Home Exchange is one of our secrets to affordable travel. However, after doing a few, we want to share our best home exchange tips to help you avoid some of the mistakes we made.
If you have been to Albom Adventures anytime in 2012 then you already know that we spent the better part of the year traveling around the world. We stayed in a variety of accommodations including hotels, hostels, apartments, tents, casbahs, riads, cruise ship cabins, friend’s homes and our overall favorite: home exchange.
Home Exchange is simply making a deal with another person or family to trade homes for an agreed upon period of time. We know people who do it for a weekend, but we prefer longer swaps and have so far done a 9 week, a 5 week and a 2 week exchange. For two of the three we swapped cars as well. We do “meet” our partners on-line, and by the time we agree to swap we usually feel like we know them fairly well.
Here is one of our Home Exchange streets (Palamós, Spain):
We love Home Exchange for so many reasons.
- It makes travel so much more affordable as no money changes hands for accommodations. In New Zealand this means there is no impact on our home/car insurance and our “guests” are covered.
- Lot’s of space – we were staying in a home, rather than a hotel room.
- Everything we needed was in the house, including a kitchen and laundry facilities.
- Getting local rather than being in a tourist location really changes the perspective on travel.
- Living in the community also reduces food costs as the extras are in the house and we shop local rather than tourist.
- Introduction to neighbors, two of our three partners left us a list of “English” speaking friends should we need it.
- Our exchange partners were available via email to answer questions, plus they left us ideas on things to do.
Since nothing is perfect, here are our home exchange tips for a successful swap:
- If you are exchanging cars, be sure to include in the discussions who is responsible for normal wear and tear – so if a part wears out whilst you are in the exchange who will pay for that piece. We used the sample letters and agreements supplied by home-exchange.com but they didn’t include this contingency – which resulted in a rather expensive problem for us.
- Look closely at the photos of the exchange partners house and assume that this is as good as it gets for these people. So, if the place is a bit untidy in the photos, they are probably not people who keep things in perfect order -which may or may be what you want, depending on who you are.
- Cultural differences are huge, so don’t assume what seems obvious to you – one of our home exchange partners didn’t have an oven – something we never thought to ask.
- Ask for a map highlighting the house and any major locations you are interested in – “walking distance” had very different meaning to different people, and while two of our partners referred to beach as walking distance, we would have only used that description for one of them, while the other we would have described as a 40 minute walk to the beach.