Vacation home exchange, sometimes called “house-swapping”, is an innovative way to travel inexpensively, all while making new friends. With hundreds of locations domestically and internationally, finding your new vacation home away from home is easy. We’ll cover the ins and outs of home exchange, who’s doing it, where you can go and how you can do it too.
A New Way To Vacation
Booking traditional hotels for your vacations use to make perfect sense. Nowadays there are more options and if you want to save money, you’ll need to do your research. One new way to save money on travel and land a place to stay while on vacation is through home exchange.
Vacation home exchange is similar to Airbnb, except while you stay in someone else’s house, someone else is in yours. You can also stay in someone else’s vacation home or even stay in someone’s house along with the hosts. The big concern is that you are okay to have someone you’ve never met before in your house.
Not For Everyone
The idea of having complete strangers coming in and staying in your house and using your stuff can be uncomfortable. If this bothers you, then maybe this type of vacation is not for you. Although, experts generally agree that arranging a swap through a reputable home-exchange program is pretty safe. To help minimize your concerns, consider that prior exchanging there’ll be extensive discussion of the details of the swap. As always, it’s up to you and your comfort level as long as you end up with a stress-free vacation.
Finding Exchange Communities
So you’ve decided you’re up for the adventure and you want to give vacation home exchange a try, but where do you start? Well, there are a number of reputable companies offer their services to help you find your dream vacation home. Companies like Home Exchange, Love Home Swap, and International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE) allows users to sign up and join communities of fellow house-swappers fairly easily. Also, companies that deal with timeshare exchanges might have an option that can help as well.
Choose A Home Exchange
Nowadays there are lots of companies with online offering house swapping
communities. While what they offer may be similar, how they offer their services and pricing models between them greatly vary. It still may be possible to find a free website offering a home exchange most, however, have some type of fee associated with your membership. As you can see, below are just some examples of popular companies that have house swap communities and their varying pricing models.
1. Annual Fee
IVHE for example, as of the time of this publication, offer three levels of membership with an increasing number of benefits as the membership levels increase. Their membership costs start at $159 for their basic exchange membership. They also have a membership level of Silver for the same cost but it has a few changes to the benefits. Their Platinum Deluxe plan comes with all the bells and whistles, and a price tag of $375 per year.
2. Per Night Fee
On the other hand, there are companies like Home Exchange, which offers its services for a low annual fee of $150 for an unlimited number of swaps or just $15 per night if you only travel occasionally. With more than 400,000 homes in 187 countries, you have a lot of options for vacation destinations.
3. Monthly Fee
If that’s not all, there are companies like Love Home Swap where the pricing model is based on a monthly subscription. Prices start as low as $11 per month and are billed annually. They even include a two week free trial period to see if the program works for you.
These are just some of the different companies offering their deals on joining their community of house-swappers. All it takes is a little research online and you’ll find lots of similar companies offering vacation home exchanges. You will find that granted these companies offer mostly all the same things, there are small differences that you’ll have to figure out if they work for you and your vacation plans.
Joining The House Swap Community
After finding the right community you can decide if you are more comfortable traveling or hosting. Most people sign up initially to travel to other locations, however, some members just enjoy hosting and meeting new people. Most home exchange companies offer some type of points-based system where you accrue points for hosting guests. You can then spend your points when you stay at someone else’s home.
With a points-based system, community members have more flexibility with their vacation time availability. In addition to direct swapping, some companies offer points for hosting in lieu of a simultaneous exchange. You can then save and use your points to stay at another member’s abode when it’s convenient for you.
For others largely interested in traveling, finding your dream vacation home to stay in depends mainly on what you are looking for. Some people are looking to stay in large cities, while others may want a relaxing rural feel. Some homes come with car access while others may require that you rent a car to get around. With literally hundreds of thousands of potential vacation home options worldwide, knowing what you what will help to narrow down the best options for your trip.
1. Signing Up
The sign-up processes are very similar and pretty straight forward. You set up a profile about yourself, you choose what you are looking for, and lastly explain what you have to offer. You’ll want to add some pictures and a description of your home for others to consider. It even helps to add some type of profile image. There will also be some type of verification questions to ensure your identity is accurate. Prior to joining the community, your payment of the associated fee will need to be handled. Once that’s taken care of you are all set for traveling.
2. Preparing For An Exchange
Now that you’ve joined a community you might be wondering where to start. Finding a place to stay is easy as sending a message expressing your interest, and you go from there. Now leading up to the actual exchange there will be a lot of contact between the two parties. There are a few important things to keep in mind to discuss prior to traveling. Your travel time frame, how to handle clean up after you leave, appliance usage, pets, and emergencies are just a few things. You’ll most likely have your own set of concerns, be sure to address them prior to your planning.
3. Preparing The Home
After you’ve found your perfect vacation home, or you have guests staying on your property, there are a few things to consider in preparing the home for guests.
Outside the home should be kept up, free of trash and excessive weeds. The home should look clean, safe and inviting. Inform your guests where to find the house keys or use a key lock box to store the keys. Also, make sure that the house number is easy and clear to see from the road.
Inside the house, again, you want it to look clean and inviting. If you’re taking part in a long home swap (over two weeks) discuss how bills will be handled and who will be paying them for the exchange period. It’s a good idea to leave instructions regarding remote controls, as well as WiFi information. Your guests should know the location of first aid kits and emergency procedures in case of any problems. You’ll want to be sure to have extra blankets and pillows as well as towels and linens available.
You don’t need to have all the meals for your guests but you should have a well-stocked kitchen for them. Be sure to include basic cooking and cleaning items like seasonings and paper towels. The better stocked your home is, the more enjoyable it will be for your guests.
4. Preparing Yourself
One of the best ways to prepare yourself for your trip is to be clear about your expectations. Everyone is different and so are their expectations when traveling. What may be acceptable to one person, might not be acceptable to another.
You also will want to see if the house comes with vehicle access as well. A few home-swappers choose to provide vehicles for their guests to use. This is good to know prior to arrival, that way you can arrange for a vehicle to get around if needed.
Make sure to follow all the house rules. No matter where you stay, often hosts will have guidelines or a set of house rules for guests. Normally a host will confirm these with you prior to the swap. If you have any question make sure to ask the host for clarity to avoid any misunderstandings.
If you are comfortable with strangers in your house and enjoy traveling then vacation home exchange is probably for you. By swapping houses with someone else you can really save a lot of money on accommodations when traveling. With so many great locations to choose from, the hardest part is picking a house-swapping community. Regardless of which community you join you’ll be sure to make new friends whether you travel or host and make sure your always chose a family-friendly accommodation as well as keep your home family-friendly when possible.