Home Exchanges: Save Money and Live Like a Local

Learn how swapping homes can cut your vacation costs.

Without a doubt, one of the most expensive aspects of travel is accommodation. Whether you’re staying at a fancy hotel, lakeside cabin or a cozy bed-and-breakfast, the cost will add up, and usually to more than you think.

But what if you could spend your next vacation in a comfortable home, experiencing life as a local — for free? That’s right. Welcome to the wonderful world of home exchanges.

Click to read more about cheap travel tips for everyone on a budget.

The Home Exchange Basics

A home exchange involves staying for free in a local’s home, in exchange for offering up your home to fellow travelers. It’s not only a great way to get a free accommodation, but it also ensures your home, plants and possibly pets are looked after while you’re away.

While timing a simultaneous exchange with another home exchanger at your desired destination might seem daunting, it’s not that complicated. With the help of numerous home exchange websites, non-simultaneous and non-reciprocal home exchanges (such as three-way exchanges) can be coordinated. In some cases, they’ll even help you earn income from renting out your home while you travel.

Home Exchange Resources

The best way to find a home exchange is through a home exchange website. They offer a secure way to converse with other home exchangers and can assist you with a variety of accommodation options. While most charge a membership fee, it tends to pay for itself with your first night of free accommodation. Also, you can usually browse the listings for free, so you can join the home exchange site that best fits your vacation needs.

Below is a list of popular sites that offer these exchanges.

Home Base Holidays

This site is great for home swaps around the world, especially in Europe. Membership costs $59 per year.

Home Exchange

Options are available in over 150 countries. Membership is $150 per year.

Home Link

Over 60 years old, Home Link offers different types of home exchanges (e.g. simultaneous, non-simultaneous, weekend, long-term and even house-sits). Membership is $95 per year.

International Home Exchange Network

This is for home exchanges and vacation rentals. Membership is $40 per year.

International Vacation Home Exchange

Since not all homes offer equivalent amenities, IVHE works on a credit system; homes have credit value based on weekly vacation rental values. You use credits earned from people staying in your home to stay in other homes around the world. Membership is $160 per year.

InterVac

Around since 1953, InterVac covers most countries. Membership is $100 per year.

Invented City

This site offers places in 40 countries. Membership costs $59 per year.

Knok

At Knok, the focus is on families. The site offers global coverage, with an apartment rental option as well. New members pay $29, or you can join for free and pay $99 when you secure your first home exchange.

Related: 7 Travel Expenses You Can Easily Avoid

Home Exchange Tips

Here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of your home exchange experience.

Complete Your Profile

Attract home exchangers by adding personality to your profile and filling it in completely with lots of pictures. Since a degree of mutual trust is involved (you’re staying in a stranger’s home, and they’re staying in yours), the more you know about each other, the more informed your decisions can be.

Be Clear

Do you have temperamental orchids? A needy pet? State your expectations clearly to avoid disappointment. This goes two ways; be sure you understand what the homeowner expects of you when you stay in their home. A video call goes a long way to put both parties at ease about the exchange.

Leave a Welcome Kit

Help your home exchangers make the most of their vacation by leaving them information on places to go, things to do, maps and tips for getting around.

Create a Cheat Sheet

Even basic household functions vary around the world. Create a cheat sheet to familiarize your guests with appliance use, recycling and garbage procedures, household operations and maintenance. Also include contact information for local repair people with instructions for dealing with possible problems.

Leave a Contact Name

Connect your home exchangers with a local friend or neighbor who can answer questions or help in emergencies. Perhaps a friendship will blossom, further enhancing the local experience for your guests.

Hide Your Valuables

Don’t leave the fate of grandma’s heirloom vase to chance. Put away anything you don’t want to be handled or accidentally broken.

Check Your Auto Insurance Policy

If you are leaving your vehicle to home exchangers, ensure your insurance policy allows for occasional drivers.

If you’ve found the right option for you and did everything on this list, what’s the next step? Simply enjoy your home exchange vacation.

Click here to read more about the biggest vacation expenses and how to get them for less.