Although most travelers stay at hotels when they travel, there are many other options, from B&Bs to hostels. One of the most unique ways to travel is a home exchange, also known as a house swap. What is a home exchange and how do you do it? We asked the experts at GuestToGuest.
Q: What is home exchange and how does it work?
A: Traditionally, the practice of home exchange involves two families swapping their homes during a holiday, as a free alternative to renting or staying at a hotel. In the past, you would flip through catalog listings to find a suitable home, but today multiple websites provide large online databases of homes, with various search filters to find the perfect exchange. Users can browse destinations and then send out exchange offers and get to know each other by messaging. Once they agree on the terms of the exchange, they will have the opportunity to select optional services through the site, such as travel insurance or a security deposit. Yet another development in home exchange has been the invention of a points system to permit non-reciprocal exchanges. That is to say, people can accumulate points by hosting without traveling themselves, and then use these points to travel as a guest elsewhere.
Q: What are the benefits of home exchange?
A: The practice of home exchange can be appealing for a number of reasons. First of all, it allows travelers to save an average of 30 percent on their budget, often providing the opportunity to travel farther or longer than with a rental or a hotel. It is also a more authentic way to get to know your destination. You have the opportunity to live like a local, get to know the neighborhood with tips from your host, and enjoy all the comforts of home. Imagine visiting the local market and picking up fresh produce to make dinner in your own kitchen! At the same time, it can be comforting to know you’ll have someone to look after your own home while you’re away. Instead of paying for a house sitter, your guest can take care of your pets and plants for free. Another advantage of home exchange is being able to find hosts/guests with similar interests. For example, if you’re a fan of mountain biking or kite-surfing, you can find an exchange partner who does too, and make use of each other’s equipment rather than bringing your own. The same goes for children’s toys.
Q: Where can I go with home exchange?
A: Anywhere in the world! Big cities or little towns, by the sea or in the mountains, home exchange is very flexible. It can even be easier to find an exchange than a rental or hotel exactly where you want to go, such as in rural areas or more residential neighborhoods of cities. In addition, cities are starting to pass legislation against individuals renting out their apartments; Berlin has recently outlawed short term rentals to tourists. To the contrary, home exchange remains a legal practice that allows you to explore a destination from the point of view of a local without paying for accommodation.
Continued on next page