Remember the movie “The Holiday”? Where Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz swap homes for their holidays? Well, that movie inspired many travellers to ditch the anonymity of hotels and stay in the comfort of homes saving loads of money in the process.
Home swapping portals have seen a rapid increase in membership post pandemic, with people preferring to enjoy a home with extra living space, gardens and private pools, rather than the confines of a much-used hotel room. It’s also the perfect way to get to get information on a place, as most hosts share local details on the best local restaurants, sight-seeing activities, hidden gems and what to avoid. Sometimes home swapping offers a chance to experience another lifestyle as well as hosts offer to share their cars, look after each other’s pets and even swap gym memberships. It adds a depth of perspective about the culture that you would otherwise miss out on in a hotel or tourist-centric area.
Travellers have a wide choice of homes to choose from city apartments and country homes to boat houses, log cabins, RVs, yachts and even chateaus. And the best part is that you don’t pay anything for your accommodation, just a small annual subscription for your online listing service. When you’re in an actual home away from home, you certainly don’t have to eat out for every meal. You could cook a few meals in your host’s kitchen as well, and then relax with a good book or a snifter of cognac by a cosy fire.
Sounds wonderful? It certainly could be, but there are some important factors you need to consider before jumping on the bandwagon and becoming a home swapper.
Foremost is the fact that a complete stranger will be living in your home, and some people hate the thought of that. So, this why it’s crucial to use a reputable listing service that allows you to get a detailed look at a potential exchanger’s home online and they get a detailed look at yours. You’ll also get to talk to them on phone and via email. And its only once both parties are comfortable do you agree to swap homes.
Then there’s the question of the safety of your valuables, possible damages to your property, furniture, fixtures etc. Usually, home swappers are a considerate and educated lot who treat your home and possessions with respect. After all, you’ll be occupying their house as well and they’re probably concerned about the same things you are!
Remember, home swaps take time to set up, so planning is essential – from the initial listing, to deciding on your destination, getting to know people, agreeing on dates and then exchanging all important information. Which is why most sites recommend that you start at least four to six months in advance.
So how do you go about it? Well, it takes a bit of effort, but the process is relatively easy.
- Identify a respected listing service. This is the first step. We have drawn up a list of popular sites for you at the end of this article, but please do check their credentials before you finalise.
- Create your listing. The more details you provide, the better. Include plenty of photographs as well as a thorough description of your home’s location and amenities. Talk about your neighbourhood and let people know why they’d want to stay there. List how many people will participate in the home swap and whether or not you’ll be traveling with children. You want to make sure the exchange is a good fit for both of you. Mention pets if any, and important details like if any family members are smokers.
- Search for a good match. This process can take time, although if you’re in a desirable location, it may take less time than you’d think. Check all the data and pictures carefully, and it’s quite okay to ask for references they can give you from previous swaps. Once you find the ideal family for a home swap, you agree on dates and you’re good to go.
Do check the coverage of your home insurance and car insurance if you plan on swapping cars as well.
You will need to create comprehensive instructions especially if you are hosting visitors from another country; things like working instructions for appliances, security systems, garden timers, emergency numbers and the internet. Then directions to the nearest stores and restaurants, which will make things easier till they are able to find their own way.
Ready to explore this whole new world? Check out some of the best Home Swap websites:
Homestay.com: Connects with a database of 50,000 local hosts in more than 150 countries.
Couchsurfing.com: Has a global community of 12 million members in more than 2,00,000 cities.
Lovehomeswap.com: Showcases 75,000 properties in over 160 countries.
Homeexchange.com: Has more than 65,000 homes listed to connect likeminded travellers around the world.
Bedycasa.com: Over 260,000 members have listed on this site. It offers anything from rooms for rent, to homes, hostels and farms.
Culturegogo.com : Connects travellers with local hosts who want to practise English. The guest gets free room and board and a cultural experience with a local host in exchange for a little language help through doing everyday activities together.
Wwoofinternational.org: Wwoof stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, a charity for people who want to learn about organic farming and ecological ways of living. Travellers search for places where they can assist hosts in their daily tasks in exchange for food, accommodation and knowledge.
Homestayin.com: This website encompasses a large number of homestay rooms across more than 1,200 cities in 85 countries around the world.
Exciting, isn’t it? Now where in the world do you want to travel?
Have fun, be safe folks!
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A homeschooled chef even before she joined Catering College in Bombay, Christine’s gastronomic journey started with mother and grandmother. Polished with a degree and 10 years of experience in the Hospitality industry, Christine’s love of food, drink and everything gastronomic has been sharpened and honed with travel across the world. Today, she shares the wealth of her foodie experience and adventures across the world with Travel and Food Network, so look forward to much more from Chrsitine!