5 Simple Steps to a Home Swap Vacation

Cottage on a river

Shelley Miller is a Home Exchange Expert who offers home swap tips to people who want to travel the world and stay for free. Shelley, her husband and two children lived in Europe from April to August, 2000 and exchanged homes with five individual families in England, Ireland, Germany, France and Italy. The Miller’s have now completed 14 home exchanges in 9 countries in 13 years. In this detailed account Shelley shares her house swap secrets with Miles Momma.
What is home swap?
The home swap vacation concept is simple: You live in someone’s home, while they live in yours. No money is exchanged, only your home. You vacation location could be across the state or across the ocean. You choose!
You will enjoy vacations in far more spacious and comfortable surroundings than you would otherwise. You’ll have fully stocked kitchens where you can cook your own meals if and when you choose. This is especially important if it’s cherry season!
A few years ago, my family exchanged our home with the Schramm family in Germany. During our June home swap vacation there, the Schramm’s garden was bursting with juicy strawberries and ripe raspberries. Cherries dangled from tree branches like ruby earrings. I decided to whip up a batch of my mom’s famous cherry crisp for a Father’s Day dessert. Our children, Dillon and Michele, used a ladder to harvest a bowlful of the fruit and then the three of us sat at the patio table pitting the cherries. By the time we were finished, our arms were coated in sticky juice, our stomachs hurt from laughing, and the fruit looked slaughtered. But after dinner, that cherry crisp was devoured!
When did you first try home exchange?
My family’s love of home exchange began in 2000 when we lived in Europe for five months and exchanged homes with five families. At the time our son Dillon was 12 and our daughter Michele was 8.
Our children missed 10 weeks of school, but instead they marveled at Stonehenge in England, experienced the night sky at the only planetarium in Ireland, learned of the atrocities at Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany, took an art class at a museum down the street from Claude Monet’s home in France and attended an opera—in Italian— in my grandmother’s hometown of Barga, Italy.
Our children matured in unexpected ways on that journey. These were two typical American kids who squirmed while munching chicken nuggets at Denny’s. But by the time we arrived in Italy five months after our journey began, they were sitting in a white tablecloth restaurant eating calamari.
How much does it cost to do a home swap?
Most home exchange companies charge an annual membership fee of about $100. You can surf many home swap websites for free.
One night after you put the kids to bed and the house is quiet, take a trip around the world. You’ll be blown away by what you find. I will never forget my first peek at a home exchange website. It’s positively thrilling
Is home exchange a good fit for families?
 Home exchange was made for families!
What happens when you go to a hotel room—after the kids jump on the bed and watch TV and play with the games on your phone or iPad—they get cabin fever, right? Well, when you home exchange there is s-p-a-c-e to move around! And if you exchange with families who have kids, there are TOYS! Often there are bicycles! There are board games! Doll houses! Drum sets! Puppets! (Did I mention toys?)
How To Make Home Swap A Reality

  1. Select a home exchange club – There are more than 70 around the world. One company lists 44,000 house swaps from 142 countries! Another offers 5,000 house swaps in 81 countries. Check out my home exchange blog post: House Exchange Clubs: 9 Nifty Ways to Choose One.
  2. Dream Vacation Location: This is the really fun part. Take a walk or go out to a nice dinner with your travel partner and dream. Where have you always wanted to go but thought you couldn’t afford?  With home exchange, dreams become affordable.
  3. Start The Process Six Months In Advance – To schedule a home swap vacation in December join a home swap club by June. However some people begin earlier; I just received an e-mail asking if we’d like to exchange our home with someone in Lyon, France 12 months from now!
  4. Cut and Paste Your Way Around the World– Whether you want to vacation in Sardinia, Seattle or Sydney, don’t sit around and wait for others to find you. Send out an e-mail to your favorite home swap prospects. Here’s a helpful blog post: Catch a Fabulous Home Exchange with a Great E-mail: 9 Writing Tips. I’ve been known to send out as many as 20 home exchange requests. E-mail and engage!
  5. Book It– It’s out there. I promise. The right home exchange is waiting for you. Someday soon, you’ll find the perfect flat or cottage or villa. You’ll like the country, the neighborhood and especially the people. You’ll agree on travel dates and how to exchange house keys, and you might even decide to do a car exchange. All you have to do is say, “Yes.”

Find a list of home exchange companies here and start planning your next adventures.
 

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