When temperatures start to dip, over 500,000 Canadians are expected to make the trek to the United States to enjoy the warm climate and sunny beaches of Florida, South Carolina, and other popular destinations. With many vacation packages, timeshare properties, and travel options available, it’s little wonder that the number of “snowbirds” crossing the border are increasing every year.
Before you fly south for the winter, be sure to take the steps that will help ensure that your home, property, and even your travel plans are protected in case of an emergency.
Home Protection While on Vacation
You might have left the cold weather behind, but your home will still be subject to possible damage due to freezing temperatures. Sometimes, travellers return home to find water pipes frozen because of inadequate planning.
Take these steps to ensure that your home is as protected as possible from frozen pipes:
- In case of power failure, consider shutting off the water supply completely, draining the plumbing system, and winterizing the system if applicable to your type of home
- Turn off the water source to all outside taps and allow the line to drain
- Turn off the water source to your washing machine and leave the lid open to prevent damage from mould and mildew
- Arrange for a plumbing inspection that’s in accordance with the ”away” provision in your homeowner’s insurance policy
It’s also a good idea to arrange for snow removal service from the roof of your home after a heavy snowfall. This will help prevent structural damage to home due to leaks or excessive weight.
If you can, ask a trusted friend to enter the home from time to time and make sure that everything is in good order. Be sure to give your neighbours your phone number in case they suspect something is amiss.
Also, be sure to check your homeowner’s insurance policy for any limitations or restrictions on coverage for when your home is unoccupied during the winter season.
Protect Your Property from Intruders
Intruders don’t want to be seen, and will actually take the time to study movement around prospective targets. If they don’t see any sign of human activity around your home, the chances of a break-in increase. You can minimize this risk by arranging your property to look as occupied and cared for as possible by using the below strategies:
Make the house look occupied:
- Arranging for someone to clear your driveway, walkway, and sidewalk of snow and ice (or mow the lawn during the warmer seasons)
- Having someone put garbage by the curb every week
- Asking someone reliable to replace any exterior light bulbs that have burned out
- Hiring a house sitter, especially if you have pets
There are many simple tricks you can use to make the house appear occupied without having humans actually visible. Many of these ideas are old, but we still use them because they work!
- Cancel or forward mail and newspaper deliveries
- Install timers on your lights and electronics
- Leave your blinds open if you normally do
Take care on social media:
Posting pictures while on vacation is fun, and also shares the excitement with family and friends. Unfortunately, at the same time it tells everyone that you’re away from home, exposing your property to potential theft or vandalism. Consider sharing your pictures through email to a small group of people, or wait until you return home to post them. Also, don’t announce your upcoming vacation on social media before you leave.
Secure your personal property:
If someone does try to make unlawful entry to your home, you can still take measures to protect your property before you leave:
- Install a home monitoring alarm system
- Lock every entry point – front, back, side, and garage doors and gate – and don’t leave spare keys where someone can find them
- Keep all valuable items, including sentimental ones, locked in a safe
- Mark valuables with indelible marker so they can be traced
Don’t forget to apply these protections to a vacation home you own too!
Travel Insurance: Do You Really Need It?
Many travellers balk at the idea of purchasing travel insurance when planning their getaway, deeming it an unnecessary expense after already investing thousands of dollars into their winter getaway.
But the truth is that the cost of travel insurance is much less than the heavy financial loss you can incur due to health issues, passport replacement, traveller cancellation, or misplaced or stolen luggage.
Travel insurance packages are also much more comprehensive than those offered by many credit card companies. In fact, if you thoroughly read the travel insurance policy offered by your credit card company, you might be surprised at what you find:
- Many credit card companies won’t pay funds in advance to a hospital should you become ill or injured and require medical attention
- You may have to go through a long process to find out if your claim is approved or denied
- Some companies only cover the cardholder, and not their spouse or children
This could lead to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses that might not even be covered under your credit card’s policy, making a difficult situation even worse.
Travel insurance products offered by insurance specialists provide complete coverage that helps you when you need it the most.
If you have questions about travelling abroad, or would like to learn how to protect your home, property, or travel plans with specialized insurance products from Merit, call your broker at 1-800-563-3383. We’ll find the right insurance for your needs!