home 1What is a home exchange?

It is where you exchange houses with another person when you are traveling. (Have you seen that cute movie The Holiday where Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz switch houses?  If you haven’t seen the movie, watch it)

The-HolidayWhy would you do this?

You have more of a chance of immersing yourself in the local culture if you are living among the locals. Also, it saves you money!

This sounds weird to me and I don’t want strangers in my house.

If you are a “worst case scenario” type of person, the home exchange may not be for you. You have to be open minded about having a great travel experience!

What is the website?

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The website is homeexchange.com

How did you find out about home exchange?

My parents live on a bayou in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.  Can you believe that there are people from around the world who want to experience the “true Cajun culture” and want to stay at my parents house?

My parents have done several home exchanges.  All of the exchanges have been a great experience!  Some of the places they have exchanged include: Belgium, Scotland, Italy, France, California, and Florida.  The Scotland couple they exchanged with were Olympic Medalists!

Don’t you worry about people stealing all of your stuff and not taking care of your house?

No.  Everything is done through homeexchange.com.  You pay a yearly fee to be apart of this website (around $100.00 a year).  Once you agree to a home exchange, you fill out and sign a contract amongst the two parties giving the specifics.  You can also exchange cars if you want.  

There are ways to give feedback so if you have a bad exchange, you can give feedback explaining what happened.

Could someone steal all of your things?

Yes, but they would never be able to do an exchange again.  

Our story:

We decided to sign up for Homeexchange.com after my parents had done several exchanges.  One of the couples from France that they have exchanged with are now their friends.  They have traveled with them.  Dominic and Nadine (he is a Doctor and she is a Physical Therapist) even met up with us in Napa last summer when we were also there at the same time!  

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Where do want to go?

We wanted to take a family trip to Europe and weekend trips around Texas and Louisiana.

You live in a suburb outside of Houston.  Do people really want to go to a suburb?

We have actually had several offers for home exchanges from places from around the world (Ireland, France, New York, California, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, and Italy).  

There are lots of people who know about Texas and want to visit!

Two summers ago:

We were suppose to go to Europe two summers ago and got offered an exchange with a family in Italy who had a vacation home in the mountains in Northern Italy (the Dolomite Mountains).

3204_1 They were going to travel to Texas during Christmas time and we were going to stay at their vacation home during June.  A couple months before Christmas, the wife got a new job and they were not able to visit Texas.  They told us that we were still invited to stay at their vacation home in Italy.  We ended up not being able to go that summer so we all agreed that we would revisit the exchange in the future.  

Fast forward to now:

Corrin and I decided that we wanted to do a European trip this summer.  All twelve of us would go over and spend three weeks exploring different parts of Europe.  Paige is about to graduate from high school so we wanted to do it as our last family “hurrah!”  

Home exchange:

I put on our listing that we wanted to go to Europe for the Summer of 2016 and we were open to different places.  I contacted Emanuela (the couple where the exchange fell through) from Italy and asked her if they were interested in going to Texas this summer.  She was SUPER sweet and said that she insisted that we use their vacation home.  She just needed to know the dates and she would block them off for us.  I offered to pay her for the week but she refused.  She said that they would make it to Texas and stay in our place.  

Our offers:

We started to get a few offers from various places.  We received an email from a couple (Morten and Liv from Copenhagen).

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large-513zoquldThey couldn’t believe all of the similarities our families shared (the wife has a twin that lives above them and they have twin 5 year olds.  He asked us if we would like to come to Copenhagen!

We never even thought of going to Denmark but thought that it sounded super fun.  Their apartment is in the middle of town and the pictures looked amazing.

Corrin, Dave, Brad, and I talked about it and decided that Copenhagen sounded like so much fun!  Why not?  It is funny because after we accepted the exchange, we got another offer for a Copenhagen exchange.  Who knew that the Danish really do want to come to Texas!  We had to turn it down because we already accepted one.  We were super excited.

Planning:

We knew we wanted to go to Europe for three weeks because plane tickets are crazy expensive.  We had two home exchanges secured and would just do VRBO for the rest of the time.

Our trip:

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We are flying into Copenhagen in June.

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 We will stay at Morten and Liv’s apartment for five nights.  We will then fly into Milan and rent a car.  We will drive to Emanuel’s vacation home in the Dolomite mountains for five nights.  We will then drive to Venice for a night and spend the night in a hotel (we thought the kids needed to see Venice).  Next, we are taking a train to the Italian Riviera (the Cinque de Terre) for five nights where we rented two Villas through VRBO.

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 Finally, we will take a train to Rome where we have rented an apartment (through VRBO) for three nights.  We will fly out of Rome and back to Houston.  

Our Copenhagen Exchange Part 1:

Morten and Liv from Copenhagen have three kids (twin girl and boy that are five) and a six month old baby girl.  Because Liv is on maternity leave, they decided to take four months and visit the US and Canada.  They were going to secure as many home exchanges as possible and then do VRBO or Airbnb for the rest of the trip.  They ended up securing eleven home exchanges for the duration of their trip.

Our exchange:

Morten and Liv would be staying at our house for a week in April

Getting ready:

Morten sent me a very detailed house guide to his house.  It took me a while to create a house guide for our house (think logistics….everything that they would need to know…from the trash to how to work the TV’s and pool)

Because I have a Silhouette machine, I made fun presents for the kids.  

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Morten, Liv, and kids arrive!

Morten and Liv arrived on a Sunday evening.  They were excited to get to our house (from New Orleans) and texted us pictures of the kids playing with toys in the house.  

Brad, the kids, and I were all staying at Corrin’s and Dave’s because they live a mile from our house and had the room.  Morten and Liv were going to drive my car (we verified everything through insurance) so Corrin would be my driver for the week.

Sunday around 3 AM, we received several alerts on our phone warning us of tornados in the area.  This along with crazy amounts of thunder, lightning, and rain.

Corrin and I gathered the kids and got in a closet.  Brad and Dave refused to get up and decided that they were going to risk it. All I could think of were our Danish guest who came to Houston at the WRONG time.

At 5 AM we received calls that all the schools were closed because of flooding.

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Around 9 AM, I texted our Danish guests and told them that I was SO SORRY that they had to experience this.  We received seventeen inches of rain within a few hours.  We live in Cypress, which is a suburb of Houston.  Our area was one of the worst hit.  

I told Morten that he probably wouldn’t be able to leave the neighborhood on Monday.  

They didn’t leave the neighborhood on Tuesday either.  

Our neighborhood wasn’t flooded but the neighborhoods and streets around us were.  Our school district cancelled school for the rest of the week.  Our neighbors began having fun get togethers.

On Wednesday, Liv and Morten made it to Nasa near Galveston. They really enjoyed it and then headed back to Corrin’s house for a bbq.  Our friends in the neighborhood, Alan and Joanne, have a boat and volunteered to take our guests on a boat ride in our neighborhood.  Because of the floods, the lake was closed so the boat ride was not possible.  Alan and Joanne still joined us for the Texas BBQ.  Of course it wouldn’t be a Skelly Story without more drama.  The plan was to smoke two briskets.  We put the briskets in the smoker at 4:00 AM.  At 6:00 AM, Dave checked the meat and realized that the smoker was dead, and so was the two huge briskets.  Corrin ran to the store and we decide that we were going to do pulled pork.  

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The BBQ was fun and Morten, Liv, and their darling children were wonderful.  They were super sweet and very fun to talk to.  

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On Thursday, Morten and the kids biked to Corrins to collect the items that were left for the BBQ.  We invited Liv to come to our neighborhood women’s night out party where we would have a make-up artist show us how to put makeup on.  Liv ended up joining us and getting the true “Texas” experience when she had big fake eyelashes glued on (Texas: Go Big or Go Home)….big hair, makeup, etc…everything is bigger in Texas.

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They ended up staying near the house for the remainder of their stay.

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On Saturday, Dave brought them to the airport where they were flying to San Francisco.

Our experience:

They left  our house in immaculate condition.  Liv and Morten were perfect house guests.  Our neighbors enjoyed talking to them! We had a great time meeting them and our experience was wonderful!

We are super excited about staying at their apartment in June.  Liv’s twin sister will be there to answer any questions we have.  

My question for you is this:  Who is ready to sign up for Homeexchange.com!

If you would like to check out Liv and Morten’s blog that they are writing throughout their trip, check out this link! You can google translate the text!

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