Our interest in travelling to see the world is at an all-time high, however often what holds us back is the cost. Undoubtedly travelling is expensive – but wouldn’t it be great if you could somehow significantly reduce what you pay for possibly the biggest portion of your vacation budget… the accommodation! The good news is you can through home exchanging! The concept is not new and is often described as ‘vacation rentals’ and can be in the form of an apartment, condominium, single detached house, houseboat, villa and chateau!
Home exchanging occurs when:
1. Two travellers make arrangements to stay in each other’s homes. In this scenario, the travellers are trading spaces with each other.
2. Alternatively, and more commonly, home exchanging occurs when multiple travellers are involved… whereby traveller A stays in traveller B’s home, while traveller B stays in traveller C’s home and so on creating a web of connections.
For both parties, it’s a win-win situation. Instead of paying a hotel or inn the nightly room rate, travellers pay each other!
Originally, home exchanging attracted travellers that required several weeks’ accommodation for their vacation. As home exchanging is now so flexible, hosts are welcoming guests for stays from 1 or 2 nights to several weeks.
The benefits of staying in a vacation rental are numerous. It gives you:
- Practical amenities such as a kitchen to prepare meals and in-home laundry facilities.
- More space for you and your travel group. There are separate rooms for living, dining and sleeping, including multiple bedrooms. In addition, there’s usually more than one bathroom!
- The opportunity to live like a local and immerse yourself in a different culture and lifestyle.
- The opportunity to experience a different environment. With home exchanging, you can experience living in a chateau in France once occupied by a Marquis, a cottage in the Cotswold Region of England, a villa in Tuscany or a houseboat off a Caribbean Island, a renovated lighthouse located along the USA’s east coast, a vintage sausage-shaped silver aluminum Airstream trailer, a restored windmill on the Cycladic Islands of Greece or have a true nomadic adventure with a stay in a yurt!
The #1 benefit however of home exchanging is… saving you money! Typically the price of your accommodation can represent the largest part of your travel budget. With home exchanging, the cost of your accommodation is ‘paid’ by the person who is staying in your home. Depending on the type and size of the home you book for your vacation and the type and size of your home that you are renting out to a guest, the cost of your accommodation can either be eliminated or significantly reduced.
To illustrate this, let’s look at an example of you staying in a one bedroom apartment in Barcelona for $150/night and for the identical time, another traveller stays in your home for $180/night.
You pay your host $150/night
Your guest pays you $180/night
… The cost of your accommodation = $0
Your profit: $30/night that can be applied to another part of your vacation cost such as meals or transit.
Of course, there are numerous vacation rentals available that are highly luxurious and therefore expensive… just as there are luxurious and expensive hotel suites. But when you compare an average vacation rental’s nightly room rate to that of a similar hotel’s room rate, a vacation rental is more economical. And that’s not all… it offers more space, privacy and practical amenities that are not available in a standard hotel room.
Most importantly, it offers you a kitchen to prepare your meals. True – maybe you won’t want to cook dinners every night while on vacation… but you will be able to make breakfasts and prepare lunches to take with you during a day of sight-seeing. Plus, when the pangs of hunger strike you late in the evening or night, all you need to do is head to the kitchen for a midnight snack! You don’t have to rely on vending machine fare or pay outrageous prices for something from the hotel’s in-room mini-bar!
Home exchanging can be for everyone and maybe now you want to give it a try… but you just have a few nagging concerns that are holding you back. Below are the top 3 misconceptions regarding home exchanging. Read on and you may find yourself planning a trip just to give home exchanging a try!
Myth #1 – You Need a Home to ‘Exchange’ to Get Involved
One obstacle holding some people back from getting involved with home exchanging is that they do not have a home to ‘exchange’ or to ‘rent out’ to a traveller. Some are currently renting their home and their landlord does not allow for subletting. Or for condominium owners, the condo rules may prohibit the short term renting of a unit. Or the scenario may exist where your home will not be vacant while you are away as you live with your parents or have children still living under your roof, and as such, you are not able to take in guests.
These above scenarios are very common and should not prevent you from getting involved. Home exchanging has evolved over the years to be very flexible. You can be a guest without being a host and similarly, you can be a host without being a guest… the ‘exchange’ can be customized to suit your requirements.
Although it is advantageous for you to be both a host and guest, there are many benefits that you will experience by being either.
Myth #2 – Home Exchanging is Only for Vacationers
Thanks to the internet, home exchanging has entered the mainstream and is no longer used by vacationing couples and families who ‘traded places’, making arrangements to stay in each other’s homes. With the coordination that was required for the trades, home exchanging was not considered a viable accommodation option for non-pleasure trips. However today, exchanging has become more attractive for people travelling on business, temporary work assignments or sabbaticals. Home exchanging is also popular among solo travellers, couples, people travelling in groups and families including children and elderly relatives.
The option to rent a full house or an entire apartment through home exchanging is appealing for the extra space it can provide. A hotel room offers just one room that functions as your bedroom, living and often times dining space. In comparison, the space in a vacation rental provides you with separate rooms for living, dining and sleeping, including multiple bedrooms. In addition, there’s usually more than one bathroom!
The large space is especially attractive for business travellers who need an accommodation for an extended period. A home provides a fixed base, including internet access, a mailbox, telephone line and fax machine. This convenience is priceless for the business traveller as they no longer need to rely on and pay a hotel’s front desk staff for such services. The vacation rental also offers the possibility for the business travellers’ family to join them as it provides more space to accommodate a family than a typical hotel room.
Myth #3 – If Something Goes Wrong During My Stay, I Have No One to Call
People who traditionally stay in hotels often fear that when an issue arises in a vacation rental they will be ‘on their own’ to deal with it. Their concern is that they wouldn’t have anyone to call if an appliance or machine doesn’t work or if an emergency occurs.
In a typical hotel, if there is a problem, you can call the front desk to advise them of the situation. However, in reality, how often has an issue brought to the attention of the hotel’s front desk staff ever been resolved quickly to your satisfaction? We have all read hotel reviews where thermostats didn’t work or the air conditioner being so old that it took an entire day to cool the room. It is common to hear hotel guests’ accounts of calling the front desk to complain of a situation and receive a nonchalant response and the promise that the matter would be looked into in the morning – only to find that it was not resolved at all to one’s liking.
With home exchanging, the host has a vested interest to ensure that your stay in their home is near perfect. Once you check-in, the host will provide you with an emergency contact number. Their response will likely be more prompt and your concern more readily addressed, in comparison to that of a hotel’s front desk staff. Plus, as it is their home, one could assume that everything is in working order as they use the various appliances and machines on a daily basis.
In addition, many vacation rentals are now managed by professional full service property managers who are hired by homeowners to offer immediate response to any guest inquiries or issues throughout their stay. They’re only a phone call away!
Home exchanging can be for everyone! I hope I have clarified any misconceptions and provided you with the information you need to help you get involved and start enjoying all the benefits that await you with home exchanging!
Sandra Pearson is an enthusiastic and passionate traveller from Toronto, Canada. She has travelled extensively throughout the world and ardently promotes vacations that give us the opportunity to expand our minds by experiencing new and different cultures, foods and lifestyles, all the while making us more well-rounded. She is the author of ‘Home Exchanging: Your Guide to Enjoying Free Vacation Accommodations‘ and you can visit her website for more Home Exchange information.