Swap a Vacation

by Maurice S Clarke

Ever thought of trading your home with another family for a few weeks? Well, the idea appeals to hundreds of thousands of families world-wide offering them a chance to not only make new contacts and friends in countries of interest, but substantially reduce the cost of a vacation break.

The idea is not new, it's been around for over 40 years, and is simple - just go and live in someone else's home while they live in yours.

Traditionally swap offers are listed in a published directory on offer by several agencies in countries world-wide. Trades are classified usually by codes denoting type and content of accommodation, the bigger services offering as many as 10,000 swaps world-wide. Membership costs vary from $100 US or so to around $300.

Some services will even manage and co-ordinate the exchange, but usually these are for top range properties where money saving aspects are less critical than the more usual self organised trade.

In more recent times swap programs have come to the Internet which offers a more instant update of new offers as they register, tourist info and contact via e-mail which is both faster and cheaper than regular mail or telephone.

The better services provide Members the opportunity for "free expression" when listing their offers, rather than being put "in boxes". The opportunity for potential swap partners to access local travel information about cities, states and countries often exists off Member's listings.

Listing costs are lower around $60 US for a years listing, and as more and more countries and users connect to the Internet rapid growth seems assured for these services.

E-Mail newsletters, discussion groups, downloadable FAQ's and tutorials complement a wide range of Internet/PC facilities available freely for subscribers to Home Exchange services although facilities can vary between different operators.

Home swapping need some careful thinking through first and most swap agencies offer good advice from the experience of Members. Many people think their own home is not good enough to trade when they see the quality of many properties on offer. In truth most people want a good base that's clean and tidy and holds the family numbers in reasonable comfort. They can then explore the country or area of their choice from a reliable base which they have got to know about before arriving by preliminary contact with their exchange partner.

The first trade is perhaps the worst as you go through plenty of "what if" queries such as "will my swap partner trash my home?". In truth your potential trading partner is possibly going through the same trauma, if like you they are first timers.

If possible swap with someone who has done it before if it's your first time and ask for a reference to their previous trade partner this will do a lot to remove your worry.

Standards of tidiness are wide and can annoy some people. It's as well to get most things out in the open before agreeing a trade, and, if you are unsure about any aspect of an agreement ABORT. Some reservations are naturally and home swapping does not suit everyone especially born worriers.

It's vital to swap e-mails or normal snail mail letters setting out the terms of the trade and allow a few months to organise. Last minute rushed deals can be tricky. It's useful to have a guest book full of useful info about the home and the area to help visitors. Make sure there is a friend or relative on hand to check up, deal with any problems or queries and ideally be there on arrival.

Once bitten by the bug many people trade every year, and some have made over 50 swaps over many years. The record is 80+ by a USA couple now aged well over 70. Although the majority trade once a year it is possible to fit in 2 or 3 trades in a typical year. Even local, in-country swaps are practical for those not keen on wider travel.

Research shows that people wanting swaps outnumber by 10:1 those offering swaps, so it seems vital to offer yourself as a trade to ensure you get offered an exchange in reasonable time. Trying to find the "perfect match" may reduce the chance of a swap, so being flexible on areas, dates and accommodation will increase the chances of not finding an "ideal trade" but a good, successful trade which is all most people want.

Home swapping appeals to all types from the retired through to business and professional people. In the main husband/wife or partner and children comprise the typical swap family, fewer single people trade, although there is notable increase.

A big growing trend is 2nd Vacation home ownership - this provides some 20 percent of trades for what is often unused time periods in a vacation home. This offers a better flexibility in time slots as each swap need not be at the same time.

If you want to save a few hundred if not thousands of dollars on a Vacation break take a serious look at vacation home exchanging as a useful alternative to traditional hotel or rental breaks.

Maurice S Clarke is the CEO of StaySwaps.Com where you can enjoy free accommodation around the world for pleasure or business : Bed & Breakfast Stays : Time Shares : Home Swaps : Hotel Rooms : Rental Property.

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