How would you like to stay for free on your next vacation? Of course you know there’s a catch. (There always is.) Here is the catch…you have to offer your home for someone to stay in while you stay in their home. It’s called Home Exchange and it can be a fantastic way to do a lot of cheap travel. In California we have exchanged in Palm Desert, Lake Tahoe, Bass Lake. We also had a great exchange in Paris, France for a week.
The concept was recommended to us by two different couples who have both done years of home exchanges in countries around the world. My husband and I have done several home exchanges over the years and we have learned the pros and cons. Let me start by saying, it’s not as simple as checking into a hotel and it’s not even as simple as renting a vacation home, but if you are flexible and open minded it may work for you.
1. It’s FREE.
2. You are staying in a home so there’s a kitchen to fix your own meals (and usually condiments, etc. for your use), DVDs & CDs to listen to, often times a computer to use, etc. It’s comfortable.
3. Often times you can exchange multiple times with the same family and their home can become like a vacation home.
1. You have to clean your house before you exchange. And, you have to leave their house clean at the end of your visit. (I hate cleaning but it’s something that has to be done so the reward might as well be a free trip.)
2. You have to spend a lot of time combing through home exchange listings emailing the owners to see if they want to stay at your place and if you both have dates that will work.
3. Little things can go wrong that you have to deal with–a breaker may trip, the neighbor’s dog barks, their Internet doesn’t work, etc. That’s just the way it goes.
When we tell friends about Home Exchange the biggest concern they have is they think someone will steal something or look through their personal belongings. This never happened to us, nor anyone we know but it is possible it could happen. Of course, hotel housekeeping is not 100% safe either.
The other major concern is people feel they don’t have a home nice enough or live in a location other people would want to visit. It’s simply not true. However, you will have a more difficult time finding a good match, which is why you have to be flexible. You would be surprised at where people want to travel. We exchanged with one couple whose children live nearby and they didn’t want to stay with them because it’s too hectic.
I can only recommend the website we used, but there are several popular sites. We used www.homeexchange.com. If you are ready to start, just sign up for about $10 per month and upload nice photos of your house (interior & exterior) and a description of your home and things to do in your area. To begin a search for a vacation you want to take, you can search by city and size of home, etc. You may also be surprised by an email from someone who saw your listing and is inquiring about an exchange they would like to do. We got quite a few very intriguing inquiries from around the world but unfortunately we don’t have very much vacation time.
Home exchange can be a great way to stretch your vacation budget!