You may be looking forward to this holiday season as you visit with loved ones and celebrate a special time of the year. But as you head out on your holiday vacation, don't forget that the holidays are a season of joy for burglars, too. They know many home owners will be out of town for the holidays and homes will be easier to break in to. And on top of that, they may be loaded with gifts and other valuables.

We've all seen "Home Alone," and while it's a funny movie, the bungling burglars depicted in the movie had an approach that's unfortunately quite similar to real life. Burglars during the holiday season are specifically targeting homes that they know will be empty and ripe for the picking.

How can you protect your home during this holiday season? Read on for our tips that explain how you can make your home look active, occupied, and unattractive to burglars even when you're hundreds of miles away.

Don'ts for Holiday Home Safety:

  • Never make it public knowledge that you'll be out of town: Avoid mentioning your upcoming trip to visiting contractors or others that don't need to know your plans. Of course, never share your travel plans on social media or elsewhere online where strangers might find out your home is empty and vulnerable for the holidays.
  • Avoid placing trash or recycling out early -- or leaving it out late: Trash bins that are out of line with the rest of the neighborhood stick out like a sore thumb to burglars. Avoid the temptation to just put them out before you leave and bring them back in when you return, as bins out on any day but a trash day will beckon burglars. Don't put them out until you get back, or better yet, ask a neighbor to put them out and bring them back in on time while you're gone.
  • Don't leave boxes from expensive purchases on your curb: Nothing says steal me like the box from a brand new TV or iPad on your curb. After purchasing enticing items, be sure to break down the boxes and turn them inside out. If they'll fit in your recycling bin, put them inside rather than out on the curb.
  • Never leave a key where it can be found: That rock on your front porch isn't quite the hiding place you think it might be. If you've given a key to a neighbor while you're gone, simply move your hidden key inside during your vacation. You can replace it (in a place that's difficult to find) when you return.
  • Avoid leaving your driveway empty: If you normally have a car in your driveway, burglars may notice when it's empty for a few days in a row. Take a cab or alternate transportation to the airport instead of your own vehicle, leaving it in the driveway instead of the parking lot. Or, ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway instead of theirs. Of course, if you are leaving your car in the driveway, be sure to remove any garage door openers, as your car is easier to break into, and an opener is as good as a key to your home.

Dos for Holiday Home Safety

  • Lock your doors and windows: It sounds like a no brainer, but you should put lockdown as a reminder on a post it before you head out the door. Make sure every window and door is locked and completely secured so you're not literally leaving an open door for burglars to use to gain access to your home.
  • Turn on your security system: Another important step you just can't miss, be sure to arm your security system before you leave. This will make sure your home is protected with the highest level of security you can offer.
  • Ask a neighbor to watch your home while you're away: A trusted neighbor can keep an eye on your home and make it look like someone is home. Have them take care of watering plants, bringing in your mail, rotating which lights are on, and removing fliers from your door. Of course, be sure to pay them back by returning the favor when they go out of town, or bring them a nice gift back from your travels.
  • Hire a pet sitter instead of using a kennel: Pet sitters may be more expensive, but just like a visiting neighbor, a pet sitter that comes by a couple times each day will make your home appear more occupied. Burglars will see a car in the driveway, lights on, and maybe even hear animals barking -- all signs that someone's home and it's a bad time to break in.
  • Set holiday lights on a timer: If you've decorated outside for the holidays, make sure that you haven't simply turned on your lights and skipped town. Put your lights on a timer so that they turn on when it gets dark, and turn off late at night or in the morning when the sun comes up. Leaving lights on 24/7 will tell burglars that you're not home to turn them on and off.
  • Set interior lights on a timer: Putting inside lights on a timer can help with the appearance of being home as well. Put a living room light or even your TV on a timer so that it looks like you're still at home.
  • Install motion sensitive lights: If light timers haven't convinced a burglar that you're home, and they decide to approach a door or window, a motion sensitive light can remove their doubt and spook them into thinking you really are home -- and you've turned the lights on them. Put motion sensitive lights at all essential entry points of your home, including your front and back door and any vulnerable windows.
  • Maintain your lawn: Mow your lawn and sweep away leaves before you leave, and if you have a lawn service, don't cancel it. Maintaining a sharp appearance on your front lawn will make burglars think you're still home. If you live in an area prone to snow, don't cancel your snow removal service. Or, ask a neighbor to shovel snow for you. Even better, ask them to drive their car in your driveway to put fresh tire tracks there.
  • Hold your mail and newspaper: Nothing says "we're not home" like a big pile of mail or newspapers at the end of your driveway. Ask the postal service to stop delivering mail while you're gone, and pause your newspaper service. Or, ask your neighbor to collect these items for you while you're gone.
  • Ask constables or police to watch your home: Your local police or constables likely have a vacation watch program, so be sure to take advantage of it. Of course, make sure you're contacting the police directly instead of relying on door to door "policemen" like the law enforcement impersonating burglars on "Home Alone." It's also a good idea to alert your security company to your plans to be away from home so they'll be extra alert for any activity.
  • Keep curtains and blinds the same: If you normally keep your window coverings open, don't shut them all up as you're leaving. This is a sure sign that you're not home. Rather, it's a good idea to move valuables away from windows so that burglars won't be tempted by, say, a laptop just inches and a thin sheet of glass away from them.
  • Hide valuables: If a burglar makes it into your home, chances are good they'll want to get in and out quickly. While you might not be able to stow away your TV, it is a good idea to move jewelry, portable, electronics, and other valuable items out of burglary hot spots. Typically, burglars will hit the living room and master bedroom immediately, so kids' rooms, bathroom drawers, even your garage may be a safer place to store valuables. If you have a safe, that's also a good option, as long as it is bolted into your home and difficult to simply take and pick apart elsewhere.

There's no foolproof way to completely protect your home from burglars during the holidays, even with the most state of the art security system. But with multiple layers of security and steps to make your home look active, you can make your house a less enticing target for would be burglars while you're traveling this holiday season.