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How To Do A Home Swap Vacation


Read more Home Exchange Tips and about another Home Swap Experience.  

Your family can enjoy a two-week vacation in a flat in Rome, a townhouse in Boston or a cottage in England for free. How? A home exchange.

The concept is simple: You live in someone’s home while they live in yours. Most people exchange for 2-3 weeks, but others swap for a few months. You and your home exchange partner will decide when to swap and for how long.

My family has done 13 swaps over the past 12 years for our home in San Diego. It allowed our children, now in their 20s, to see the world without their parents having to do strange financial acrobatics. Plus, you discover a lot about a country’s culture when you live smack dab in the middle of it, in someone’s home away, from tourist central. And ultimately you discover more about yourself and your family, too. Our family bonded on these trips in a way I don’t think would have happened on a traditional vacation.

Here’s what we learned over the years about how to do it right:

Select a Home Exchange Agency

There are more than 70 home swap companies around the world; approximately 30 are based in The U.S., the remaining 40 are sprinkled around the globe. The largest has 43,000 members in 147 countries. Another was established in 1953 and has 14,000 members in 78 countries. One agency is specifically for Christians while another assists the Jewish community. There’s even a home exchange company that works with teachers going on sabbatical. Home exchange membership fees range from free to $500 annually.

Be Flexible

The best way to secure a home exchange is to be flexible about your destination and the exact travel dates. Maybe you’ll get an offer from Norway (Those Norwegians love to travel!). Perhaps an e-mail will arrive from France. Or Canada. You never know who will want to visit your city and why. Usually families with kids will travel in the summer because of school holidays. But once my family exchanged with a family in Ireland during spring break. We also booked a home swap in Hong Kong over the winter holiday season.

Our first home exchange was 5-bedroom mansion in Windsor, England that was built in 1485 and sat on 3.5 acres of land.

Start The Process Early

If you want to do a home swap vacation in July, start the process in January or even earlier. (I just received an e-mail asking if we’d like to exchange with someone in Lyon, France one year from now.) Finding the right home swap partner could take as little as two weeks, however the average time is one to two months. For one swap I usually send out about ten requests. Once you’ve gotten a reply there is a period of getting to know each other before you agree to the swap.

Look For a Home With Kids In It

If you exchange with families who have kids roughly the same age as your, there will be toys! Often there are bicycles! Race car sets! Board games! Doll houses! Drums! Puppets! (Did I mention toys?). Aside from the free accommodations, toys are the best benefit of home swapping. (Though having a fully stocked kitchen is pretty awesome, too, as is having more than one bathroom!)

Out kids loved playing with these wonderful puppets that came with the house we swapped for in Germany.

Shop Carefully

When considering a home swap look closely at the photos posted by the owner. Is the home tidy? Are toys picked up? Is the grass mowed? Can you see yourself living there? If the photos match your standards, read the member’s profile, which will include ages of children, professions of adults, and details about the home.

If the home seems to be what you’re looking for and where, send the owner an email. Tell them a bit about your family, home and city. Be friendly yet cordial. If the prospect responds, consider, is the tone of the e-mail pleasant? Do they ask appropriate questions about your home and your travel dates? Does it feel right?

If so, you begin what I call the “getting-to-know-you dance.”  There will be several more e-mails, maybe a Skype call and finally, you’ll just know that you’re ready to swap.

Be Ready for Success

While there are no guarantees in life, I have only good reports about our home swaps, both heading out and returning home. No one stole our TV or broke our windows. ur exchange partners took care of our house and we took care of theirs.

Want to Know More?

You can find a list of my favorite agencies on HomeExchangeExpert.com.

Shelley Miller and her husband and two children lived in Europe from April to August 2000, exchanging homes with five different families in England, Ireland, Germany, France and Italy. Shelley writes articles and leads workshops on home swap vacations. You can read her blog, HomeExchangeExpert and follow her on Twitter  and Facebook


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8 Comments

  1. Shelley Miller
    November 6, 2012 at 5:55 pm — Reply

    Nancie, Many apartment dwellers home swap. It’s just like having friends visit. However, it’s always a good idea to check with your landlord.

    Also, there is something called pet swap. You exchange homes with people who have pets and you care for each others darlings. Something to consider.

    Happy Home Exchange,

    Shelley
    Blog: http://www.HomeExchangeExpert.com
    Facebook: Shelley Miller Home Exchange Expert

  2. Nancie
    October 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm — Reply

    I no longer have a house to swap. However, I have offered my apartment to cat lovers. Indy comes as part of the package. That has worked out well so far. I’ll be relocating again in the next couple of years, and plan to have a property then, and be able to do more swapping.

  3. Lisa from Gone With The Family
    October 26, 2012 at 12:08 pm — Reply

    I have never considered doing a home swap – it sounds so easy!!

    • Shelley Miller
      November 6, 2012 at 5:52 pm — Reply

      Doing a home swap IS easy. It take a little longer to set up than a hotel room, but the results are SO worth it!

      Happy Home Exchange,

      Shelley

  4. Becca@RWTYM?
    October 26, 2012 at 11:02 am — Reply

    How cool!!! I have never thought to do that! But you make it sound possible.

    Thanks for linking up this week!

    • Shelley Miller
      November 6, 2012 at 5:46 pm — Reply

      Hi Becca,

      I’m glad that you’ll now consider doing a home swap on your next vacation! Travel the world and stay for free!

      Happy home exchange,

      Shelley

  5. jade
    October 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm — Reply

    when my fiance and I have kids I would love to try home exchange. Sounds like such a great experience.

    • Shelley Miller
      November 6, 2012 at 5:44 pm — Reply

      Hi Jade, You don’t have to wait until you have kids. Try home exchange now! You’ll be a pro by the time kids come along!

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