There are two types of people when it comes to home exchanging, there are people who exchange homes and love it and then there are people who worry that someone is going to sleep in their bed and steal their big screen television.
I love home exchanging. Do people sleep in my bed? I hope so, I change the sheets and lay out fresh towels. For some reason people will sleep on a hotel bed without a second thought, but someone else’s bed gives them the willies. I don’t know if they think the Virgin Mary is sleeping in their hotel rooms, but it seems like an odd reason to avoid exchanging homes to me. Take your own bedding if you like, or buy some when you arrive, it will be cheaper than staying in a hotel room.
Now if you are someone with a priceless collection of Picasso paintings, I could see how you wouldn’t want folks staying in your mansion, but if you have Picasso paintings hanging on the wall, I imagine you don’t have to travel on a restricted budget. I don’t have any Picasso’s at home and I do like to save a little money when I venture out into the wild world. Fortunately for me there are other people who don’t care about some stranger sleeping in their bed and using their house like it is their own.
How much does home exchanging cost? Well, I pay 100 American dollars a year to be a member of a home exchange website. After that all the costs are your choice. You can choose to leave a gift for your host or you can just leave a card. You should clean up after yourself and it never hurts to leave more beer in the fridge than you drank, but those are all optional costs. The other costs are the same costs you might encounter when you are at home. In the long run you will save lots of money. If you want to eat out, then eat out. If you want to cook a meal, then all the stuff is there waiting for you. (You do have to buy groceries.)
How does it work? Well, you can actively pursue places to stay by emailing members, or you can select areas that you would like to visit and hope someone wants to head your way. You also select when you are available to travel. Some sites have reverse search engines so you can find out who wants to come to your area and then you can decide if you want to go where they live. This year I have had three offers for exchanges in Denmark, two in Germany and one in England, but we will be staying closer to home this summer and exchanging with a couple in San Francisco for the second summer in a row.
My family loves exchanging homes. Finding hotel rooms for four people is a pain in the rear these days, but finding homes that hold four people is no problem. My family also likes that we have a place to relax when traveling. When we exchanged with a family in Hamburg we really got the feeling for what it was like to live in a neighborhood outside of the tourist areas. We went to local restaurants, we took walks around the area and went to grocery stores to shop. It was a great three weeks. Imagine staying in a hotel for three weeks.
International exchanges are really not any more complicated than local ones. You can decide how to exchange, when to exchange and figure out any concerns before you leave. The issue of auto exchange also makes people nervous, but my insurance company covers other drivers so I don’t stress too much about that. Remember, you will be using their stuff too, so there needs to be an element of trust in your fellow-man, so if you are a Republican you might want to avoid exchanges. I suppose there are exchangers who could abuse the system, but why would they? Is someone going to travel all the way to my home to steal something? Oh well, I will know where they live and where they sleep. I also don’t have much worth stealing.
So should you exchange homes? Well, do you care if someone sleeps in your bed? Do you care if someone eats at your table? Do you fear someone is going to steal your big screen television? Do you want to see a new part of the world? Do you want to live like a local? Do you just want to save some money? Then start thinking about exchanging homes. If you live somewhere great let me know, I might just want to exchange with you.