A farmhouse nestled among the maples of Vermont, a villa in in the heart of Tuscany, a ski cabin buried under snow in Switzerland… all for as low as $9.95 a month on some home exchange sites. It sounds too good to be true, but travelers all over the world are stretching their vacation dollar and expanding their cultural horizons by home swapping.
What is home swapping?
Home swapping is the practice of exchanging — or trading — homes with another family or home owner at a time convenient to both parties. Home swaps take place all over the world, in all seasons, for all types and lengths of vacations. Home swapping is cost-effective, adventurous, and always in the spirit of widening cultural boundaries.
Benefit 1: You’ll save travel money — and lots of it.
It’s obvious: by engaging in a home exchange, you’ll pocket the cost of accommodations. This savings is often the determining factor that allows travelers, especially family travelers with multiple plane tickets to buy, to vacation abroad. Often, travelers find themselves places they never imagined they’d go. Home exchangers also save money on food, entertainment, and transportation: all exchanges naturally include the use of a kitchen and pantry, and many include the exchange of a family car.
Benefit 2: You’ll experience a better cultural connection to the area you’re visiting.
Home exchangers benefit from staying in local neighborhoods rather than touristy hotel zones. And what many travelers overlook are the smaller cultural touches an exchange provides. In preparation for an exchange family, most swap site members print out lists for local restaurants and even leave contact information for local babysitters, maid services, and tour guides, giving visitors additional people to meet and learn from while experiencing a different culture. If you swap with travelers with similar interests or family structure, this cultural connection can go even further to include shared toys, play groups at the local park, and membership cards to local attractions.
Benefit 3: You’ll be able to practice slow travel and eco-responsible travel.
Instead of driving or flying from destination to destination, home swappers tend to stay put, immersing themselves in a single city or region. This type of slow travel is not only good for the soul but good for the local economy and environment. Homes are often near city centers or next to desired attractions, reducing the need to drive.
Of course, home exchanges involve an element of risk. You may be more comfortable easing into home swapping waters by setting up initial exchanges with friends or family, or friends of friends. Doing so not only saves money on a home exchange listing service but adds peace of mind. If you dig for them, the horror stories are out there, but for the vast majority of home swappers, the myths surrounding the practice really are just that.
Myth 1: You need a gorgeous home in a touristy area to be eligible for an exchange.
I won’t lie: it helps! But owning a perfect home in a very desirable area is not crucial to home swapping. (Though you’ll probably need to do some spring cleaning!) For a year, I was a member of a home swap service where I listed my (quite humble) home in our beautiful (but somewhat off-the-beaten-path) rural area of Oregon. Though an exchange didn’t work out for us, we did get some bites. You never know when a family living in your dream location may need to come to your corner of the world for a family reunion, wedding, or conference.
Myth 2: You need to time your exchange to match both parties’ travel dates.
I thought this myth was true, until I read about someone’s experience with two non-simultaneous home exchanges. Because coordinating your vacation dates and desired destination with another family’s can be as difficult as orchestrating a trip to the moon, the author was able to offer her home to the swapping family when they were out of town for another commitment, and stay in her swappers’ home the following year, while they stayed locally with family members.
Myth 3: You’re setting yourself up to get ripped off or scammed by home swapping.
Home swapping requires a degree of trust, but as both parties are sharing their homes, it’s a mutual one. Can things go wrong? Absolutely. Check the service you use to see if they have standard contracts or draw up your own with a local attorney. Writing up a contract, even when exchanging among friends, eliminates problems before they can start. And common sense says to lock away irreplaceable or breakable items and treasures.
You can travel to many destinations at a fraction of the cost by using a home swapping service such as HomeExchange.com. Investigate a few of them, register, and start exploring.
Have you swapped homes? If so, what are your top tips? If not, would you consider sharing your home and community with a traveling family?For some awesome Kitchen Design ideas visit this site especially for kitchen colors with dark cabinets
Photo credit: Schristia and James Thompson.