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Great "Travel Swapping" Hunt
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# 1
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MSE Jenny
Old 06-05-2008, 1:27 PM
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Default Great "Travel Swapping" Hunt

A host of swapping websites allow you to blag free accommodation by switching homes, sofas or even caravans with people who live elsewhere. The savings can be vast, and some MoneySavers report making lifelong friends.

Yet on the downside, swapping with strangers has its hazards. I want to tap MoneySavers’ knowledge to find out what kind of experiences you've had and your top travel swapping tips. Which are the best websites and what are the safety considerations?

Some of the biggest home swapping websites are Intervac, Homelink and Home Base Holidays. Alternatively, the Couchsurfing website allows you to sign up to stay on people’s sofas around the world. There's even a new caravan swapping website, Motorhomeholidayswap.

Please post below to share you top tips on how to have a free and safe swapping holiday.

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Last edited by MSE Wendy; 06-05-2008 at 7:20 PM.
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# 2
stphnstevey
Old 06-05-2008, 9:33 PM
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Never done it, but always thought about swapping homes with someone down under - worth the risk I think
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# 3
lily the pink
Old 06-05-2008, 9:55 PM
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Some friends of my parents did this a long long time ago - though it was quite long term as it was a year long job swap as well as a house swap.

They were both university lecturers - one in sunny california and one in sunny Manchester. Guess who got the good end of the deal.

The Californian lasted about 3 months in Manchester - I suspect he was suffering from SAD as it was winter by this point.

He then proceeded to crash the car, flood the house and had a nervous breakdown. (Some people would say this was a normal reaction to Manchester, Mancunians would just say he couldnt hack it).

My parents friends meanwhile were living in a very conservative small town where everyone went jogging, went to bed at 8:30 and certainly did not partake in everything that they had thought Californians would partake in. When the Californian fled Manchester, they ended up being upsurped from the small town (much to their relief) and spent the rest of the time travelling.
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# 4
Mosh
Old 06-05-2008, 10:53 PM
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Thumbs up Couchsurfing.com

OK, so not really a "swap" service but I can highly recommend CS having used it a huge amount across Europe and Australia. I know people who've had no problem finding accommodation in NZ, Singapore, the US and other countries, too.

The premise is simple - you crash on someone's sofa. And someone else's. In return, you let other people crash on yours when you're at home. You don't have to swap with the people you stayed with - it's more a karma thing. I have made many friends, been on many nights out and learned a huge amount about the places I've visited by staying with CSers.

Part of the ethos is that you don't just use people as an accommodation service. In return, hosts will generally put effort into making you acquainted with the area. Some may take you places, others simply have a pile of tourist literature and a great knowledge of the area. I've been driven around half of Victoria by one family, taken to a very posh spa in Koln by a guy who wasn't even hosting me, fed traditional food by the bucketload across northern France, forced (ha) to drink chilli vodka in Dusseldorf, shown around Turin by one of the most knowledgeable local historians you could ever hope to meet (and given a hiking map when I left so I wouldn't get lost in the hills), helped set up a LAN party in Luxembourg...

The system is completely free to join and use. The only charge is voluntary - a small one-off fee can be used to "verify" you. I think it was $15 when I did it. In return you're sent (by post) a code which you enter into the site. This proves that you live at the registered location. Otherwise, the site's inbuilt system of references, friends, experiences and so on will verify who you are over time.

As an example, fee free to peruse my profile. It'll certainly give you an idea of how quick and easy it is to meet people across the globe!

Last edited by MSE Jenny; 12-05-2008 at 11:01 AM. Reason: Add more blurb about how great it is :)
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# 5
Mosh
Old 06-05-2008, 11:01 PM
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Oh, and stphnstevey - good luck finding anyone from Oz who'd *want* to come to the UK for any length of time... Why leave Oz for this dump?! I know I'm looking to head Down Under sometime, hopefully permanently!
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# 6
Ebbie1000
Old 07-05-2008, 1:18 AM
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Thumbs up Another site

Hello

Another site that is worth a look is www.hospitalityclub.org it is a total freebie.

I used it when I lived in Germany and now that I live in Barbados I have had people from around the world come to stay - if you want to travel on a budget and get the most out of your trip by staying with a 'local' this Hospitality Club is hard to beat.

On swapping, I did a swap for my place in Barbados for three weeks last August with a woman and her children from London - a fun thing to do saved on the worry about my palce and a free stay in Kensington in a big comfy flat - I will be going it again.
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# 7
jola36
Old 07-05-2008, 9:07 AM
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I am a member of homelink - I recommend it unreservedly for holiday swaps.

It costs £100 to join, but you know the people on it are grownups, and that the site owners are taking some responsibility for making sure everyhting is ok. You sign an agreement form before you do the exchange, so you have some sort of recourse. I have never needed it - its brilliant. Not only have I had free accommodation abroad, but have also done non-similtaneous exchanges and had people to stay in my flat and look after my pets while I was away. It helps that I live in Edinburgh, which is a tourist destination.

I suppose the big risk is that you get a serious fraudster. But I don't think there is much you can do about that - of course, use your common sense, but seeing as some people end up *marrying* serious fraudsters, they are obviously good at what they do.

However, I have never heard of that happening - the vast majority of people are honest holiday makers trying to save a little cash. I put away any precious breakables just in case, and make sure the flat is tidy. I have never had any problems at all. Am off to Costa Rica next spring to stay in a luxury apartment by the sea!

Good luck.
Jola
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# 8
powellnorwich
Old 07-05-2008, 9:46 AM
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An excellent alternative for Christians is www.christianhomeexchange.net/1.html

We have had many successful swaps. Give it a look - only£25 per year - non profit making.

Last edited by MSE Jenny; 12-05-2008 at 11:02 AM.
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# 9
kb36
Old 07-05-2008, 9:57 AM
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I would say the only drawback to house swapping is that you need to tidy your house before you leave! Could call in the services of professional cleaning company though as you will save some serious money on your accommodation bill so worth thinking about. You'll need to be a honest about what you have to offer as well. Just had a weeks holiday in Normandy for the princely sum of £70.00 ferry crossing and usual spending money.


I have been a member of www.switchome.org for the past 4 years and have in the last 6 months been helping out with the translation side of things - so declaring an interest here. However seeing as the site is completely free of charge now and always, I have nothing to gain from this post (apart from a potential swap in the UK ) and felt it would be acceptable....... A unique site due to it being run completely by volunteers! The majority of ads are for French properties so might not be everyone's cup of tea... would be great to increase database of UK members though!
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# 10
janiusbaktus
Old 07-05-2008, 10:01 AM
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My husband and I did two successful swaps London - California with www.homeexchange.com. One of them let us stay in his flat while he was on holiday elsewhere, he said that he would maybe come to London some time in the future. Swapping was not necessary to him, he was just a really friendly guy who wanted to show us a good time while in LA. He even picked us up at the airport, and took us to a baseball game for our last night.

I think this is an attitude that will lead to successful swaps, I can understand that people feel anxious about letting a stranger into their homes, but if you do it with an attitude of goodwill instead of seeing it as a giant freebie, hopefully you will also receive the same hospitality in return.

It might be good using a site where you pay a membership fee. If someone can't be asked to pay maybe $50 a year for a successful swap, then how can you be sure that they will go to any lengths at all to look after your home?

Another good idea is probably to look for similar swaps. I.e. if your place is a run down studio flat in the outskirts of a small faraway town, you can't expect to stay in a luxury penthouse in Manhattan. But if your little place is in the centre of a metropolis, and properly cleaned, you might be able to find a nice biggish house in the countryside somewhere. You get the point. And don't assume that nobody would want to go to your area, there might be people who have relatives there who they want to visit, or other connections that take them there.

Good luck with swapping!!!
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# 11
stphnstevey
Old 07-05-2008, 10:13 AM
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I guess what puts people (including myself!) off is the 'what could go wrong' attitude. Breakages, carpet stains, someone selling all your possessions! spring to mind, but I guess that is the chance you and them take
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# 12
kb36
Old 07-05-2008, 10:52 AM
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It is largely about attitude and you presume that people will behave as you do! On our recent swap the family managed to melt our electric kettle but left us the cash for a replacement without us having to ask - we would do the same. Our daughter managed to break a small toy which we left money for as we could not find a replacement. Accidents do and will happen and it is something we are willing to accept. I think most people that we have swapped with have the same attitudes as us. You can however lay down house rules about smoking, food near carpet areas etc, shoes off once in the house and I am always really respectful of these conditions in other people's houses! I would recommend finding a swap partner with the same family composition as yours. Families tend to be more tolerant of fingerpints left on the walls etc. I would be reluctant to swap with some super deluxe house where I would be worried and watching my kids every move!
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# 13
smiths84
Old 07-05-2008, 3:21 PM
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Default About To Do Our First Swap

We live in the Westcountry and our relatives live in Kent and it hit me like a ton of bricks while yet again traveling East down the interminable A303 in the school holidays that there were thousands of people travellling the other way paying a fortune for accomodation in the Westcountry while my house was empty...and vice versa! (infact we normally squash into my mum's house - increasingly hard as I keep having kids!)

We signed up with www.homebase-hols.com because it seemed to have quite a lot of people interested in swapping within the UK. We're doing our first swap with a family in Bexley this half term. My husband keeps worrying about all the what-ifs but I'm happy to go with my instincts and basic optimism about human nature.

Although..I think its a good idea to agree NOT to use each other's PCs!

Last edited by MSE Jenny; 12-05-2008 at 11:03 AM.
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# 14
stphnstevey
Old 07-05-2008, 4:00 PM
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I saw a programme on the telly and they even go so far as to swap cars (not sure if i would want someone who is used to driving on the other side of the road driving my car!), but each takes there own risk. Guess it's just how much risk you see it compared to how much you will save on accomodation
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# 15
liberty6201
Old 07-05-2008, 9:09 PM
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We also belong to Homelink. I too can recommend it - our first swap was to New York where we stayed in a homely apartment. we loved it so much we always stay in that area noe when we go. this half term we are doing a swap up North and in the summer a month long swap to Florida. We could not afford to take our 2 kids without swapping as we get the accomodation, use of a kitchen and a car just by swapping ours. i do not mind paying the £100 annual fee as we save such a lot. we have been offered numerous swaps this year, far more than we could ever do, and we live in a terraced 3 bed house - admittedly near the beach but i do think that people are more interested in the location than the siz of your house. I would def recommend the company though this is the first time we have swapped our car - i am a bit worried about this but i fugure it is only a car and can be fixed, we too have signed to say how much we need to pay if we cause any damage, etc.
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# 16
emmar
Old 09-05-2008, 11:05 AM
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Just wondering if anyone knows what impact this has on your home insurance policies???
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# 17
kb36
Old 09-05-2008, 1:14 PM
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My insurer Esure state that my accidental damage policy will not be honoured whilst swappers are in my home and that if there is no sign of forced entry if things go missing then those items are not covered. In other words if they run off with all our possessions no claim would be honoured! Hasn't happened yet though
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# 18
HomeExchanger
Old 13-05-2008, 11:41 AM
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Default 50+ Years of Home Exchange Speaks for Itself

The first home swap club was founded in the 1950's. In the decades since, millions of people have enjoyed exchanging homes with only minor problems. This isn't an unknown way to travel, it is a successful, established industry.

Most exchange clubs report the occasional misunderstanding but most "problems" involve differing house cleaning standards. All of these issues are easily addressed by using an on-line contract, available at several of the home exchange clubs.

To see which club is best for you, go to KnowYourTrade.com which rates and reviews all of the clubs for free. I write a completely non-commercial blog with home exchange tips and stories at HomeExchanger.blogspot.com (I don't make any money from my blog and it is not affiliated with any club).

Don't do home exchange just to save money. The benefit is living like a local and getting to meet real people who live somewhere, instead of being segregated in an artificial tourist hotel. This is about building a relationship with another family, not just getting what savings you can out of them.

I have completed 36 wonderful home exchanges since 1991. It is the only sane way to travel with children, IMO. A separate bedroom for each child, a kitchen to prepare a snack or breakfast, laundry facilities and a lot more space make family travel so much more pleasant than staying in a hotel.
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# 19
S40
Old 15-05-2008, 3:06 PM
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Default Motorhome holiday swap

This sounds like a contradiction in terms to me.
OK I can see the sense in swapping a caravan or a static mobile home, but surely the point of a motorhome is to be able to drive from a to b with flexibility of where and how long you stay.
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# 20
Paula1
Old 14-01-2010, 11:36 AM
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Default home swap in Stockport/Manchester

Quote:
Originally Posted by HomeExchanger View Post
The first home swap club was founded in the 1950's. In the decades since, millions of people have enjoyed exchanging homes with only minor problems. This isn't an unknown way to travel, it is a successful, established industry.

Most exchange clubs report the occasional misunderstanding but most "problems" involve differing house cleaning standards. All of these issues are easily addressed by using an on-line contract, available at several of the home exchange clubs.

To see which club is best for you, go to KnowYourTrade.com which rates and reviews all of the clubs for free. I write a completely non-commercial blog with home exchange tips and stories at HomeExchanger.blogspot.com (I don't make any money from my blog and it is not affiliated with any club).

Don't do home exchange just to save money. The benefit is living like a local and getting to meet real people who live somewhere, instead of being segregated in an artificial tourist hotel. This is about building a relationship with another family, not just getting what savings you can out of them.

I have completed 36 wonderful home exchanges since 1991. It is the only sane way to travel with children, IMO. A separate bedroom for each child, a kitchen to prepare a snack or breakfast, laundry facilities and a lot more space make family travel so much more pleasant than staying in a hotel.
I was interested to read of experience with home swapping. I've been considering this for some time now but not sure whether many would wish to swap with us in Stockport. We have a nice house but then location does seem to be the most important consideration
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