Why I love home exchanging

I get a lot of questions about home exchange travel. Somehow, I feel proud when my friends think I’m retired when I work full time. I get to travel, live like a local, meet awesome people, and enjoy the comforts of home with very little expense. It’s called home exchanging.

In 2009, my mom and I were 2 of 8 passengers on an inside passage cruise in Alaska, a real splurge. While we enjoyed the privilege of a small Alaska cruise, we wanted more affordable and meaningful travel options.

With 7 nights on board the MV Discovery, we got to know our fellow passengers quite well. We met Dick and Julie, a lovely couple from Seattle. Julie mentioned “while we are here in Alaska, a couple from France is staying in our home in Seattle.” I thought “what?” and immediately begged for more information.

The “I want to try house swapping” idea took root and the home exchange journey began. Our first exchange in 2010 was informal. We agreed with Julie and Dick in Seattle to do the “same two weeks next year” and off we went to Seattle. Our simultaneous reciprocal exchange was successful for all of us.

I’ve since completed more than 41 exchanges: simultaneous, non-simultaneous, reciprocal, and non-reciprocal. I have traveled to and hosted visitors from many US states including Washington, Maine, Montana, Connecticut, NYC, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. We’ve exchanged with families and now have new friends in the Netherlands, Italy, Paris, and Denmark. We have also enjoyed hosting non-reciprocal guests from Poland and Iceland.

During the corona virus pandemic, my mom and I explored close-to-home Florida destinations with more than a dozen in-state exchanges. We have enjoyed driving distance exchanges so much we are always on the lookout. Tempt us!

I actively participate in two home exchange communities: People Like Us and Home Exchange. Both platforms have active social channels if you want to tune in.

People Like Us

The People Like Us (PLU) exchange platform launched in 2018. One of our fellow exchangers on the other platform looped us in since they knew we would embrace the friendly PLU community. I agree. People Like Us is the world’s friendliest community of home swappers. My PLU listing has privacy settings that enable anyone to view most of the details. You can configure the privacy of your listing however it makes sense to you.

Home Exchange

Started in the early 1990s, HomeExchange.com was the first organized home swap service online. You may have seen the home exchange between Kate Winslet (UK snowy cottage) and Cameron Diaz (swanky LA pool home) featured in the 2006 romcom film  “The Holiday.”

Although the platform community vibe changed after HomeExchange.com merged with GuesttoGuest, I still retain my HomeExchange.com membership ($150/year in 2022) for a variety of reasons. The primary benefit is the flexibility to spend the guest points I have accumulated and to receive guest points when my home would otherwise be vacant. I especially like the option to spend guest points to book a home when the owner doesn’t want to travel to Florida. About 20 percent of my exchanges are with Guest Points. I can limit my search for only verified members, second homes, and members with high response rates. Use the site filters in a way that works for you.

I list the home and the studio apartment for one membership fee.

  • Home listing at Tropical Oasis waterfront pool home near beach
  • Studio apartment listing, our mother-in-law suite that is available even when we’re at home. My brother has been living in the studio apartment during the pandemic, so I’ve deactivated this listing for now.

You might need to create an account to view the Home Exchange listings.

Resources for the home exchange curious

I enjoyed reading this guide to house swapping that concludes trust and communication are what set home exchanging apart from AirBnB rentals.

Accommodation can often be the most expensive part of a holiday, so savvy travellers are always on the hunt for cost-effective solutions. 

Lonely Planet Guide to House Swapping

Other home exchange enthusiasts blog about their experiences:

Positive journeys

I’ve consistently enjoyed positive experiences with our home exchanges. I learn about life in other places. Some of my favorite travel adventures happened when I was a guest in someone else’s home. I have learned to:

  • Drink coffee from the wall (Denmark, ask me about this)
  • Overcome a shorted circuit breaker in a 5th floor apartment in Milan (we needed a secret key to access a secret basement to flip the breaker)
  • Operate appliances in other languages
  • Do laundry in vastly difference machines
  • Shop for food in ways I never imagined
  • Cook meals in different kitchens that inspire me still
  • Sleep in different beds (who knew there were so many differences?)
  • Find horses in our back yard (I asked my mom “what do I do?” and she said “grab your camera”)

Why I keep exchanging

Accommodation can be the most expensive part of travel. I go more often for longer. Several friends have also joined. One family takes their 3 children and their adult friend… I just checked their home listing and discovered that they have completed more than 39 exchanges in 10 years. For many of us, travel is simplified when we exchange with other families whose exchange homes include all the kitchen supplies, beach chairs, coolers, toys, seasonal amenities, bikes, and gadgets.

Someone else’s head in your bed

Home exchange is not for everyone. My husband likes to stay home while I travel with my mom or friends. A good litmus test: are you comfortable with someone else’s head in your bed? If not, move along. If yes, then remain curious. Home exchanging might be a good fit if you believe in sharing, trust, generosity, respect, communication, equality, cooperation, honesty, hospitality, friendship, flexibility, and adventure.

Questions? Please ask.

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