Guest blog post by Home Base Holidays member and experienced home swapper, Tim Robbins.
We have enjoyed 30 plus home swaps. Barbados was hot, Reykjavic was not! But all of them have been great in their own way and our kids have seen as many continents as UK counties – we have been really spoiled by the wonderful world of home swapping. We have enjoyed sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in our host’s brother’s yacht; collecting warm eggs in Provence; the poshest spa you could ever hope to go to in Hong Kong; braais with neighbours in Cape Town and Spanish e pen friends to this day. I really could go on (Martinique was interesting ... ), but you get the idea. We love home swapping.
We first home swapped when the kids were quite little, but at their most expensive and did so – unashamedly – to save money. But we very quickly realised that we had actually chanced upon a concept that money can’t buy. We still – 12 years and five continents later – love saving the money (of course!) and we still love the what money can’t buy experiences.
However, I think that we can share a few - oh so very few – things that we are less fond of (but that can be easily fixed to make this fabulous home sharing thing even better!).
Not enough wardrobe and drawer space
A home swap is all about a home from home experience - I don’t keep my clothes in a suitcase on the floor of the bedroom at home, so wouldn’t expect to do so on holiday. We always clear a lot of wardrobe & drawer space and leave a lot of good quality hangers. Ask yourself how many clothes you are taking to their place and then you’ll have pretty good idea of how much space to leave for theirs. Of course chucking clothes on the floor really works for the kids – then they really are home from home.
Other people’s half empty stuff in bathrooms
You wouldn’t get that in a hotel, Airbnb or villa rental, so don’t want it in your home from home – too homely! We leave plenty of fresh towels, loo roll and an unopened hand soap in each bathroom, but that’s it. It doesn’t take a minute to sweep all your stuff into a box, leaving a clear counter or drawer for your guest’s stuff, to make them feel at home, but not like they are sharing it with you still there.
Arriving late – with kids – we’re starving!
More often than not we have arrived to a feast of food & drink, which is lovely. But sometimes we have arrived late – or even later as delayed – and the cupboard is bare. Consider who is coming, when they are arriving and what they might want to eat & drink.
Rubbish or non existent house and local area notes
You are getting a free holiday – and hopefully many more to come – so invest a bit of time & effort in some decent and detailed notes about how everything in your home works (where you can gently add any specific requests and house rules); how to get around by local public transport; where to shop and where to eat & drink. It might be that your swap partners have bought every single guide book, spent hours online and have worked it all out, complete with restaurant reservations. Or maybe they have no clue and would really appreciate a few pointers as to where to get some food late on a Sunday night. Either way, they will definitely appreciate some insider local knowledge – so share it. I reckon our home notes are pretty good – very happy to email them to you as an example. Also happy to hear any suggestions as to how to make them better and what more to include: This is a community – so let’s all work together as a community. We have really appreciated good notes and those insider, local tips. We always like to exchange these well in advance, to help with planning and booking up front.
Car swaps are great. We often leave our car at our departure airport and pick theirs up at our arrival airport, all for the cost of a few hours in the short stay car park – what’s not to like? Our insurance company is happy to cover most people but, understandably, want their names and a few details. We then get a temporary cover note, naming our swappers and specifying the cover dates. We email this to them well in advance and also leave a hard copy in the car. In the past we have been told that we are similarly covered by their insurance, when we were not. Just because you are driving their car with their permission certainly does not mean that you are definitely covered by their insurance and so driving legally. Don’t assume – check. If you crashed the car, there would there be an awkward conversation about cost. And there could also be an even more awkward conversation with local law enforcement officers, which would be slightly more immersed with the locals and their culture than you might have planned. Car swaps are great – but need to be properly organised and really clear both sides.
Meet the member:
Experienced home exchangers, Tim and Sarah, both work in the media and have two children. They're a local family; Wimbledon born and bred and can tell you about all the best places to see, go, shop and eat in not only Wimbledon, but throughout London.
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