33 nights of accommodation for 5 people in a full-sized home for roughly $500USD.
That’s the best bargain of our trip. Here’s how we did it:
We joined 2 home exchange websites, Homelink and LoveHomeSwap. Our family has been a member of Homelink for years (as have Rebecca’s parents), but LoveHomeSwap was new to us. The $500 is the approximate cost of our two annual memberships.
We paid for the premium introductory membership on LoveHomeSwap, which entitled us to bank “points” that we could use as currency to exchange with people who did not want to swap homes directly with us. They could then let us “pay” to stay in their homes with our points, which they bank for future use with someone else. In other cases, the exchange is a direct swap, or people are willing to host us, or to let us use their holiday home when not in use.
We sent messages to dozens of people, about a year ago. We based our Australia/NZ itinerary on the locations of those who said yes to our offer.
And as a result, we have 33 nights of accommodation for 5 of us for $500 — plus many [enjoyable] hours of my time setting it all up.
We can’t yet write about how it’s gone, as we are currently on night #2 in house #1 of 7. But I can assure you we’re delighted so far, and our past exchanges have all gone well. In fact, we’re staying in two houses belonging to the owner of the one we’re currently in (one in Oz and one in NZ), and she is at our place in Canada right now for a few days as well. We got more nights, she got the use of our car. Three of the other owners swapped for points, and 2 families are hoping to come to Canada at a later date.
Now that the sharing economy is taking off (thanks in large part to AirBnB and Uber), home exchanging doesn’t seem as odd as it perhaps used to. Home exchanging does require a degree of trust. But I always figure that others will treat our home well because they’ll want us to do the same to theirs. And my love of a bargain outweighs any anxiety I might have about the wellbeing of my stuff. I think exchanging also attracts a particular kind of person — and I always wish we could meet the other owners, although in our case that hasn’t always happened. It also allows us to enjoy more space than we’d get at a hotel. We get to know the neighbourhoods a bit better, and can usually help ourselves to a few pantry ingredients when cooking for ourselves.
So we’ll keep you posted about how it goes along the way…but so far, so [very, very] good!