Home Exchange is one of our secrets to affordable travel. Simply defined, it’s a house swap. It’s quite a bit like the movie, “The Holiday“, only with more planning. However, after doing a few, we want to share our best home exchange tips to help you avoid some of the mistakes we made.
A successful Home Exchange is a deal between two homeowners (or renters if it’s allowed in the lease) 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 five-month, 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):
House Swap Advantages
- 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 a tourist.
- Introduction to neighbours, 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.
- Someone living in our home while we are travel, rather than having it empty. We find this a huge safety bonus for our home.
- Making new friends both at home and abroad.
House Swap Cautions
- 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 house swap 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.
Over the years, we have stayed in a variety of accommodations including hotels, hostels, apartments, tents, Moroccan casbahs of riads, cruise ship cabins, a converted convent, friend’s homes and our overall favourite: house swap.
Have you tried house swap yet? Do you have any home exchange tips to add to our list?
This page is part of our travel planning resources series.