The weekend before we took our leave from Paris last month, over a farewell picnic on the banks of the Seine, friends detailed their summer travel plans:
“John has business meetings in Baltimore and Vancouver,” they explained, “so we’ve arranged for houses in both those places. Plus we’re planning to visit Philadelphia, where we have family, and New York.”
That’s an impressive amount of moving around to accomplish in six weeks. And even more so when you consider that our friends have two small children.
“Hotel rooms are no fun with kids. There’s just not enough room, not enough privacy… One option is to rent a house…but we’ve found a better alternative. We don’t rent somebody else’s home…we swap their home for our home here in Paris…and we stay free. We’ve managed to organize swaps in all four of the places where we want to travel this summer.
“One of the places where we’ve arranged an exchange has a big pool and patio area. And the house we’re swapping for in Philly is very near where our family lives.”
Sometimes it’s possible to swap not only houses, but whole lifestyles. That is, in addition to the house, you can exchange cars, local pool or club memberships, household help…
Our friends from Paris have been home-exchanging for years. It helps that they live in Paris. Who wouldn’t want to swap his home in, say, Des Moines, for an apartment in the heart of Paris, France, for a week or two?
But it’s not imperative that the home you offer for exchange be located in one of the world’s brand-name cities. Our friends sought out a place in Baltimore this summer, after all.
They go direct. That is, they ask around, post ads online… Over the years, they’ve managed to organize a series of exchanges this way…which is to say, at virtually zero cost. Flying solo like this, you prefer a referral from the friend of a friend, say, or the son of an old roommate’s cousin. And you want to try to get to know your exchange partner as much as possible by e-mail and maybe a phone call…swap photos of your respective exchange products…
Then you hope for the best. I’m sure things don’t always turn out as you expect…though our friends have never had a disappointing experience.
Nevertheless, going direct can be time-consuming, hassle-filled, and perhaps risky.
Easier, maybe, to organize your exchange through an agency. The biggest is Home Exchange, with currently 20,000 listings in 100 countries. There are no per-exchange or per-day charges…only an annual membership fee of $99.95. If you don’t exchange in your first year, says Home Exchange, your second year’s membership is free.