I recently came across an article, ‘Should You Swap Homes with Kids?’, and had a 'Freaky Friday' nightmare vision of kids living by themselves and swapping their homes with grown-ups! The author didn't mean this of course but did raise an important issue on whether it's fair to bring your children to someone else's home with the risk that they may cause damage. Her conclusion was that, provided your children are well behaved and have been taught to respect other people's belongings, there is no problem at all in swapping homes. This is certainly true once your children are past the toddler stage (and no problem when still immobile babies).
Watching my 15 month old grandson recently as he looked for a chance to have another go at stripping a patch of lose wallpaper he had discovered, it reminded me that, even though at this age he is getting used to hearing the word 'No' whenever he tests the boundaries or may be in danger, a curious toddler has a natural instinct to explore (ripping wallpaper makes a nice sound and it may be tasty too!). Parents try to stay one step ahead, making his home as safe as possible and limiting the chance of accidents.
For a relaxed home exchange with very young children, it helps to choose compatible exchange partners with child proof homes. Swapping homes with another young family is ideal as both homes will be safe and well equipped, enabling both families to travel lighter and for children to enjoy new toys, books and games. However, this doesn't mean that you can't consider an exchange to an adult only home (many older adults will be used to grandchildren visiting). Choose 'Show more options' and tick the 'children welcome' option when browsing home exchange offers to limit the results to such homes. Once narrowed in this way, have a good look at the descriptions and photos.
A couple's retirement home by the beach may seem ideal (and they have indicated that children are welcome) but does that white carpet and the cream sofas in the living room look a bit risky with your two year old at the early potty training stage? And the fragile looking ornaments and pot plants at toddler reach level? And consider the poor cat that's not used to having its tail grabbed! Will it be a safe place to stay with your toddler?
Agreeing on what to do about breakages or damage is an important part of all home exchange arrangements and, in this case, you would need to be prepared to pay for specialist carpet or upholstery cleaning in the unlikely event the worst happened, in a home not furnished with young children in mind.
Home exchange is an ideal way to travel with children. Having the space and convenience of a real home is surely better than being cooped up together in a hotel room or small rental apartment. You don't need to necessarily exchange only with other young families - just do your homework, making sure yours and your potential exchange partners' expectations are compatible, before agreeing to go ahead with an exchange. If in any doubt, stick to swaps with families with children similar ages to your own.