Staying in a vacation rental and doing a home exchange are similar in many ways. You stay in a home in a residential area, not accommodations built for tourists. You stay in one place for longer (European vacation rentals usually require a one week stay, Saturday to Saturday). You settle in and become part of your neighborhood. No daily maid service, no front desk, no concierge – you are an independent traveler.
But with a vacation rental you pay a 25 – 50% deposit on booking, sometimes a year ahead, then the rest of the payment 30 – 60 days before arrival. You stay in a house or apartment that has been set up as a tourist rental or a second home. It probably does not have internet access because it seems like most vacation rental owners assume you want to “get away from it all” (not realizing that the people who find and book your places online are online kind of people and want to be online even when traveling). You are one in a long line of people living there for a week. *
Doing a home exhange you are exchanging homes, trading places, switching lifestyles with your trading partner, maybe even taking their dog for a walk. Sounds like fun! And your accommodations are free!! And you don’t have to pay for a house-sitter!!
Laura Byrne Paquet, a travel writer from Ottawa, Canada, wrote about home exchanges for Slow Europe. She gives you the basics, tells you what to look out for and gives a detailed list of web resources.
Slow Europe Article – Home Exchange – Stay in Europe for Free!
Home Base Holidays
Our recommended home exchange website is Home Base Holidays run by Lois Sealey based in England. She has been in the home exchange game since 1985. She also operates the home exchange service for Britain’s Guardian newspaper (my newspaper of choice when I am in England). Their website is great but will be even better soon – they are in the middle of a re-design. Membership is £29 per year (about $50) but you can look at all the listings for no charge.
(This is a Canadian-centric blog post. Laura is Canadian and lives in Canada, Lois is an expat-Canadian living in England, I am an expat-Canadian living in the US. What’s up with that, eh?)
* Vacation Rentals vs. Home Exchange
You would think that Steve and I would be naturals for doing home exchanges. We live in Santa Fe, not the most requested destination by Europeans but a popular destination and a great place to visit. We travel to Europe every year and like to stay in one place for two or more weeks. We always stay in vacation rentals.
This is why we do not do home exchange – we have a hard time planning six months to a year ahead. We are both self employed and if a good job or opportunity comes along, we drop everything to take it. But really, that is no excuse.
We frequently have friends or friends of friends stay in our house when we are away. Friends from Italy spent six weeks here this summer while we were in Europe. I have no problem letting other people stay in my house and drive our car. I have a better house book than most vacation rentals! I am all set up for doing a home exchange! But, I hesitate because we are thinking about moving (current plan – move to Boulder or move to England – can’t decide). And because we have been thinking of this for the last five years (we are slow to make decisions and we really do love Santa Fe), we have not attempted a home exchange.
We really should give it a try!