Try a home exchange. You’ll skip Airbnb, hotel fees, and vacation like you’re a local.
By Rachel Koning Beals
Here’s everything you need to explore an eco-friendly extended stay in a house or apartment for free and open your own accommodation in exchange
It all worked out in 2006’s romantic comedy “The Holiday,” in which Kate Winslet’s British Iris and Cameron Diaz’s American Amanda escape their own routines and love their lives in a two-week transatlantic home swap.
Ask other house swappers, most with standard suitcases and backpacks and not so much romantic luggage, and they’ll tell you the same thing: it all works out. They saved money, lived briefly like a local in a new town, and their lives improved.
Home exchanges or home exchanges, a low-cost or free alternative to hotel and resort stays, and these days even an Airbnb (ABNB) or VRBO replacement, are attracting travelers, remote workers, family caregivers and extended stay group retreats for decades. One of the oldest established clubs for home exchange connections is Home Link International. It started in the 1950s.
Clearly greater flexibility of working from anywhere (which seems to stay here for some) and a general tendency to self-isolate from crowd exposure during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed more curious people to their first home exchange. Since then, more and more people are buying into the concept, according to Google Trends. One of the largest sites that can be used to find an interested exchange party, HomeExchange.com, told MarketWatch that exchange requests in 2021 are up about 30% from 2020. And the interest in 2022 continues to grow.
How Home Exchanges Work
The basic formula is a “reciprocal exchange” — a Denver family wants two weeks in Paris in mid-June and this Parisian family wants to go to the Rockies at the same time. They exchange. At HomeExchange and other sites, they have also integrated point banks, which means you don’t have to exchange for the exact same dates. It might make sense if you know you’re leaving your apartment for a week for a work conference, lend your digs, collect the points and use them later when you want to go on vacation and there’s availability. ; and it doesn’t have to be with the same swapper.
There is no doubt that peer-to-peer accommodation models, such as Airbnb, VRBO and similar sites, have incorporated staying in a stranger’s house. The main differences between these stays and a home exchange lie in the cost: cost of the stay, cost of cleaning and often, a booking fee for each visit. Stays at hotels and resorts may be more transparent in terms of cost, but even these options may have what the travel industry calls “drip pricing”, meaning that the rate displayed for a stay is discounted and attractive, but the final bill is peppered with extras. More and more, Airbnb properties are owned by companies, so the personal connection and the connection to a lifestyle are lost. And those hosts may have stricter rules about entertaining additional guests, child-friendly options, and other factors to consider.
However, the concept of staying in a residence is clearly there to say. In fact, a potential US-based swapper used a TikTok video to simply ask if anyone in England wanted to swap. Before long, she had a taker.
Many home exchangers, especially those just starting out, start with the handful of websites that not only allow you to list your property and find a suitably sized deal in your destination city or country, but they provide a 24 hour support. you hit all the snags.
For example, you might need reassurance. After all, you open your home to strangers even though you feel like you could become friends quickly. This is also the interest of these sites: a lot of back and forth with the person you are talking to in order to define expectations. Or maybe a garage door is stuck in your home and you need on-the-spot repair. Sometimes the unexpected happens and a trip has to be canceled, or a host doesn’t live up to expectations (there’s no way this place can accommodate six people as promised!). In those rare occurrences, it’s nice to have the support of the matchmaking site.
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The savings and convenience of home exchanges
The advantage of home exchange sites (and we go into a list below) is that you can explore the options without paying the annual fee first. Once you’ve booked, signing up for membership is usually the next step and fees tend to range from $100 to $200 per year, more for premium listing sites.
But that’s all. The whole thing is that the stay itself is free. And depending on what you decide to redeem, a trip might include the use of a bike, kayak, or snorkel gear, an on-site pool, plus toys and a high chair for trips. family – all the features that will make your vacation easier and cost you nothing out of pocket. Plus, you can cook more of your own meals, perhaps enhanced because the host leaves a note with their favorite market and wine store.
“It really is a lifestyle exchange. You get an insider’s stay,” says Jessica Poillucci, HomeExchange’s US spokeswoman.
In fact, always ask what other exchanges might be included. “About 40% of our home exchange users are willing to share their car with other SHYer members, while 20% of our members also share access to lifestyle services such as subscriptions to the gym and club, and SHYes ski passes,” the Love Home Swap site says, adding, “By choosing to share those things that can add a lot of expense to your vacation budget, you can make huge savings. on your travels.”
HomeExchange, for its part, also provides property insurance coverage of up to $1 million in the rare event of major damage – and most comparable sites have their own offers, but ask in advance. It also can’t hurt to check with your own insurer, although technically you’re just hosting guests, not a business, so that shouldn’t affect your policy.
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More sites to choose from
Love Home Swap starts at around $10 per month for membership. HomeExchange costs $175 per year for unlimited stays. She has since launched HomeExchange Collection, for owners of “exceptional” homes. The annual fee is $1,000 and not all homes are affected.
Other websites have comparable membership costs: Holiday Swap costs $100 per year, Home Link International, the oldest swap group, costs $140, with a second year free.
For the curious, most sites have a page dedicated to ways to make home-swapping trips as sustainable as possible.
Platforms such as Holiday Swap emit 66% less CO2 emissions than hotels because listings equates to less energy, water and waste overall, the site says in a recent LinkedIn post. For example, with less cleaning, cooking, and miniature hotel toiletries, staying in someone else’s house can reduce, though obviously not completely eliminate, resource usage.
Holiday Swap executives also suggest in their blog that more home swaps should alleviate the overdevelopment of undercapacity hotels. “And with fewer hotel developments, we can preserve more historic areas and natural resources,” they add.
Be aware of…
Be sure to enter the exchange with eyes wide open. People — strangers! — will sleep in your beds, use the Internet, converse with your neighbors. There is nothing wrong with setting guidelines, just be a fair and clear communicator.
And don’t be sloppy. Personal papers, valuable jewelry, anything that could cause you a restless night should be locked up. In sufficiently large houses, exchangers often designate at least one room as prohibited. Store valuables in it and lock the door.
If you want to list your apartment or condominium on a home exchange site, make sure you have cleared it with the landlords or building councils. A misunderstanding that ruins your guest’s stay could jeopardize the exchange relationship you hope to build.
Editor’s Note: The Upcycler column aims to help you do more with less, save or earn extra money, grow your creative side, and reduce your carbon footprint.
Upcycling and the Buy Nothing movement is about reusing objects for practical or aesthetic purposes, or extending their usefulness and diverting them from landfill. Our column also explores the benefits of fixing or further improving what we already have; exploit free or deeply discounted goods and services that may be life changing; and travel in less expensive, intrusive and consuming ways.
Surely if we can “upcycle” more of our time, income, and peace of mind, everything could feel brand new.
Do you have your own recycling ideas or dilemmas? Contact us on Twitter @RachelKBeals or by email at [email protected]
Learn more about The Upcycler:
How to save up to 50% on your grocery bill and reduce food waste
Think twice before trading in your old smartphone or tablet – you could make more money by ‘upcycling’ on resale sites
-Rachel Koning Beals
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