Today’s post is from Carolyn Russell, a mum to two busy toddlers, married to an accountant, chief home swap organiser for her family and director of Swap St, a recently launched family friendly home swap website.
My husband and I love to travel and we’ve been fortunate to experience some amazing adventures together. From trotting the globe to exploring our incredible country, along with making the most of weekend escapes – then along come our kids! We thought our travel days were over, both financially and logistically!
Initially, with just baby number one our travel was really not that impacted; we still had two incomes, could still all fit in one hotel room and were still able to travel reasonably light. It was when our bouncy baby boy arrived that things really changed, we only had one income, we could no longer fit easily in one hotel room and we seemed to need an army to carry our mountain of luggage.
However, determined to enjoy holidaying as a family (albeit on a tight budget) we joined the growing trend of house swapping, a simple concept where we stay at your place and you stay at ours.
What is home swapping
The home swap concept, also referred to as home exchange, has been around for over 50 years (in those pre internet days home swaps were negotiated by snail mail!). Many enthusiastic swappers have participated in more than fifty successful swaps both locally and internationally.
So does thought of swapping your much loved home with a perfect stranger seem completely insane, well it did to us, but after several conversations and a SKYPE call we knew more about our swappers than our neighbours. And of course as you are excitedly packing up to stay in their house, they are doing the same, and sharing the same concerns.
After our first exchange we were hooked, the benefits were endless, not only do save on accommodations cost and possibly car hire, we were not carting or hiring baby equipment. The money we were save allowed us to go out and enjoy our days not worrying about the cost of every little thing; we were able to buy that extra nice bottle of wine to enjoy once the kids were tucked up in bed. In fact we loved home swapping so much we have started our ow website www.swapst.com.au to offer other families the opportunity to travel cost effectively,
Benefits of home swapping
While saving money is a massive draw card, the real benefits are how family friendly these holidays are; all the local tips from your swap family allow you immerse yourself into the local culture during the day, then retreat in the evenings to all of home’s creature comforts. You do not need to eat every meal out or share a room with your kids, our daughter has even had play dates with the neighbours.
In 2012 home swapping enabled our family to enjoy four amazing family holidays. We kicked off with a wonderful week in Bright, Victoria staying in an amazing house with magnificent views, in October we enjoyed two relaxing weeks in a 5 bedroom villa in Bali, including a dedicated chef and house staff. Then to cap the year off our kid’s grandparents joined us to stay in a large family home in Fremantle, WA to celebrate Christmas, followed by a week in Dunsborough WA, near the beach and on the door step to the Margaret River wine region. Both places provided all our baby equipment and two cars.
Do we have any regrets? None, we had great experiences, we travelled light, we were able to relax and we certainly would not have had these holidays if we had to spend the $18000 we saved.
Is home swapping really that ideal for kids?
We are often asked if staying in someone else’s home with kids is stressful. It’s a valid question and we would recommend exchanging homes already suited to kids. Our kids have adapted well to home swap holidays, in fact on a weekend trip to stay with friends at their home our then 3 year old asked if we would see them before they left to stay at our home.
Home swapping is also a very special way to connect families. Melbourne based UK couple, Sam and Trevor French, are the devoted grandparents to six young grandkids and use home swapping to make regular trips to the UK to visit their grandkids. Swapping their inner city apartment offers them the opportunity to be close to their family without needing to stay with them. They also manage to squeeze in a few European home swap side trips.
So how do you go about home swapping?
Become a member of a home swap website such as ours, www.swapst.com.au an annual membership would cost $130 per year, list your property, search properties you would like to swap with, then enjoy your holiday. Most sites will only allow registered members to contact each other, this keeps your details secure. For more info and tips on home swapping go to www.swapst.com.au/member-resources
Also do not be concerned that your average home located in the suburbs may not attract home swap requests, there are many people that travel to specific locations and your comfy family home may be just what they are looking for.
Once registered, you are ready to start negotiating swaps. Be open and honest in all discussions, take time to get to know your home swappers, be clear on your expectations and you will be well on the way to enjoying your home swap holiday.
Would love to hear if you have tried house swapping! Please share in the comments below.