Do you enjoy traveling but hate all of the costs associated (airline tickets, hotels, rental cars, etc)?  Do you feel like you live in a place that most people would not want to go?  No worries, I have a solution for you!  Home Exchange!

What is home exchange?  Exchanging your home is when you place your home (or vacation rental, second residence) on a home exchange website.  The one I am most familiar with is homexcahnge.com.  My parents have exchanged their homes at least a dozen times to places such as France, Belgium, Scotland, Italy, California wine country and Florida.  These are only the exchanges they have accepted.  The have been offered Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Colorado, Switzerland, and numerous other places.  You must be thinking that my parents live in paradise or live in a million dollar mansion.  Wrong.  Don’t get me wrong, they have an awesome house.  However, the house that gets offered more than most is located in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.  Believe it or not, people want to come see Cajun Culture first hand.  They want to be able to do a day trip to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, or even Houston.  People even want to exchange in August!
 

 
Many people are leery about having strangers in their home.  I understand your fears, but people have been successfully exchanging homes for years. The process starts when you list your house and the places you would like to travel.  You can search others houses and make offers.  People can say ya or nay.  You can include your car (and boat in my parents’ case).  Once an exchange is agreed upon, you have a rapport back and forth.  By the time you are staying in their house and they are staying in yours, you are basically friends. 

My parents have had nothing but great experience (knock on wood).  They have made life long friends from these exchanges. They even exchanged with an Olympic Medal Winner in Scotland who provided her BMW as part of the exchange.  Christa and I went on the Florida exchange with my mom and can say nothing but great things.  It was walking distance to the beach and the accommodations were nice.
Here is the link of my parents’ exchange and a few pictures they include.
 
 
Summer 2015 we (both husbands and all 8 kids) plan on taking a 3 week European vacation. We have lined up one home exchange so far in Northern Italy.  Ideally we would love to find at least another exchange, but if that doesn’t happen we are grateful for saving on one week’s lodging.   It is a win-win situation.  The Italian family wants to spend a week in the Houstonarea around Christmas.  They have a spacious second home that can be exchanged during a different period of time.  The plan is that Christa’s family will stay at our place in December and then we will all have one week in Northern Italy. 
Here is Christa’s link:
Here is the link to the Northern Italy Exchange:
Still not convinced? Here are the pros and cons:
Pros:
  • save money on lodging
  • save money on food if you cook in your exchange house
  • saving money might allow you to travel outside your normal travel area
  • meet lots of new people, making new friends
  • save on car rental if car comes with exchange (your insurance will cover others driving your car)
  • you might visit somewhere you might never have thought of visiting
Cons:
  • you might not want to stay a full week in one place
  • the unknowing (especially the first exchange)
  • you might not like the house/area
  • you have to go back and fourth and agree on dates/places
  • the fee to list your house is about $100.00 per year
Tips:
  • Hide any valuables that you are not comfortable leaving out (that million dollar tennis bracelet). Common sense prevails on this one.  My parents never hide anything and they have never had problems.
  • Have a neighbor meet your guest the first day to go over any information and so they know at least one person in the area.
  • Consider offering a few houses for a better chance (my parents don’t mind us offering their Breaux Bridge house because it gets more offers than most)
  • Consider a weekend exchange to somewhere pretty close to your house.
  • Have an open mind!
 So, are you ready to go on a vacation!!!! If any of you have had positive home exchange experiences, we would love for you to leave feedback in our comment section below.  Happy exchanging!

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