Like a lot of families, our summer vacation plans were canceled due to COVID-19. We are looking forward to the days when we can travel again. When we are able, our next vacation will be a home exchange.
We got started home exchanging three years ago, and now, it’s our favorite way to vacation! So far, we have swapped homes with families in Copenhagen, Ottawa, and Barcelona. They have stayed at our house while we stayed in theirs – just like in the movies!
Home exchanging makes it incredibly easy for families to prepare for a vacation. If you swap houses with a family who has kids of similar ages, they will likely have essential items like a crib, high chair, and toys. And, while you might not like the idea of doing laundry on vacation, if you have access to a washer and dryer, you can pack less clothing and travel a little lighter, which is always important with little ones!
Another reason why a home exchange vacation is great for families is that it’s such an affordable way to travel. You’re simply trading homes with another family, so there are no costs for accommodations. In addition, you’ll have a kitchen, so you can stock up on snacks and cook your own food if you don’t want to eat out for every single meal. All the money you would have spent on a hotel or resort can go towards your airfare and other expenses.
For us, the best part about home exchanging is that we can slow down and live like locals. We love trying to pick up some of the language, sampling new foods, and getting to know the area around our temporary home away from home.
So how do you get started?
There are lots of home exchange websites out there: Home Exchange, Third Home, and Love Home Swap, just to name a few. After you pay an annual membership fee, you can set up your home listing, and then start contacting members to plan your first exchange. It’s that simple!
Prepare your Profile
When listing your home for exchange, it helps to think like a real estate agent. First, write an accurate, detailed description of your home. Include the number of beds and how many people your house can accommodate. Then, list the amenities of your house and neighborhood. Be sure to show off your favorite parts of your house in great pictures. While you’re not actually selling your home, you are selling its features. You want people to come to your home… so you can go to theirs!
Next is the fun part! Where do you want to go? There are home exchanges everywhere! Search for the destination you’d like to visit and start browsing the listings. If you find a house that seems like a good fit, all you have to do is send the homeowners a message to see if they would be interested in coming to your home.
Work out the Details
When you find a family who agrees to exchange homes, it’s important to talk things through and be sure that everyone is clear about all the details. After you decide on your travel dates, you also have to figure out all the other details: how to get keys to each other’s homes, whether or not you will also trade vehicles, what to do with pets and plans, and so on. In getting ready for our exchanges, we’ve sent lots of e-mails back and forth, chatted on the phone, and Skyped with all of our exchange partners.
Is it Safe?
A lot of people ask if it’s safe to swap homes. Each home exchange site offers its own tips and guidelines for safety. The annual membership fee associated with Home Exchange ensures that travelers have the 24/7/365 support of the Home Exchange staff. If there are travel cancellations or property damages, Home Exchange will take over the mediation between both parties to find a solution for the situation. Fortunately, those in the home exchange community are extremely likely to treat your home with the same respect they would want their home to be treated.
With some states in the U.S. reopening and countries around the world beginning to lift travel restrictions, it is important to pay attention to the authorities so that you understand the social distancing restrictions and gathering bans that may still be in effect at your destination. If you are considering a trip, it is important to have open and honest conversations with potential home exchange partners about the Covid-19 situation in the area. It is also a good idea to discuss sanitation and safety measures to make sure that everyone is on the same page about cleaning procedures before, during, and after a trip.
Even though travel options are limited, it’s never too early to start planning (or daydreaming about) your next trip! Where in the world do you want to go?