Travel Cheap Tips #3: Do a Home Exchange Vacation

There’s a third way to travel cheap that saves you a wad by doing things the old-fashioned way—do a home exchange vacation.

Back in the day, bartering was the way most transactions went down. Neighbors swapped with neighbors, customers swapped with merchants, and everyone’s wallets saw a lot less daylight. At some point, capitalism shifted into overdrive and swapping became passé—in fact, something to be embarrassed about.

Fast forward to the present—many of us are still bruised by the recession and spending money unnecessarily is no longer fashionable. In 2014, I’m thrilled to say that bartering was no longer just for hippies. The “sharing economy” officially returned and, once again, sharing is acceptable.

Why not put your empty house to use while you wander and swap with a fellow traveler who wants to explore your home town?

Except for the membership fee charged by the home swapping website of your choice, your accommodations will be entirely FREE.

There are three types of home swaps:

  1. Simultaneous
  2. Asynchronous
  3. Hospitality

With a simultaneous swap, you and your swap-ee are traveling at the same time. This requires some finagling. There are several veteran home exchange websites that focus primarily on this type of exchange—HomeExchange and Intervac—and a few new kids on the blog like LoveHomeSwap and Knok.

An asynchronous swap occurs when you travel at different times. This arrangement most often involves second or vacation homes. A hospitality swap is when each of you are home when the other party stays at your home.

For either of these two types of exchanges, check out IVHE, Global Freeloaders, and the Hospitality Club. There are also many sites that cater to niche markets, such as teachers and the gay/lesbian community.

All of the aforementioned websites are packed with potential exchangers. The more thorough ones are also packed with useful resources to boost your odds of a headache-free swap.

Are you wondering what might happen if you exchange homes with an oddball? Let me give you some perspective—every day we walk out our front door, we run the risk of dealing with one. So, yes, there is a risk of dealing with a difficult person. But, I assure you, the overwhelming majority of travelers on these websites are savvy, conscientious, extremely friendly. You’ve risked far more doing many other things in your life.

Just use common sense, listen to your gut, and always get it all in writing. If the home exchange website doesn’t offer a contract for you to use, Google does. The odds are stacked in your favor that you’ll be a richer person after your swap—not only as a result of saving a wad of cash, but as a result of a priceless life experience.

If you’ve ever done a home exchange vacation, please share your experience in a comment!

Don’t miss my other tips for traveling cheap—The Wandering Ex-Housewife’s Travel Cheap Tips!