Travel, something I love to do and want to do more of. With toddlers in tow one suggestion I want to share if you’d like hassle free holidays is to consider house swaps. We’ve been enjoying these for over 10 years and I can’t recommend them enough. Whenever I mention to friends that we house swap I often get a similar reaction ‘Oh I don’t know if I could have strangers in my house’…. ‘Aren’t you worried they’ll be going through your underwear drawer?’, as well as lots of genuine curiosity with people interested to know how it works, why we do it and what our experience has been exchanging our house with total strangers. Personally we can’t recommend it enough, we get to stay in real homes, which have all mod cons, comfy sofas and space – far more than we’d ever have in a hotel. Since we’ve become parents’ home swapping has become even more appealing, allowing us to swap with other parents who’ll have a supply of toys, much to the delight of our children and save us having to transport lots of child friendly items on holiday with us.
My husband and I had our first house exchange back in 2007, for me this still stands out as one of the best holidays I’ve ever had and we still recall the trip we made to California together as the most amazing experience. Arriving in Belmont Shore, about 45 minutes from L.A we were delighted that our two bed home was a 5 minute cycle ride from the huge beach. We spent two weeks cycling around our neighbourhood, dined in local eateries, hired a car and drove down the Pacific Coast Highway (stopping off at Laguna Beach) and sunbathed in our home swaps back yard – all for the cost of our flights – which was around £700 each.
Since that first home swap we’ve enjoyed weekends away in the UK, visiting Middleton-on-Sea (with a house directly on the beach), Brighton and Central London. Further afield we’ve stayed in Central Paris, New York and spent a fortnight in Florida – again for only the cost of our flights and transfers. We are members of homelink and pay just over £100 a year for membership. This provides us with access to a directory of homes worldwide where we can connect with people looking to swap to our area. Think no one would want to come and stay in your neighbourhood? You’ll be surprised.
Whilst our primary motivation for home swapping when we first experienced it 10 years ago was cost, now we find that the experience is far more enjoyable as typically we are swapping and live in the heart of a community, we visit restaurants and places of interest recommended to us by the home owners (both sides leave a file with details about the house / local area as part of the swap) so step off the typical tourist trail.
In the ten years we’ve been doing it we’ve had one breakage at our house – a soap dish, and we’ve broken one item, a plate. Easy accidents but we both left each other money to cover this, although good practice when house swapping is that you inform your insurance company of what you are doing. Personally, I prefer to have the house occupied whilst we are away than worry about my home being vulnerable and empty for two weeks, which is what would happen if we were on a normal package holiday.
It’s saved us thousands and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Plus it’s a great incentive for getting all those niggly DIY jobs done knowing someone is coming to your house. Oh and I’ve never felt the need to look in a strangers underwear drawer – and I can’t imagine anyone would want to look at my grey faded smalls either!
We’re taking a break from home swaps whilst the renovation work gets underway on Little Ravenswell but as soon as it’s done we’ve got plans, Iceland, Norway, California, Italy and Canada are all on our home swapping bucket list!