Vacationing By Exchanging Homes: The Budget Friendly Family Vacation

Editor’s Note: Milan, the “Home Exchange Mom” and her family vacation for very little money, staying in spacious accommodations for $0.00. How? Home Exchanges!

This interesting concept intrigued me as the first (and last) time I ever heard of this way of travel was when watching the movie, “The Holiday” starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet and Jude Law. I’m excited to welcome Milan as our guest poster and thrilled that she was willing to share her insight and knowledge on Home Exchanges with our readers!

Staycations have become part of the American vernacular with the economy being in a free fall the past few years. While staying home or taking more affordable day trips can help keep your vacation budget in check, most of us still want to get away on a true holiday from daily life. We want to introduce our children to new places, but we want to do it on a budget. Home exchanges are a great choice for taking a traditional vacation without paying for a hotel and having to eat out for each meal.

When you participate in a home exchange, you stay in someone elses home while they stay in yours, allowing both of you to pay nothing for accommodations and giving you the ability to cook at home. You also have the added benefit of privacy as you and your children enjoy separate bedrooms, and all the other comforts of home like laundry, books, DVDs, etc. You can possibly even arrange a car exchange if you are flying to your home exchange location, saving on car rental costs. Here are my tips for participating in your first home exchange:

Choosing a home exchange site to join

While it can be tempting to join only a free site, a lot of times their listings are out of date and you will be sending requests to people that are no longer interested in exchanging homes. Most paid home exchange sites take down old listings once the owners membership has expired. This is great because you know that if the listing is up, the membership has been renewed and updated less than a year ago. The only free site I recommend is Craigslist, under the housing section there is a House Swap area where you can often find listings in the larger cities like NYC and Boston.

Writing your exchange listing

Here is where you can really sell your home so you can catch those elusive trades you really want in popular cities like NYC. Include lots of photos showcasing your home and neighborhood. Make sure you mention larger cities and activities that are near you if you live in a smaller town. Often times people will request a trade based on where they have family or where their child is going off to college, so it pays to mention nearby areas. Don’t fret if you live somewhere no one has heard of – we live in a town of less than 4,000 people and we get requests from all over the world!

Requesting an exchange

When you join a site, you don’t want to sit back and wait for others to contact you, get out there and request your own exchange! Search for people that want to come to your area, or search the areas you want to travel to. Compose a nice email describing your home and neighborhood briefly, along with the dates you wish to exchange. If there was something in their listing that your home provides, make sure you mention it – for instance, if they say they love lakes and you live down the street from one, tell them!

Preparing your home for the exchange

Once your exchange is set, make sure your home is clean, then prepare an information packet with emergency numbers, local grocery stores and restaurants, and any information about your home your guests need to know like how to operate the heating system. Pack up any valuables you want to remove and take them to a trusted friend. Finally, make sure your neighbors know you have guests that will be staying in your home while you are gone. They’ll be able to keep an eye open for any problems and introduce themselves to your guests so they feel at home.

About the Author: Milan and her family of 6 have saved over $14,000 vacationing by home exchange over the last 5 years. Follow her on Twitter @HomeExchangeMom for more tips on getting the most out of house swaps!

Photo Credit: Home Exchange Mom