If you re planning to take a vacation anytime soon, you're probably concerned about keeping your home safe and secure during your absence.

It's really not so difficult a task. The main thing to remember is that you're trying to make your home look and sound inhabited, and there are a variety of ways to do that.

First, the obvious: Don't let newspapers or mail pile up outside your house or in the mailbox. Have their delivery halted, or better yet, ask a trusted neighbor to pick them up for you each day, along with any package deliveries.

Leave your drapes and curtains at least partially opened, the way you would when you're at home. Don't leave lights on 24 hours a day. Invest in a few inexpensive

Timers, or X10 automation modules, and use them to turn lights on and off at normal intervals. Simple home automation systems can generate random schedules that give a less static feel. Insurance experts say burglars are especially leery of two-story homes lights burning on both floors.

Remember that sound can be just as strong a deterrent to burglary. A television or radio set to make it sound as if someone is home can be automated with simple timers, X10 modules, or full blown automation systems.

Prior to leaving, don't advertise news that you'll be away from home by mentioning your vacation plans to strangers or casual acquaintances. The news can travel surprisingly fast and far. When packing your car, do it in the privacy of your garage, if possible.

If you're going to be away for more than a week, remember to arrange for somebody to mow your lawn while you're gone. Ask your neighbor to set some of his trash out at your house on collection day (You can return these favors when they go on vacation.).

Be sure, too, to let your neighbor know where you'll be and how long you'll be gone during your vacation. That way, he can make a prompt report to police in the event of an emergency and if necessary can reach you by telephone.

When you've done all of the above, take a last walk through and around your house before leaving, making sure that all doors and windows are shut and locked and that you've turned on your alarm system.

Now, enjoy yourself. Short of hiring a full-time house sitter, you've protected your home about as well as it can possibly be protected.