A growing trend for thrifty travelers is to swap homes for a short period - a few days to even a month or so.
The whole jobs not as scary as you might first think. Once you have found a compatible partner you simply agree to swap houses and confirm with a simple agreement.
Most people who perform a home exchange say the experience is fantastic - you are swapping home for home, rather than just renting a hotel room or house. So generally you make a special effort to welcome your quests and they for you - even though you may never actually meet.
You can swap use of cars, sports equipment in fact anything useful - so this adds to the overall savings made. For a family swapping you can save thousands of dollars over a package vacation so you should give the idea some thought.
The biggest hurdle to get over is to do it for the first time. The idea has been around for over 50 years and several hundred thousand families swap annually so its a well proven method.
Recently over 1,000 experienced exchangers were interviewed by a US publishing firm, results show that over 90% exchange every year, one guy has exchanged his home 86 times, another does it 12 times a year on weekends.
Key recommendations to success are to be flexible over where and when you go and respect the property you stay in.
You do not need a super house to swap - since most people want a base to tour the country / city or area. As long as its clean and tidy and can house the number in the exchangers family it's fine. You can swap your " ordinary " 3 bed semi in London with a 4 bedroomed seafront home in Mexico for 2 weeks - the attraction to get to foreign countries on a budget is hard to resist.
The downside is how to find an exchange partner - the answer lies in putting an ad in home exchange magazines like Home Link or Intervac which are published worldwide and cost about $US 100 a year, you get a wide choice of some 12,000 offers in over 30 countries and some pretty great swaps are on offer.
A more recent idea is a listing on the Internet. By operating online a more comprehensive and timely list can be obtained at a lower cost than through traditional print methods.
Home swap is not for everyone, it can become quite an absorbing pastime, but you can get to know some interesting people in different parts of the world and get to stay in some beautiful homes all for free.
Maurice is founder of Holi-Swaps an Internet based service offering advice and information about home exchange. Holi-Swaps offers a free listing and information service and a low cost pay to view service where you buy the exchange listings and save to disk - all for about $3 US.
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