A ‘vacation home swap’ (also called a ‘vacation home exchange’) is arrangement where you vacation using another family’s home as accommodation, and they use your home.
This can be done at exactly the same time, or at different times according to what suits both families. Some families go away elsewhere while their home is being used, while some people are using their second home or vacation home for the exchange anyway.
This sort of vacation arrangement is becoming more and more popular, since it cuts out the major cost of a vacation – the accommodation. No money changes hands between the families participating in a vacation home swap, and the only expense is to register with a home exchange service, so that other people can see your home listed, and you in turn can see homes listed that you can use. Typically the cost to register with an online vacation home swap service is about $10-$15 a month, for as long as you want to stay registered. This cost is trivial compared with hotel or motel accommodation of course!
Having signed up with such a service and added your property details, you then simply use their web site to pick the country or area you want to visit, browse the listings available there, and contact likely home owners. You will see if the owners are liable to be interested in a vacation home swap, as they specify what areas, cities or countries they want in their profile.
Some families who are listing their property will state they are ‘open to offers’ or ‘open to any destination’ or similar. This is because many families use home exchanges regularly, to visit many countries, and are willing to go to new places for the experience. As home exchanges are so inexpensive (you only pay for the travel, and you can cook your own food as you would anyway) many families do this several times a year.
Often, a car swap is part of the deal too, which saves more money if you are flying in to your destination. On some non-simultaneous home exchanges I have done, the owners have brought the car to the airport or the train station to make it easy for you (of course they will expect the same courtesy when they use your home!)
You may not think that anyone is likely to come to your home if you don’t live in a ‘tourist’ city or region but this is not true at all. The kind of people who use home exchanges are often looking for a ‘real’ travel experience; in addition, what seems ordinary to you will often be exotic to a visitor to your area or to your country.