Swapping Houses for Vacation – would you do it?

Millions of people swap homes every year all over the world. And for the frugal or budget-minded, swapping homes is one of the best ways to experience a new place and save money on your vacation at the same time.

Home swaps usually occur simultaneously. For instance, imagine you live in Chicago and want to visit Rome. First, you’d find someone in Rome who wishes to visit Chicago. Then, both of you would vacation at the same time and stay in each other’s home during the same time.

Home swapping makes for a unique vacation experience that enables you to truly “feel” what it’s like to live in another country. There are many advantages:

It’s a lot cheaper. When you swap homes, you don’t pay for lodging. The only cost associated with house swapping is the membership fee for an online listing service (which is essential to finding the right people to swap with). These fees are usually $100 or more per year, but since the average price for one night in a hotel often exceeds $100, this is a bargain.

Another travel expense that can get costly is eating out. But since you’ll have a full kitchen to cook in, you won’t need to eat every meal out. Plus, you’ll get to experience local grocery shopping, which is always a fun experience.

Live Like a Local. Staying in someone’s home rather than a hotel is much more comfortable. Remember, when you swap, you’re in an actual home and not an impersonal hotel room. You’ll enjoy whatever amenities are there and you’ll also get a better sense of the area’s culture because you’re in a neighborhood rather than a hotel. Living amidst “the locals” can add a depth of perspective to your trip that you would otherwise miss out on in a hotel.

Live on a yacht. Home exchanges don’t always involve homes. People swap homes to stay in someone’s yacht, or even their RV so they can tour an area. You can often find unique lodging options that are unavailable, via other means.

As with virtually everything else, there are some things to be mindful of before swapping houses. Here are a few to consider:

You’re giving your home to a stranger. This is why it’s so important to use a reputable listing service. They will give you a detailed look at a potential exchanger’s home online (and they get a detailed look at yours). You’ll also talk to them several times over the phone and through email.

Because you live in different locales, your interaction is obviously limited. You may not feel able to gather enough information to assess whether or not a potential exchanger is worthy of your home. Only once you’re comfortable do you agree to swap homes.

Potential Damage to Your Property. You might be concerned that your property could be damaged by strangers or your valuables stolen. This is why using a reputable listing service is essential. The biggest sites report that they’ve never had a complaint from any user because of theft or vandalism. On the whole, house swappers are considerate and educated people. They’ll likely treat your home, and your possessions, with as much respect as they treat their own.

Remember, you’ll be occupying their house as well and they’re probably concerned about the same things you are! Also, it doesn’t hurt to make sure your insurance covers your valuables.

It Takes Time. Home exchanges take time to set up. You need to get to know the people you’ll be exchanging with, and vice versa. In fact, most sites recommend starting your search at least four to six months before you plan to go on vacation. You’ll also want to be flexible on the exact location and dates.

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