House Exchanges & other
After three successful house exchanges “en famille” and lots of curiosity from friends and family, I have decided to write a little post about this and another concept I recently discovered and am keen to test!
House Exchanges: http://www.lovehomeswap.com
First and foremost I think most people are either open to the concept of a house exchange or not at all – and generally speaking this position doesn’t change. Having someone else in your home can be viewed as something quite intimate and not everyone is comfortable with this. Personally speaking, although I respect other people’s opinions, I have no problem sharing my home and feel that everything in my house is just of material value apart from my photos etc. Any jewellery that is worth anything, I wear, we have no artwork of value and our photos are mostly in “the cloud”. If people really want to look in my cupboards or try my latest shower gel, as long as they leave some for me I don’t mind! If you do have any family heirlooms, things of sentimental value or confidential documents it goes without saying lock them away or put them out of reach. You have to remember it’s a two way thing…you too go to the other family’s home – for me this mutual respect is installed in the communication prior to the swap. If you have things you don’t want using you just need to let them know and vice versa. Although no guidelines as such are written…shared respect and understanding are the fundamental basis of any house exchange.
It’s Free! It is a really economical way to visit another country without having to pay for a rental. You just have to pay the subscription fees for whichever site you use. We use http://www.lovehomeswap.com/) We have also swapped cars on two of our exchanges too which is a real bonus too.
Home comforts: Unlike a rental you have lots of home comforts. We always leave a fridge full of basic groceries and arrange that the exchange family do too. It’s so much easier when upon arrival you have milk, coffee (lots of ), fresh bread, butter etc. If you have young children and swap with a family that has young children too…you have toys, books, bikes, dvds, high chairs etc. which makes life sooooo much easier and your bags lighter. More importantly these are NEW TOYS to your children and they absolutely LOVE it!
On our last swap the airline lost our bag with ALL the children’s clothes (typical the only bag they lost)…the exchange family very kindly let us borrow some pyjamas etc. until we managed to get to the local shops to buy a few essentials!
Insider tips: You get to experience the area like a local. The family leaves you lists of things to do – their favourite restaurants, beaches, secret spots, activities, day trips, markets, good food shops…You will of course explore and discover things yourself but this can save lots of time and you get to go to the best places first and discover the area like a local!
Stay in amazing homes around the world: We have stayed in three beautiful homes in three different countries (Spain, UK, and Sweden). Each home had its own charm and we have had three wonderful holidays!
It’s simple: It really is very easy to put in place. Once you’ve agreed to swap you are in direct contact with the family.
Reliable: Most house exchange systems have ratings and testimonials. You therefore get to see what people really thought of the house you fancy swaping with. Like tripadvisor this content carries a heavy weight in decision making and gives you reassurance in your final choice of destination/swap!
Breakages: Things can and do get broken. Little things inevitably get broken – crockery, glasses…This is life and you too can break things. Again if you have anything of any sentimental value pop it away. Subject to what has been broken the norm tends to be either to replace the breakages or if it’s equal on both sides just to leave it!
If you are swapping with a family with young children you may want to set a few guidelines that you have as a family for your own children such as colouring in etc. If you have a special table or tablecloth… so your dining table doesn’t get ruined!!
Pre planning: It’s hard work getting your house “exchange” ready. This too can be beneficial as it forces you to have a proper “spring clean”. You obviously want to leave your house nice for the family arriving and make sure that everything is clean and tidy, the beds are all made up etc. I read a recent article in Red Magazine, about getting your house “guest ready” for dinner parties when you have young children. The article termed the phrase as “show rooming” (in the article this process involved frantically stuffing toys & random paperwork, electricity bills etc. into drawers and cupboards just before your guests arrived!!) which I loved. However getting your house “show room” ready for an exchange does involve tidying it up properly!
One common question asked by friends is how much space you leave them for their belongings. We tend to clear out a wardrobe for the parents and half of the wardrobes in the kids rooms.Likewise in the bathrooms we clear space away for their toiletries.
Departure clean: Vice versa it’s also hard work making sure you leave their house nice and clean when you leave, especially when you have young children in tow. My husband went a wee bit over the top on this one on our last exchange and he insisted on washing both of their cars and hoovering them both inside. I think we left the cars cleaner than when we had got them! Or maybe this was just his way of having some peace and quiet on his own for an hour or two 😉 The exchange family hadn’t washed or hoovered our car… but I don’t think many people would have to be honest!
Timing/Location: Invariably the key to success is finding a mutual interest destination wise and mutual dates for swapping. People tend to swap within similar categories…If you have a 1 bedroomed flat you are not going to be able to swap with an 8 bedroomed villa with a swimming pool. This seems to be obvious.
All in all I have to say we are really happy with the house exchanges and will continue doing this. It’s a family friendly option, when you have young children. We really appreciate the home comforts, the insider’s tips and discovering new areas/ parts of the world through the comfort of a local’s house! We have already got a few possibilities lined up for 2016 & 2017!
New service: https://www.kidandcoe.com/
I have recently discovered a new service which markets itself as the “Airbnb” for families. It’s called kid&Coe & it’s got to be said their marketing is pretty slick and the service seems pretty spot on. It was founded by a mother out of personal necessity. For years she had been traveling the world managing her husband’s music career, kids in tow, and saw that the hotel accommodations that suited a touring couple no longer fit the needs of her growing family. She began seeking out kid-friendly property rentals that made her family feel at home wherever they were in the world. As increasing numbers of parents asked her to share her travel expertise and property secrets, Kid & Coe was born It’s got to be said, it has definitely has caught my eye…their website is very stylish and user friendly. The visuals are enticing and the homes on offer seem like they are fresh from the pages of interior design magazines. The quality of the visuals are explained by the fact that they actually send a professional photographer to photo your home if your own shots aren’t up to scratch.
I think we’ll definitely test this out in the near future and maybe I’ll do a little post on it!
If you know any other services that are family friendly and are worth checking out please do let me know, or if you have any other tips please do share them…