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.
Best location: Julia and David's home is in central London's Marylebone
"We had such a wonderful home exchange in Julia and David's central London apartment. We absolutely loved the flat and the location, it really was the best location ever - smack bang in Marylebone ...it really would be hard to find a better place to stay!
Julia was in touch throughout and gave tons of local tips and great advice. Her flat was immaculate and so was ours when she and her hubby left it.
Our neighbours fell in love with them, as did our cats, who were very well cared for.
Staying in such a lovely central London location for free meant that we had lots of spare money to spend on restaurants, river boat trips, etc - and we made full use of this!
We are very lucky people to have had this opportunity. Thank you so much to Julia and David for a wonderful swap in London!"
Our home swap partners, Julie and David, were extremely lovely
Unbeatable location and such a stylish clean, quiet and comfortable apartment
London ...of course!
Meet the members:
Diana & Alexander:
We are a tech teacher and mental health counsellor from Scotland. Our kids are all grown up and we are ready to explore the world. We are open to suggestions and can be spontaneous but will aim towards travelling during the Scottish school holidays. We have two lovely cats.
We are a British (English & Scottish) married couple. For UK and European city short trips/weekends we often travel as a couple although it would be ideal if we could arrange an occasional swap that accommodated the in-laws and both kids, particularly to Sydney where we have family.
With the UK starting to ease lockdown restrictions, many of us are now looking ahead to a (much needed!) summer holiday. Home swapping is a great way to enjoy a fabulous holiday this summer but at a fraction of the cost. Through Home Base Holidays you'll find many tempting home swap offers including country cottages, city apartments and homes by the coast. Shown below are a few tips to help you find and prepare for a summer swap.
Sign up to Home Base Holidays so that you can add your home swap offer and then start contacting other members to discuss a swap. You'll include details about your home, location and when and where you are looking travel.
Home Base Holidays has a two-week free trial to get you started. A full six month membership costs only £29 and there are no additional fees to pay. Sign up for free and start planning a summer swap!
2. Be proactive: start contacting members to discuss a summer swap
The most successful home swappers are usually the most proactive. So, once you've added your home swap offer, don't just sit back and wait to be contacted; search home swap offers and spend some time sending out enquiry messages to members whose homes/locations look of interest.
Note: it's important to reply to all enquiry messages you receive even if just to say "Thank you, but the offer is not what I am looking for".
3. Communications is key: discuss all details of the proposed swap
Communication really is key to successful home swapping and so be sure to discuss all details of the proposed home swap with the other member and don't be afraid to ask any questions that come to mind no matter how minor they seem. Thankfully, problems during a swap are extremely rare and the majority of issues reported tend to be things that could have been easily avoided with better communication (e.g. difference in house keeping styles, pet allergies, etc). Even once your swap has been agreed, stay in contact with your swap partner regularly in the lead up to your travel dates.
Schedule a phone / Skype call with the member you're planning a swap with - this can provide reassurance and give you a further chance to discuss details of the proposed swap.
4. Insurance: contact your home insurance provider
Before agreeing a home swap, contact your home insurance company to confirm that your home is covered during the period of the home exchange. Most insurance companies will agree that your home is more secure occupied than if left empty as with most traditional holidays. However, do contact us if you have any difficulties agreeing cover for the period of your home swap.
Car swap? If you have also agreed to exchange cars it is essential to contact your car insurance company to ensure that your exchange guests will be covered on your insurance.
5. Preparing your home: clean and declutter
Home Base Holidays members understand that they are staying in a real home and not a show house but do make time to thoroughly clean and declutter your home prior to your guests' arrival so that your home is nice and welcoming. Ensure that your guests have enough sets of clean towels and sheets for their stay (prior to the swap, discuss and agree what to do with dirty towels and bedding). Clear some space in the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen so that your guests can unpack their luggage and have space to put away food during their stay.
6. Welcome pack: put together a folder of useful information
Most Home Base Holidays members create a welcome pack for their guests' arrival. Include in your welcome pack information about local attractions and recommended restaurants, nearby transport, useful information about your home (e.g. how to turn on/off the alarm, etc), useful phone numbers (e.g. taxi firms) and emergency contact details (e.g. a friend/neighbour's number, an emergency plumber, etc).
This photo shows the Welcome pack and tourist information available to guests staying in Mario and Lorraine's home in Malta (member HE33093).
Lake District home swap: beautiful Lake Windermere
"We had a wonderful week long home exchange staycation in Windermere in the Lake District. Fiona and Dave’s place is immaculate, centrally located in the village of Windermere.
There was loads of information in the house, with helpful recommendations from Fiona and Dave. They live nearby so we met them a couple of times and they were really helpful advising us what to do and see in the area - there was a lot to choose from.
We enjoyed some lovely, not too strenuous walks on the ridge above Troutbeck, up to Alcock Tarn near Grasmere and from the house up to Orrest viewpoint. We only used the car one day, as we enjoyed getting to places via the ferries on the lake and the open-top buses.
In the village there are plenty of shops including a supermarket just two minutes from the house and lots of independent shops including craft shops, a health food shop, art shops and ones selling lovely local produce. There are also numerous restaurants, cafes and takeaways too.
Fiona and Dave were a pleasure to exchange with, we had such good communications throughout. A big thank you to Fiona and Dave!"
Tourism and the environment is always a difficult balance. Of course, if you were to fly half way around the world for a three day home exchange, it could never be classed as 'eco-friendly'. However, home exchanging is an excellent way to help cut waste and make full use of our resources. It's so sad to see so many places around the world damaged by over development; knocking down neighbourhoods to build new hotels or shopping malls aimed at the tourist market. By swapping homes, you're not increasing the demand for hotel rooms but you are staying in a real home in a real neighbourhood ...often exploring and supporting local shops and markets.
"Actually, there are also deeper layers of thought to the home exchange idea. When you think about global waste and conservation, the idea of combining resources with other people on the globe has more merits than those you experience on a personal level. Think of all the hotel sheets and towels that are washed every day; of the low-paid hotel workers (often foreigners); of the huge and wasteful industry that has grown around the needs of people who want to experience a holiday in a different country." - Ruti Singer (from 'Home Away From Home')
Post-lockdown getaway? Staycations (holidays within your own country) will again be very popular this summer as people hold off on overseas travel. By arranging a staycation instead of a long haul holiday, you'll help reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding the need for planes or cruises. The good news is that there are lots of tempting home exchange staycation offers available for this summer through Home Base Holidays.
Links to the above home swap offers:
Cotswolds, England: 180 year old stone cottage in idyllic village. View offer
Cranbrook, England: period family home in the heart of the Kent countryside. View offer
Devon, England: 300 year old cottage in pretty village near Dartmoor National Park. View offer
Ghadira, Malta: bright fully refurbished sea view apartment in North Malta. View offer
Shoreham-by-Sea, England: large open plan houseboat with use of kayaks and bicycles. View offer
Waterbeach, England: family home on the edge of a lovely village close to Cambridge. View offer
Canonbie, Scotland: 17th century cottage in an ideal location for exploring this quiet and wild corner of Dumfries and Galloway. View offer
Saffron Walden, England: converted granary dating back to 1820 in the heart of a historic market town. View offer
Hebden Bridge, England: newly-renovated wide beam houseboat moored on the Rochdale Canal. View offer
Loch Long, Scotland: cozy house with stunning views on the shore of Loch Long. Kayaks available to guests. View offer
Cornwall, England: restored Cornish farmhouse with a wildlife pond, pizza oven, summer house and a meadow. View offer
Cumbria, England: 300 year old farmhouse situated at the centre of 130 acres of farmland in the Eden Valley. View offer
Villeneuve, Switzerland: boutique apartment with fast Wifi and desk for remote working. View offer
Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France: fabulous home with roof top terrace with jacuzzi overlooking the sea. View offer
Spanish Point, Ireland: cottage overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the sandy beach of Spanish Point. View offer
Home Base Holidays: join for free and start home swapping
Sally and John's beautiful home in the Tuscan village of Tempagnano
"We loved our ten day home exchange staying in Sally and John's home in Tempagnano, Tuscany. The house is beautiful both inside and out - comfortable, full of character and with glorious views from every room.
For four nights my brother and his family joined us and they loved it too - we had three nights dining together on the terrace and one in Lucca which was at its best in the late afternoon and evening as it's cooler.
As well as Lucca, we also went to Barga, further up the valley, which we'd recommend to any visitors. It's a beautiful hilltop town and the 360 degree views from the church are stunning.
We loved being able to swim in the river - there were several spots a mile or so beyond Bagna de Lucca that were perfect for this purpose. The local public pool is lovely too - to swim surrounded by mountains and trees is such a treat.
We also enjoyed a very atmospheric walk up through Fiume Candalla - which was a very attractive 50 minute drive from the house. It's quite a climb but the steps up to the house were good training and on a hot day it was perfect exploring the waterfalls and plunge pools and abandoned mills.
Any queries we had, Sally and John were quick to reply and it was great being able to swap advice and suggestions of places to go."
Sally and John are a retired couple from England who for the majority of their time live in Northern Tuscany. They love to travel, enjoy the coast, countryside, visiting historical sites, visiting cities, museums and art galleries and walking.
Looking ahead to a post-lockdown getaway? Staycations (holidays within your own country) will again be a very popular option this summer as people hold off on overseas travel. We've started to see many of the UK's hotels, campsites and rentals booking up for the summer months and often at far higher prices than in previous years (cost of staycation accommodation up by an average of 35% compared to last year). The good news is that there are lots of very tempting home exchange holiday offers available for this summer through Home Base Holidays.
Shown below are some of the benefits of arranging a summer home exchange staycation.
Cost savings: free holiday accommodation
By choosing to arrange a home swap rather than booking a hotel or rental, you are enjoying free accommodation and can cut the cost of your getaways by over 90%. At a time when many of us are worried about finances, it's great to still enjoy a wonderful holiday but at a fraction of the cost.
No deposits or booking fees: home swaps are private agreements between the two members. Therefore, there are no deposits or booking fees to pay (this can be very welcome at a time where travel restrictions continue to change).
Home from home: safety and convenience
By arranging a home swap holiday, you enjoy your own home from home 'bubble'. This can be so reassuring as it helps to avoid more crowded locations that you would typically find if staying in a hotel or rental with a big turnaround of guests.
When swapping homes, you are staying in a real home and so have full use of the facilities that a home offers (kitchen, laundry, garden, kids’ toys, etc). This gives you options that you would never have when staying in a hotel e.g. if a family are not yet comfortable eating out in cafes, restaurants or hotel breakfast bars, they can choose to make some or all of their meals in their home swap home (this is also an excellent additional cost saving).
Home swaps are private agreements between the members. Here at Home Base Holidays we've been running our home swap service for over 35 years and in that time it's extremely rare to hear of any problems during a swap. However, it's still important to contact your home insurance company prior to a swap to confirm cover for the period your guest will be staying in your home (we can direct members to well-priced top-up insurance cover for home swapping, contact us for details).
Home Base Holidays: sign up for free and start swapping
Home Base Holidays We're here to answers any questions on swapping homes, specific topics related to home exchange vacations plus share Home Base Holidays members' home swap stories and exchange offers.