Protect your home wile you travel south this winter.

Heading south in March? Many Canadians are, taking advantage of school breaks or reading weeks to give our winter-weary bodies and minds a much-needed break and some fun in the sun. It's just what you need!

But what you don't need is to worry while you are away. Stressing over a potential break-in while you are supposed to be enjoying a break can ruin a vacation. The best solution is to have a friend or neighbour drop by daily to both check on things and to give your home the appearance that someone is home. In addition, and especially if you can't find that friend, you need to plan for your absence as much as you plan for the trip itself - so you can relax as intended.

Avoid these common vacation no-no's to help reduce your stress:

Social messaging announcements – Be careful to avoid commenting on trips you have planned or post too revealing info while away. If you can't help but brag, throw in some comments about leaving your poor old dad or bro or sis at home to face the cold alone while you are away – to make people think the home isn't empty.

Unusual lighting – Leaving your home dark for a week or two is an obvious sign to would-be thieves that no one is home, but so is leaving too many lights on. Set a few different timers and set them to turn lights on and off at intervals that suit that room, to try to mimic your normal daily activity. For example, set kitchen lighting to be on before school/work and around dinner time, living room and den for the evening, and a bedroom or two for an hour or so later at night.

Snow-covered driveway – Be sure to have walks and driveways cleared of snow right after it falls. If that can't be arranged, ask a neighbour or two to drive in the driveway then out again a couple of times to mimic regular tire tracks.

Mail and paper buildup – Nothing says ‘no one home' like a pile of dailies by the front door and an over-stuffed mail box. If you can't stop delivery in time, get a neighbour to pick them up for you – every day.

Spare key – Given time, experienced robbers will find that key you think they won't. If you have someone dropping by while you are away, give them their own key.

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