The McCallister’s were fortunate to have a precocious 8-year-old protect their home from the sinister duo Harry and Marv. If you leave for Paris with all your family members, you don’t need Christmas insurance, your home insurance will protect you. Here’s how home insurance works over the holidays with Christmas tips to protect you and your family.
Gifts under the tree
Your Christmas presents are protected with your home insurance under the contents portion of your policy. But there are some specific stipulations and limitations.
In general, keep your receipts as proof of purchase to make the claims process smoother if you are robbed.
If the gift is something like high-value jewellery, consider a jewellery endorsement, or add-on. The endorsement allows you to add even more protection for a little bit extra premium. Typically, jewellery may be limited to $2,000-$6,000 of coverage, depending on your policy. Understand there are specific limitations on things like golf equipment, business equipment (computers), wine, and bicycles. Talk to your home insurance provider if you have concerns about any special gift this Christmas. That’s the real Christmas insurance.
A lot of travel risks can be protected with the best travel credit cards. A premium card covers you for things like lost baggage, flight delays, and flight interruptions. You can buy your own travel insurance to cover medical care. But, many of the healthcare costs for you or your dependents are included with your credit card if you suffer an injury or contract an illness abroad.
A few caveats being you have to pay for the trip using the card, and you need to be in good standing. Typically your trip coverage is limited to the days you’ll be away, so read the fine print. Oh, and if you’re a senior or have an existing medical condition, we recommend buying separate travel insurance as your credit card likely won’t cover those circumstances. You don’t want to be in a dire medical situation in a foreign country without it.
Home insurance at Christmas
If you’re travelling, understand a vacant home exposes yourself to risk. The biggest one is being in violation of your policy if you’re away for more than 30 days. If so, get a vacancy permit added to your home insurance policy for maybe $20-$50 in extra premium for the month. It’s worth it.
If you’re away for any length of time, understand there are other risks. According to Bustle.com, in Home Alone, Kevin McAllister racked up quite a repair bill. Everything from the tar on the basement steps, the torch that burned Harry’s skull (and the surrounding woodwork), and the broken shelves in Buzz’s room – those renovations alone would’ve been in the thousands. The most significant sunk cost, estimated at over $200,000 (in the 4,243-square foot Illinois home), is the flooded basement.
Flooding from a burst pipe is covered by your home insurance. Your home insurance does not cover water entering your home from thawing snow or sewer backup – for those you need a special add-on to your home insurance policy. Nor does it cover any intentional acts, like stuffing the drain and leaving the water running. Unless, of course, it’s because you’re a victim of a burglary (i.e. the wet bandits).
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Christmas insurance tips
Christmas tree safety
- Go with a real one (better for the environment) and keep it fresh and well-watered to avoid fire.
- Install it correctly, so kids or pets (cats) don’t topple it over.
- Don’t hide wires under area rugs or run them across the room – it creates a tripping hazard. Position the tree near an outlet and don’t overdo it on the lights. Give the lights enough slack to handle the odd tug.
- As pretty as it may be, keep the tree away from anything that produces heat (fireplace, candles, and furnace vents.
- Try to use LED or low energy safety-certified lights. If the cords are frayed in any way, replace them.
- Don’t leave the lights on overnight or while you’re away. Ideally, put it on a timer.
- Once the season is over, put it to the curb. A dry tree is a fire risk.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy and ensure everyone knows where it is and how to use it.
Outdoor Lights and decorations
- There are many timers available – they recognize dusk, or be set to turn on at a specific time, or can be remotely turned off on your smartphone. Use the timers for electricity savings and to deter a potential thief.
- Install motion detector lights to deter a burglar from attempting to enter.
Parties – at home or away
- Arrange designated drivers – if you’re throwing a house party, you’re liable for people to get home safely. A little spat between friends is more comfortable to resolve than a DUI or a collision and the resulting rise in car insurance quotes.
- If you’re driving, don’t drink. If you’re drinking, take a cab or ride-sharing service.
- Hosting a party at home? Be sure to shovel and salt. If someone slips and injures themselves, it’ll fall to your house insurance.
Shovel and salt
- Be a good neighbour and shovel and salt the sidewalk.
- If a delivery driver slips on your steps, any injuries could be held against you. Create a clear path for anyone approaching your home.
Burglars & thieves
- If you’re away, ask a neighbour to collect any mail or newspapers. If it piles up, it’s a sign you’re not home.
- Ask a neighbour to park their car in your driveway if you have one to deter thieves.
- Hire a service or ask a friend or neighbour to shovel the sidewalk.
- Install a monitored alarm system and make it known that you have one to any potential thieves.
- We all want the Christmas tree in the window, but keep presents out of sight; otherwise your are tempting the Grinch.
- If you’re out for the evening, try and leave some lights on or, better yet, have them on randomized timers.
- Burglars know where to look for keys left outside. Install a smart lock or get a lockbox.
- Ensure your doors and windows are all locked.
- Don’t let the world know you’re going away by posting it on social media.
- Break down electronic boxes before putting them out for recycling. Where there’s an empty television box, there’s a new flatscreen TV inside.
The Bottom Line
Christmas is a time to celebrate with friends and family. Use these Christmas tips to prevent a tragic event from happening, and if it does, you’ll know how to best react. Kevin spent a long time preparing for the wet bandits (and the sticky bandits). If an 8-year-old can do it, you can too.
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