One Family’s First Home Exchange Experience
I had always wanted to visit London but things were always getting in my way—in particular, the notoriously high costs of eating in the city’s restaurants and sleeping in its hotels. Then I went to work for a home exchange website and needed to try out our service, which gave me the nudge I needed to visit this pricey city with my 7- and 9-year-olds in tow.
Here’s how my first experience with home swapping went down.
Getting to Know You…
Despite my desire to like the idea of home swapping, I was nervous about handing my home over to strangers while moving in to their home on the other side of the continent. But the Internet is a great tool for closing up distances. I found a home I was interested in, where there was mutual interest. And we began chatting by email and skype, which did a lot to put my mind at ease.
The other homeowners were very helpful and readily answered specific questions about the house and neighborhood and more general questions about tackling this giant city with kids. I tried to the same about Barcelona and my home there.
Make Yourself at Home
Before I knew it, voila! We set dates and made an agreement and my kids and I were off to London!! Getting from point A to point B with kids can be an exhausting task, but once we arrived we all relaxed quite easily into our home away from home. The kids ran off to find the toys and I was able to put my feet up and read over all the advice and recommendations my home swap partner left for me.
Get the Inside Scoop on your Destination
On our first day we went to The Natural History Museum (free!), by far my kid’s favorite excursion of the trip. It is incredible and I highly recommend the Dinosaur exhibit with its fantastic interactive features. My son now considers himself a Dinosaur genius!
After too much excitement we made our way to Harrods. The famous department store is enormous and has absolutely everything you could ever dream of. Beware the Toy Kingdom on the third floor; your children will go mental, but it is so worth it. The only way I could get mine to leave peacefully was by luring them to the YooMoo frozen yogurt store one floor up. The menu offers some two dozen toppings and shakes in flavors like Chunky Monkey. It was the perfect end to a fun filled day.
We also had a day of being the ultimate tourists. We took a ride on the London Eye and visited the original Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (right) and the London Tower. Thanks to advice from our home swap partner, we managed to avoid lines at every single venue! And it was a lot easier to plunk down the steep admission fees (nearly $25 or more per person at each venue) knowing I wouldn’t face a sky-high hotel bill at the end of the trip.
A Relaxing (Really!) Family Getaway
I will tell you something else: There is nothing more comforting after a long, hectic day of site-seeing than arriving back at a real home, putting the kids to bed, popping open a well deserved bottle of wine and flopping down on a couch in your PJs.
For once I actually returned from a holiday feeling relaxed and satisfied that my children also had a great time (the two usually don’t happen together in my household). I’m a total convert and am already thinking about our next swap.
Penelope Hobbs works for Knok, a new platform that helps people find the best home exchange for their holidays.