Christmas is almost here which means lots of us will be packing up the car and braving the busy motorways as we head to see our loved ones.

But leaving our homes unattended can cause all sorts of trouble, so while we would all much rather be thinking about mince pies and carols it's really important to put some thought into safeguarding your property.

The festive season is a likely time of year for break ins as thieves take advantage of homes being left empty for days at a time as we all

And more insurance claims are made during December than any other month of the year.

Here, leading lettings and sale agent Benham and Reeves provide their top tips to make sure your property is safe this Christmas...

Don’t hide a key

This applies all year round but the temptation seems to be even greater at Christmas and many of us stash a key in case of emergencies.

Don't risk hiding a key under a mat

While you’re away visiting family potential thieves will conduct a thorough search and often find it. Give a key to your neighbours, family or friends instead.  

Up your security

Again an obvious one all year round but if you are leaving for a prolonged period of time, upgrading your security system and alarms is money well spent.

Today there is a range of products that can bring added peace of mind including video doorbells and security cameras accessible via your smartphone.

Outdoor security lights

Even the presence of security lights with motion sensors can be enough to discourage potential break-ins so make sure yours are in working order and if you don’t have them, they can be an affordable addition to your home security set up. 

Keep your tree out of sight

Top tips for protecting your home this Christmas

It’s tempting to place your tree and the presents beneath it right by the window so all can see your festive setup, but doing so will broadcast to potential thieves that there are valuable goods easily accessible from the front window of your house.

Try to keep your tree and presents under wraps and out of sight from public view.  

Hide other valuables

If you are going away, don’t leave other valuable items on show or out in the house.

Also try to avoid obvious hiding places such as your sock draw as if you are broken into, these are the first places a burglar will look.

If you don’t have a safe or place to lock them away, hide the most valuable items separately in hard to find places.

Don’t broadcast your absence

Have a break from selfies and social media updates if you're away from home

Traditionally you might have boasted to a neighbour in the street about your Christmas plans or getaway, but today many of us take to social media to broadcast them to the world.

Doing so can alert people that you are away from home and leave you open to a break-in.

Save the photo uploads for later and enjoy a day with your family without your phone.

Create the impression you are still home

You might not go the full Kevin McAllister and set up a fake Christmas party but creating the impression you are home can deter a break-in.

Make it look like you're at home

Timed switches for lighting are a good place to start although ensure they come on sporadically not at the same point every day. 

Keep curtains closed, hide any washing racks or other indicators you’ve not been home for a while.

Tidy the garden before you leave and cancel any newspaper or milk deliveries as these are clear signs you’re not home if they start to build up. Even keeping a car parked in the drive can help.

Locks and keys

Before you go away double-check every window and door is locked and that no keys can be reached from outside of the house - usually through the letterbox.  

Check your plugs and pipes

It’s not just criminals that can ruin Christmas. Reduce the risk of fires by turning off everything other than the fridge freezer if necessary.

Switch all your electrics off

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Elf on the Shelf

We know it’s one of the most complicated things on earth, but utilising your boiler’s timer feature while you’re away can ensure that pipes benefit from circulation in colder conditions and can avoid any burst pipes or flooding when you return.

While you’re at it, check that they are insulated and you have no cracks that can be made worse by the freezing conditions.

Check your insurance

Double-check your home insurance and make sure you are covered for every eventuality.

Christmas is expensive but a few extra pounds on upgrading your policy can save you a lot in a worst-case scenario. 

Having an adequate level of cover for contents and possessions seems obvious, but check if there are any exclusions in your policy that could render it void if, for instance, you are away for more than a certain number of days.

Indeed other variables could influence your policy, such as allowing someone access to look after pets or a non-family member staying in your home while you are away.