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Great "Travel Swapping" Hunt

edited 30 November -1 at 12:00AM in Overseas Holidays & Travel Planning
21 replies 22.4K views
MSE_JennyMSE_Jenny Senior Writer
1.3K posts
MSE Staff
edited 30 November -1 at 12:00AM in Overseas Holidays & Travel Planning
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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Replies

  • stphnsteveystphnstevey
    3.2K posts
    Forumite
    Never done it, but always thought about swapping homes with someone down under - worth the risk I think
  • 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.
  • MoshMosh
    131 posts
    Forumite
    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!
  • MoshMosh
    131 posts
    Forumite
    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!
  • 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.
  • jola36jola36
    6 posts
    Forumite
    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!:rotfl:

    Good luck.
    Jola
  • 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.
  • kb36kb36
    440 posts
    Forumite
    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!
  • 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!!!
  • stphnsteveystphnstevey
    3.2K posts
    Forumite
    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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