“Airbnb recently announced that they have more rooms than Hilton - but should you stay in one, as opposed to a home swap?
The short-term rental market - mainly driven by Airbnb - is booming, meaning more choice, which can only be a good thing. Having home swapped for a decade now, in five continents and having also hosted and rented with Airbnb, I conclude better a home swap every time.
Airbnb is great for city central and also quirky places, with houseboats in Amsterdam & converted Weslyan chapels in Norfolk. But your trip will be a straight commercial transaction, as opposed to the trust-based exchange that is home swapping: Not that that is a bad thing of course, but you will get a richer experience in someone's home and as part of someone's community, as opposed to the spacious hotel rooms that most Airbnb listings are. Don't get me wrong - we have met some lovely hosts and there are some great places out there, with a massive choice across 191 countries at last count, but we don't think you can beat a home-from-home and the chance to genuinely live like a local.
In Cape Town, Zach had forgotten the next in the series of books he was then addicted to - no problem, there was one on the shelf of Jamie's room, in which he was right at home. In San Francisco, our host's brother appeared and said that Don had forgotten to mention that they had a family yacht and would we like it if they took us out sailing? So we thought about that offer for a nano-second and, the next day, were sailing under the Golden Gate bridge before a barbeque back at their house with the neighbours. Kids want a dog and keep pestering? Don't worry, they will soon get bored walking your exchange partner's pooch and so you can get out of their system in to the bargain. Like fresh eggs, but live in the city? Swap lifestyles for a week and collect fresher eggs than you have ever thought possible from your swap partners’ hens every morning for breakfast (and they don't need walking). Then there are the right number of right size bikes, WiFi that actually works, store cupboards to borrow from and a whole world of obliging neighbours.
We love being able to plan so far in advance, so you can get the best deals on flights and even those elusive Avios seats. We love getting two weeks in the short term car park at Gatwick for the cost of a few hours parking, by leaving the car there for your partners to pick up when they arrive on the flight that you are leaving on. We love getting in to their car and hitting ‘Home’ on the sat nav. And it's always great fun to try to swap them and even meet them at the airport. And we really love it when they want to come back - Zach hopes Jamie still shares his tastes in reading and Saskia can't wait to hit Sadie's trampoline again, as we are back to Cape Town again next year. And yes, since you ask, agreed early enough for Avios!
Of course you could list your place on Airbnb and get lucky with a rental request far in advance, for exactly the two weeks that you want with guests that you are 100% comfortable with: Then you have a whole world of choice to rent a place for your holiday - those 191 countries - and you could even turn a profit. But how likely is that and would it be the same as staying in someone's home? I think you already know the answer!” – Tim Robbins, London
Tim Robbins is a long-time home swapper and Home Base Holidays member. The family’s contemporary townhouse (photo above) is arranged over four floors and is right next door to The All England Lawn Tennis Club (not available for home exchange during the Wimbledon Championships when their home is rented to players). The family are open to home exchange offers at Easter, for two weeks in both July/August and October, plus always happy to talk about UK weekend home exchanges too.