One option you may not have considered when planning your vacation trip is home exchange.
This is an increasingly popular formula, which allows you to exchange your home with other people living in the destination you want to travel to.
In this way you will live in their residence during the same dates that they live in yours, enjoying each one of their own holidays.
With home exchange you can save the cost of accommodation completely, as well as enjoy your holiday with the comfort of living in a fully equipped house.
But not only can you exchange your place of residence, but you can also extend the agreement to exchange the cars, or make the exchange of a house for a car with caravan, a motorhome, a yacht, etc.
If this formula of home exchange creates distrust, there is also another variant which is the so-called hospitality exchange.
In this case, the agreement is to host some people in your home during their trip to your city.
In exchange, they will welcome you when you travel to their place of residence, a formula that favours establishing a relationship of friendship.
How to do home exchange
To carry out the home exchange, you have to register on one of the websites that offer this service, for which they charge an annual fee, which is the only expense you will have.
The most prominent company in this system of accommodation for travel and holidays is the American company HomeExchange, founded in California in 1992, and recently acquired the Spanish company interchangedecasas.com.
This site offers you more than 400,000 exchange offers in almost 190 countries around the world.
The destinations where there are more offers are the United States, Canada, Australia, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Italy and Holland.
I personally have not done any home exchange, but I do have some friends who have been doing it regularly, not only for their summer vacation trips, but for weekends and other holidays of the year.
After talking with them to know the advantages and disadvantages of this accommodation formula and as a summary of their experiences, I will give you useful tips when considering a home exchange for your holiday trips.
Tips for exchanging your home
Different way to travel
Home exchange is a different way to travel, because it allows you to “live” the real atmosphere of the city and country you are visiting.
You usually meet and interact with relatives or neighbors of the people with whom you exchange your home. And you live as if it were your home.
The main reluctance that produces the exchange of houses is distrust of the fact that some strangers reside for a while in your house.
But according to those who use this formula assiduously, there is a general tendency to take care of the house you live in, knowing that they will do the same with your house.
Moreover, contrary to what you may think, those who use this system are usually professionals and people with a medium-high cultural level.
Ideal for families with children
The house exchange formula is especially suitable for families with small children, so that by exchanging the house with a family in similar circumstances, you have the ideal equipment to live comfortably with the children.
Without a doubt, a great advantage of home exchange is the significant cost savings you get by not having to pay for hotels and, if you wish, by being able to cook and eat in the house.
And these savings are greater if you are a family.
Which company to choose
In order to carry out home exchange, you can find many companies on the Internet that offer this service.
Regardless of the price differences, the important thing when choosing a company is that it offers you a very wide range of houses in as many cities and countries as possible, and in this respect I have been advised by HomeExchange.
When you arrive at the website, you will first go through the old intercambioodecasas.com, and at the top right you have the Join button which will take you to the new HomeExchange website in Spanish.
Keep in mind that you have to register for annual periods (although there are offers for lower periods) and it is important to have a variety of options, because the annual fee is not cheap, but also the only cost.
How to register on the home exchange website
When you register on the exchange platform, you publish as much relevant information about your home as possible.
You must also indicate your ideal dates for the exchange and the countries you would like to exchange with.
You must also indicate if you admit children in your house, as well as pets and smokers.
And also if you are willing to exchange the use of a car (this is not so usual…)
How to choose which house to exchange
The time has come to select the houses where you would like to stay.
Regardless of the exchange offers you may receive, you have to send several requests. In view of the different contacts and the answers, you are already selecting the people and the house you think is most suitable.
To finish the deal, it might be a good idea to make a phone call or a video call with Skype.
In general, it is advisable to agree on the exchange well in advance.
And if it’s for the summer holidays, and you want, for example, to travel to Germany… in May, don’t try it anymore, because Germans, and in general most Europeans, are very, very far-sighted.
How to get your house ready for visitors
Ideally, when visitors arrive at your house (you will surely be arriving at theirs…), they can be welcomed by a family member or a neighbour friend who will show them the house and explain how the basic equipment works (kitchen, television…).
If this is not possible, you should leave written (in English, if they are foreigners) the basic instructions for the operation of such equipment.
According to my friends’ experience, don’t be surprised if when you arrive at a house you find some welcome detail (flowers, a small gift…) or even a meal already prepared.
Will your house be in good condition?
Usually, when you return home you will hardly notice that someone has been living there.
From the experiences I am told, there is usually nothing deteriorated, although you are never totally safe from any incidence.
In addition, as a host, the HomeExchange service includes insurance coverage for possible damage to your home or theft during your guest’s stay.
Exchanges not only for summer holidays
Home exchanges are open to many variations, such as doing it for a weekend, or leaving your home in a certain period when you are travelling in another city, and then going to the home of the people you have exchanged with.
There is also the formula of exchange of hospitality: first you receive the people with whom you exchange, who live in your house for a few days with you, and then you go to their house (or vice versa…)
Getting to know each other… and become friends
This last formula of the hospitality allows you to meet the people with whom you exchange the house, and you can even make friends.
There are people who exchange their homes from two different cities in Spain and meet for a coffee halfway through their road trips.