Take a Free Family Vacation with a Home Exchange

Life Balance

Nora and Tim help you find balance when dealing with a stressful debt situation. Learn how to manage stress and enjoy travel without breaking the bank.

Take a Free Family Vacation with a Home Exchange

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A house swap or home exchange can be an incredibly enriching vacation experience for you and your family. And guess what? It won't break the bank, either.  

The Basics

Instead of staying in a hotel the next time you take a vacation, why not enjoy the comforts of "home" by staying in somebody else's home? And in the meantime, that somebody else whose home you're staying in can enjoy the comforts of your own home.  

The term "home exchange" leaves little to the imagination: it's about exchanging homes with another person or family, somewhere else in the world. You both enjoy free accommodations and sometimes the use of one another's vehicles, as well.  

You can set the terms of the home exchange, from length of stay, to who pays for what (e.g., telephone bills, utilities, etc.), to requested chores (like watering the plants or even caring for a pet).  

Benefits of Home Exchanges

Although the home you stay in may not be right on the tourist trail, many people see this as a benefit; you get to live in a local community and sample local living. You can shop at the neighborhood grocery store, and cook meals in your home-away-from-home. You'll have more space than a hotel could possibly offer, and oftentimes you can save the cost of renting a car by exchanging cars too.  

There are also benefits to having somebody stay in your home while you are away; you have the security of knowing your place is not empty, and it is being maintained. Some people pay big bucks to have somebody house-sit for them - but, it's just an added perk to home exchanging.  

Precautions

A common - and legitimate - concern of prospective home-exchangers is that of security. If you're the sort of person apt to wake up in a cold sweat wondering who is sleeping in your bed, you may not be a good candidate for home exchanges. It involves an inherent level of trust to open your home up to other people.  

But then again, they're opening their home up to you as well, so the trust factor goes two ways. It is always recommended that you take the time to get to know the people with whom you exchange homes, and many home exchange sites have measures in place to enhance the security factor.  

Tips for a Happy Home Exchange

  • Set up a detailed profile, with pictures and lots of information about your home.
  • Communicate extensively with your home exchange partner, so everybody knows exactly what to expect.
  • Label anything in your home that you don't want used.
  • Put your valuables away (out of sight, out of mind).
  • Leave a detailed note for your home exchanger with instructions (i.e., how to operate the thermostat), directions to local amenities, suggestions for things to do and see, and emergency numbers. It's a really nice added touch to leave a welcome gift, as well (like a bottle of champagne).
  • Leave contact information for a friend or family member in the area who can assist if need be.
  • If you exchange cars, make sure your auto insurance policy allows for occasional drivers.  

Home Exchange Sites

Here (in no particular order) are some home exchange sites and costs to join them, with various terms and coverage levels. Some will allow you to browse listings before joining.  

Home Exchange

Coverage in 130 countries

$10/month for annual membership, or 3 months for $16/month 

Exchange Homes

Since 1986; has coverage in 60 countries

$39 for 2 years, lifetime is $95 

International Home Exchange Network

Since 1995, offering home exchanges and vacation rentals

$40/year 

International Vacation Home Exchange

Coverage in over 50 countries

For non-simultaneous home exchanges using vacation properties

$150-$375 per year, but after a year if they don't place you, you get the 2nd year free

InterVac

Since 1953, coverage in most countries

$99/year, with discounts for 2 and 3 year memberships 

Invented City

Since 1991, has coverage in 40 countries

$60 for 1 year, $75 for 2 years, $90 for 3 years 

Home Link

Since 1953, coverage in 72 countries

$115 for 1 year, $183 for 2 years 

Home Base Holidays

Since 1985, and also offers hospitality exchange, house-sitting, B&B listings, etc.

₤29 for 1 year, ₤39 for 2 years 

Global Home Exchange

Since 1998, and they also have partners with vacation home networks

Membership is $15-$99/year, depending on options chosen 

Casa Swap

Geared towards students and "young people" to rent, sublet, and swap their homes

Find place to stay, get a roommate, or exchange your room

Free to join 

Green-Theme International Home Exchange

For sustainable or "green" themed homes; includes hospitality exchanges and home-sitting options

$35/year 

Jewett Street

Boutique coverage

$40/year 

Seniors Home Exchange

Exclusively for those over 50

$79 for 3 years, lifetime membership is $100

Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under Life Balance. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions while constantly balancing life and her location independent work on the road. As a former Certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated CareOne Blogger.

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  • I have found a gr8 Vacation Exchange Network site for home exchange.they offering both mutual and non-mutual home swaps. No need to find someone to use your vacation home.

  • @Jill - What's the website?

  • By having a working holiday, you can earn money as you go to cover your expenses, and in some cases you can even return home with some extra money in your pocket.

  • We obviously don't want to deprive ourselves of a cultural or otherwise special experience abroad, but we also don't want to return home with the worst souvenir of all: debt we can't afford.

  • Accommodation is a big vacation expense; sometimes a preventative altogether. But if you could get free accommodation, would you reconsider going away? Good news: there are lots of ways to get free accommodation on your next vacation! Here are some ideas

  • A few years ago in the month of May, I took the train across Canada. This is a world-renowned train trip, snaking through mountain corridors, across endless prairies, and around massive lakes. And I did it for almost half of what it would have cost to

  • But now that I am working fulltime, I absolutely love it because during those 18 months I was home retired, I actually got bored. My mind just wasn't being stimulated and I sure missed my "own money" to spend on those non-essential items that women love

  • Happy Friday my frugal friends!! The new school year will be starting soon and you know what that means... tax free weekends!

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