart plugs, come with the ability to schedule when they turn on and off, either at specific times or according to the time of day, such as sunset. Typically this can be set up via an App, making scheduling just a few taps and swipes away.

Use this ability to your advantage by creating schedules that follow your typical routine at home, such as having your lights turn on in the mornings and evenings. You can take things even further by using randomization options with your schedules, which turn on your lights a few minutes before or after your designated times just to mix things up a bit in case someone is observing your home's patterns.

For the outdoors, you can combine smart lighting with motion sensors to shine a light on those snooping around your property. These sensors can also send notifications to all of your devices, creating a situation where you can leave the lights off, but still be aware of the action outside.

Plugged in

Wemo Mini smart plug in a kitchen setting

Best HomeKit Smart Plugs 2020, Wemo Mini smart plug in a kitchen setting (Image credit: Belkin)

In addition to using lighting with smart plugs, you can also use these handy little accessories with other electronics, such as televisions and radios. Scheduling your TV to turn on at random times during the day not only produces sounds of conversations and noises that others around your home may hear, it makes your home look alive at night from the outside.

Obviously, a radio or speaker gives those lurking around your home a sense that someone is jamming out to tunes inside. Since its the holidays, you can make your home sound like a traditional family get-together or party with some choice tracks as well.

Know for sure

August Smart Lock Pro installed on a door that is being opened in a home

August Smart Lock Pro installed on a door that is being opened in a home (Image credit: August)

We have all been there at one point during our travels, that moment when you begin to question whether or not you locked the doors. Thankfully, smart home technology has got us covered, with accessories that can not only report the status of your home, but also give you the ability to control them from afar.

Consider installing a smart door lock on the entry that you use the most often before you head out on your travels. While they may look a little daunting at first, installing a smart door lock is actually really simple, requiring just a screwdriver and a little patience. Most locks are universal, either replacing your existing deadbolt entirely, or working in tandem with them with all the electronics on the inside.

Garage too

Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Hub installed on the ceiling of a garage

Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Hub installed on the ceiling of a garage (Image credit: Chamberlain)

Just like with your doors, your garage door is also one of those things that may leave you wondering if you truly closed it before leaving. Smart garage door openers and controllers are the best way to give you a little peace of mind during your travels, and they are surprisingly affordable.

If you are already in the market for a new garage door opener, then take a look at options that come with Wi-Fi connectivity built-in. These models only cost a few dollars more, and having an all-in-one solution keeps things simpler and easier to manage. The only downside to these are that they may be out of your area of expertise when it comes to installation, requiring a call to a professional.

Don't want to replace your existing garage door opener? Then an add-on controller kit is the best option for you. These kits usually consist of a small tilt sensor, that attaches directly to your garage door via mounting tape or screws, and they communicate to a hub inside of your home which sends signals to your opener.

For additional security, some garage doors have a manual deadbolt style lock that can keep the door from opening even if someone manages to guess your keypad code or mimic your remotes signal. If you don't have one of these locks, but still want to make sure that someone doesn't crack your code, you can use a smart plug to turn off the power to your opener until you get home.

Eyes on the prize

Logitech Circle 2 Camera mounted outdoors on a home.

Logitech Circle 2 Camera mounted outdoors on a home. (Image credit: Logitech)

Home security cameras are one of the largest categories for smart home devices, for a good reason. These awesome little accessories can keep us in the know about our home's activity at all times. While privacy is certainly important, placing one of these in your living room while you are traveling is an easy way to keep tabs on your home, and it gives your local authorities something to refer to in case a break-in occurs. Smart cameras have certainly come down in price, and if you are only going to use it while out of the home, they are definitely worthy of your consideration.

Outdoor security cameras are where you may want to splurge a little bit to get an accessory that will provide everything you are looking for since they won't be watching the inside of your home. Look for a camera that has at least 720p video recording, night vision, and 2-way audio, to cover all of the basics. The image specs are pretty self explanatory, and the 2-way audio feature can help fend off invaders simply by letting them know that you are watching them.

Video doorbells also work great as security cameras as well, with the added benefit of watching over any deliveries that may come when you are gone. The 2-way audio features in these also work just like they do for cameras, serving as a warning if you spot someone staking out your home.

Full coverage

Abode door and window sensor being installed on a door

Abode door and window sensor being installed on a door (Image credit: Abode)

The classic security alarm system is still one of the easier ways to secure your home, and advancements in smart home technology gives you the best of both worlds. Connected alarm systems can work in two different ways, with professional monitoring that usually requires a subscription, or a DIY system that simply notifies you of activity in your home.

Obviously, professional monitoring is a solid choice as an agent monitoring your home can alert your local police if a door or window is opened, but if you want to save a little dough, the DIY method is also worthwhile. The DIY approach usually comes in packages that include a hub, keypad, motion sensors, and contact sensors that attach directly to your doors and windows, but you can also find some of these components separately, leveraging smart home platforms like HomeKit to keep you abreast of your home's situation.

Watered down

Orbit B-Hyve Hose Faucet Timer installed outdoors

Orbit B-Hyve Hose Faucet Timer installed outdoors (Image credit: Amazon)

One of the best things about modern smart home accessories is that most also apply to the great outdoors. All of the stuff that we have mentioned, lighting, plugs, and cameras, all have outdoor options, keeping the areas around your home safe and secure.

However, there are a few outdoor specific accessories that can take things to the next level. Smart sprinkler systems keep our lawns well hydrated, and just like with lighting, they can be set up via schedules to make your home look like it is just another day.

Live in an area where running the sprinklers this time of year looks a little odd? Use them as a deterrent! If you get the alert that someone is lurking around your home then turn your sprinklers on! We doubt that they would want to stick around after taking a cold shower.

Gates and fences

Driveway gate in a closed position preventing access to a home

Driveway gate in a closed position preventing access to a home (Image credit: ismartgate)

Own a home with a gate guarding your driveway? There's an app, and accessory for that as well! Smart gate openers provide that extra little peace of mind just like with garage door openers, allowing you to close it from afar if needed. The same also goes with notifications, keeping you in the know if someone manages to open your gate.

Even your good ole' privacy fence can get in the smart home fun, with connected padlocks. These smart locks take on the form of the traditional padlock, but come with the added benefits of notifications, guest access, and auto-locking. Use these locks to let your landscaper in to keep your grass nice and tidy, a tell-tale sign that someone is on vacation.

Smoke detection

First Alert OneLink Safe & Sound installed on a ceiling

First Alert OneLink Safe & Sound installed on a ceiling (Image credit: First Alert)

Most of the stuff that we have covered involves keeping your home safe from intruders, but there are also several ways to protect your home from other potential disasters. Smart smoke detectors monitor your home at all times, regardless of if you are home or away, and they can notify you the instant that a fire starts.

This gives you the ability to call your local fire department immediately, potentially limiting the damage and hassles. Most smart smoke detectors also monitor for carbon monoxide as well, giving you the heads up before you walk into a dangerous situation.

Flood insurance

Fibaro Flood Sensor submerge in water

Fibaro Flood Sensor submerge in water (Image credit: Fibaro)

You can also take this proactive approach for situations involving water. Smart leak sensors come in both wired and wireless varieties, both of whice are extremely easy to install. Just set one of these near or under your sinks, water heater, and tubs and you are ready to go. Once the sensor or attached leads becomes wet, it will send a notification to your phone alerting you of the situation, opening a small window for you to make arrangements from afar.

Since a leak can become a flood in a matter of minutes, a leak sensor works best with connected water shut-off valves. Although these valves will more than likely require a call to a plumber for installation, they are one of the best investments you can make.

These valves install directly on your home's incoming water supply lines, providing owners with controls that can turn on and off their water flow from the comforts of a phone. Some valves monitor water usage, detecting leaks automatically, but others can work together with leak sensors to shut things down if water sets one off.

What are some of your home protection tips?

Have a clever use of smart home technology to secure your home? Have a particular accessory that you feel works the best? Let us know in the comments below!

Christopher Close

Christopher spends most of his time writing and dreaming about all things HomeKit and the Home app. Whether it is installing smart light switches, testing the latest door locks, or automating his households daily routines, Christopher has done it all.