Most travelers think of booking a hotel whenever they travel. There may be many reasons for this, but the biggest among them has to be that most people do not think they have any options.
By swapping homes for a vacation, two families, from different parts of the area you live in, from other regions of your country, or the world - agree to exchange homes for a vacation or holiday. Typically home swaps are arranged for 1 to 4 weeks with cars an option to be included in the arrangement. There is also the option of exchanging homes for a relaxing weekend getaway to a nearby location. Some travelers use a home exchange as a means of affordable longer term free accommodation. Since no money changes hands between the parties - you can have the a first class vacation anywhere in the world and free home accommodation!
Where do I start?
This web site is for you. To learn about a vacation home exchange, about trading spaces for short term and longer term holidays and perhaps to join the thousands of individuals and families that travel on a vacation home exchange each year. Here are some ideas on how to arrange and prepare for a successful home exchange.
Home exchange has been around for decades. It might take a few e-mails, faxes or phone calls to arrange the swap, but once you have agreed most things fall into place.
Together with exchanging homes you may swap cars - brilliant for low-cost touring or day trips. You also swap advice about local sights, services, pubs and bargain shopping.
People unfamiliar with the process are often concerned that their home won't be suitable - perhaps too small, or in an unfashionable location.
These concerns are rarely obstacles to a successful swap; after all, home is home, and if you're happy with your place, chances are someone else will be, too. Home swappers can be singles, family groups or retirees. Teachers have embraced the concept more than any other profession, perhaps due to their holiday or work-exchange opportunities, and self-employed people often have the flexibility to take holidays.
Not that holiday home swapping is purely for international travel. Many travelers happily trade homes around their own nation.
"Once bitten by the vacation home exchange bug, many people choose to swap homes in different locations every year. Some have made over 50 vacation house swaps over several years. Although the majority of home swappers trade once a year, it is possible to fit two or three swaps in a typical year. Even local trades are possible–and practical–for those who don’t want to travel far."
From a home exchange article featuring Global by Arthur Frommer, world renowned travel writer.
Because, when all is said and done, a home vacation exchange is the single most logical, reasonable, sensible, indeed brilliant, method of vacationing in travel today. Instead of leaving your home or apartment empty and unused during the time of your vacation, you derive a benefit from it, you treat it as an asset. You trade places temporarily for another home or apartment, eliminating all costs of lodgings from your vacation budget.
One of the first questions to ask is when would you like to go? Some home exchangers like to plan years ahead, while others are open to swapping homes within a few days. Most home exchangers, however, start looking for exchange partners 9 to 12 months ahead of going. Start by exploring the home exchange listings. Then have fun planning and writing your own listing.
List your home. Be sure to include photos of your home or area you live in. Give yourself some time to find an exchange. Many experienced home swappers plan to start seeking an exchange 6 to 9 months before they travel.
Creating the initial "sell" letter
The first letter you send to potential exchangers should express your tentative interest, pending further correspondence.
Introduce your family, the ages of your children, careers, hobbies and special interests. Especially when teens and kids are involved, including a family photo is a good idea.
Outline the advantages of your home–i.e., its proximity to tourist attractions, shopping, safe and quiet neighborhood, climate.
Provide a detailed description of the interior and exterior of your home, listing features like working fireplace, oriental carpets, antiques, childproofing, barbecue and outside eating area
If offering a car, give the make, year and condition. An automatic makes driving on an unaccustomed side of the road much easier.
Provide references if you are an experienced exchanger.
List your preferred dates and length of exchange. The more flexible you are, the better your chances.
Be honest. Your abode may be humbler than that villa in Tuscany where you’re hoping to go, but if the time and the place are right, your potential exchange partners would probably prefer your home to a hotel.
Here are several "class" ideas that experienced home exchangers have contributed. You may have other helpful ideas. You are warmly welcomed to share these with others.
No need to redecorate, but leave your home spotless. Dust, mop and vacuum floors, clean out the refrigerator, scour the stove and oven, and clean the windows. Make sure bathrooms are free of mold and mildew.
Clear away enough of your own things in drawers, closets and bathroom cupboards so your guests have room to empty their suitcases and make themselves at home.
Leave at least two sets of linens and towels.
Arrange for people to tend the garden and pool, as well as clean the house if you and your fellow exchangers have not agreed to do these chores yourselves.
Write your house and car insurance companies to inform them of the exchange dates. Your home insurer is likely to consider the presence of house guests to be a plus, since an empty home is a target for burglars. (In fact, some insurance policies are nullified if the house is left empty for more than 10 days.) Let your auto insurer know the names and driver’s license numbers of those who’ll be operating your car. Car exchangers might want to consider increasing their automobile coverage during the exchange period by lowering the deductible and raising the third-party liability.
Ask a friend, neighbor or family member to welcome your guests and answer questions.
Make sure all appliances are in good working order.
Lock away any valuables and important papers, preferably away from your home.
Compile a guide to your home and surroundings, including recommended local restaurants and attractions, nearby public tennis courts, swimming pools, golf courses, pool and garden maintenance, when trash goes out, phone numbers of doctors, dentists, plumbers, electricians, babysitters, the nearest hospital.
Avoid misunderstandings by having a written agreement about exchange dates, the number of people involved, use of the car, and who pays what in terms of utility and long-distance bills, etc.
Leave the makings of a simple meal and a small welcome gift–for example, a bottle of wine or a guidebook on your area.
Gifts are a nice touch but aren't a necessary part of a home exchange.
Have fun planning your trip.