Traveling can be an expensive pastime. According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic and international travelers spent a total of $597 billion on leisure trips in 2012. But you can cut down on one of your major expenses — the cost of accommodations — by participating in a home swap or exchange for your future holidays and getaways. If you have never heard of home swapping or exchanging, the idea may seem a little strange at first. However, it is a practice that is growing in popularity.
Types of Swaps
There are three primary types of home swapping. According to USA Today, they are described as:
- A direct exchange: With this type of swap, you and another homeowner will coordinate your vacations and swap your homes for the same time period and for approximately the same number of days.
- A swap on an exchange website: With this method, you can select a home for your vacation or have a person ask to stay in your home at any time. The vacations do not have to be taken simultaneously. Love Home Swap, which is the largest swap site in the world, offers both this type of exchange as well as direct.
- Swaps where the homeowner remains in the house: One of the most popular sites for this type of swap is Couchsurfing, where you will typically stay on a couch (or a bed) while the homeowner is still residing there.
Basic Etiquette Rules
- Plan a smart arrival. Whenever possible, time your arrival to a house swap location for a decent hour, especially if you are couch surfing or staying in a room while the owners will be in town. Even if you will be staying in a house where the homeowners will be away, you should try to arrive during most people’s waking hours. There is always a possibility that you will have an issue and need to reach the homeowners to get into the house or to ask them questions.
- Send replacements. Boston.com suggests that good swappers replace or repair any items they have broken during their stay. Even if you will be on the move again and won’t have time to run to a store, that’s no excuse not to make amends for your mistake. For example, if you were to break a basic lamp, you could always purchase a replacement from Wayfair.com.au or another home decor retailer and have it sent to the homeowner’s address.
- Be grateful. Couch surfers or those staying in a house where the homeowner will be present should bring a thank you gift or leave one as they depart. Gifts don’t have to be elaborate or expensive, just a small token of your appreciation will be fine.
- Stay out of their hair. Unless a homeowner has indicated that they would show you around, don’t expect them to take care of you or to play tour guide.
- Clean up after yourself. You should leave the home looking as good as or better than when you arrived.
Tips for Your Home
If you’re hosting a home swap, make sure to do a few things before your “guest’s” arrival.
- Put away valuables or breakables. Hide anything you wouldn’t want a stranger touching or breaking.
- If it’s important to you, put it in writing. Your guests won’t know unless you tell them what items or appliances you don’t want them to use in your home.
- Contact your insurance company. Nine MSN Travel recommends taking out any extra coverage that you will need to cover your home in case damage occurs during a home swap. Not having proper coverage could leave you high and dry in the event of a problem.