Home Swapping: Slash Your Travel Costs and Live Like a Local

Join the wave of boomers trading places with people in their dream destinations

by Stephanie Oswald • Next Avenue
house on a lake image
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

You’re itching to get away, perhaps with family members in tow, but $300-a-night hotel rooms aren’t in the budget. Perhaps it’s time to join the tens of thousands of happy travelers who have embraced home-swapping.
 
“Exchanging may be the best thing I have ever done, and I wish I’d discovered it years earlier,” says Boyd Scheff, a New Yorker in his 70s who has done 18 such swaps. In addition to great vacations, Scheff’s takeaway includes a goddaughter in Barcelona, the child of the first couple he and his wife exchanged homes with (proving how strong swappers’ bonds can become).
 
With accommodations that include everything from Paris pied-à-terres to Connecticut country homes to Bahamian beach houses, home-swapping is one of the hottest travel trends and offers something for everyone. (Well, everyone comfortable with the idea of letting strangers stay in their home, that is.) And for good reason: Excluding the cost of posting a listing, home swaps are entirely free.
 
According to HomeExchange.com, a well-respected organization that facilitates swaps, these exchanges work especially well for experienced travelers seeking affordability and authenticity. “In my career as a management consultant, I have stayed in hundreds of hotels the world over,” Scheff says, “and I can’t say that I miss them at all.”
 
Helen Coyle Bergstein, founder of the 13-year-old exchange service Digsville.com has fond memories of a Caribbean home exchange. “In Anguilla one summer, the entire island treated us like family because our swap partners’ dad owned a local jazz club. My husband, Joe, had his flute with him and was invited to sit in with local musicians almost every night of the week.”
 
It’s that type of priceless experience that Bergstein says “would not have happened had we been staying in hotels or resorts.”

(MORE: Save Money and Feel at Home by House-Swapping)
 
3 Good Reasons to Swap

  • Go local and save money. As a general rule, you’ll benefit from more space, increased privacy and all the comforts of home — away from home. Some swappers also trade vehicles and pet care, making the package even more financially attractive. You essentially become a local and get all the perks that go along with that.
  • Conserve resources. Keghan Hurst, director of public relations at HomeExchange.com, says trading addresses is also growing in popularity because of what she calls “a collaborative consumption trend.” Hurst says, “By exchanging and sharing items, such as your home, bicycle, car, etc., you essentially reduce your carbon footprint.” Basically, home-swapping allows you to have an authentic experience, save money and be an environmental do-gooder all at once. It’s another sign of sustainable tourism’s appeal to the 1.5 billion people expected to travel internationally by 2020.
  • Forge lasting relationships. In many situations, exchange partners become friends for life. An alternative to exchanging keys at the same time is to agree to a “hospitality exchange,” where members host each other in their private homes at designated times. These do-it-yourself houseguest arrangements nurture social interaction and can be very appealing for mature travelers with years of travel notes to share.

 
How to Make a Home Swap Happen

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