Prepare to witness the busiest holiday travel traffic in history. According to its annual Holiday Travel Forecast, AAA predicts 107+ million Americans will travel by planes, trains, and automobiles to celebrate the year-end festivities with loved ones afar. Holiday travel is up 3.1 percent since last year.

Due to the mass wave of travelers, holiday burglaries are all too common, particularly for residences left noticeably unattended. Per FBI statistics, over 400,000 burglaries take place between Thanksgiving and the New Year alone.

Whether you’re leaving home for a day or a few weeks, securing your Chicago condo, apartment or house against holiday burglaries is a must. Use these five tips before you leave to ensure your belongings and home are protected year round.

Recheck Your Locks

Locking your doors when you leave town is far from a groundbreaking idea, but too many renters and homeowners leave their residences susceptible to holiday burglaries by relying on door handle locks alone. The average pine and tumbler lock can be picked fairly easily – especially when attempted by a professional thief (or two). Deadbolt locks are more secure because they can resist force and card sliding attempts, but skilled thieves can still circumvent the basic mechanism. Your best bet is a smart lock with keypad or fingerprint sensor. If you don’t have time to invest in a high-tech lock, or you’re renting and don’t have approval from your landlord, keep the gears lubricated to prevent pins from getting jammed in the unlock position. Don’t forget to latch all windows and pet doors, too. Burglars often enter through sliding glass patio or even high floor balcony doors, so placing a security bar in the tracks is wise.

Get Smart

Since you may not have the time to install a full-blown high-tech security system, at least consider installing a security camera just inside your entryway. For the exterior, smart doorbells detect motion and deliver a real-time video feed of the front door to your smartphone. To deter burglars who case neighborhoods, invest in Phillips Hue smart lightbulbs that allow you to control lights remotely, or set timers, to make it appear as though the home is occupied – even from thousands of miles away. For heightened reassurance, the Nest Secure all-in-one smart security system includes cameras, motion sensors and alarms that all connect to your smart devices for unremitting monitoring.

Keep Travel Plans Private

We get it – staying off of social media during the most Instagram-able time of year is difficult. While the holidays undoubtedly make for prime vacation snapshots and funny family videos, your loyal followers aren’t the only ones monitoring your whereabouts. Just as burglars closely observe communities, they also take the time to scan your social media for lapses in judgment. At the very least, refrain from adding geotags to your public shares until your back home safely.

Alert the Neighbors

Don’t keep your plans hidden from everyone if you want to avoid holiday burglaries. You might want to inform your trusted neighbors how long you’ll be out of town and whether to expect dog walkers or house sitters during your absence. It certainly can’t hurt to have another set of eyes to monitor your home, car and the like. He or she might even be gracious enough to clear your walkways of snow and check in on the place every couple of days in case of suspicious activity.

Hold the Mail

With the rise of Amazon Prime and other stress-free online shopping avenues, mailroom and doorstep package thefts are more prevalent than ever. Even worse is when a large stack of packages with your name and unit number noticeably accumulate, making your home appear unattended and eventually becoming a green light for holiday burglaries. If you’re expecting packages during your trip, ask a neighbor or friend to pick them up from your doorstep and put in safekeeping until you return. For single-family homeowners, an overstuffed mailbox may also entice thieves. Depending on the duration of your trip, consider contacting USPS to put a hold on your mail until you’re back in town.

Nothing spoils the holidays, or the New Year, quite like a shocking and traumatizing home invasion. No matter where you live or where you’re traveling to, prioritizing home security is key.

From all of us at Z Chicago, we wish our readers both safe and joyous holidays!