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|Amber Brooks • 4/02/18|
The Short Version: Many people daydream about packing their bags and getting away from it all, but that doesn’t mean they want to leave the comforts of home behind. HomeExchange gives travelers the chance to live like a local by staying in someone’s actual home. Not a hotel. Not a rental. A cozy, comfortable home. You can stay in a house, condo, or apartment abroad to escape the touristy parts of town and have a private place you can call your own. Since 1992, HomeExchange has fostered an international community where subscribed members can arrange home exchanges for a flat fee. You can go on the website or app and take your pick from 65,000 homes in 150 countries. Couples can use this rich online resource to plan unique romantic getaways where they can enjoy the intimacy of a home away from home.
In “The Holiday,” a bitter breakup inspires Cameron Diaz’s character to get away. Feeling overwrought, the Hollywood executive searches online for a vacation home she can rent over the holidays. She wants to get away ASAP, so she agrees to a home exchange in the UK.
Across the pond, an ex getting engaged spurs Kate Winslet’s lovesick character to pack her bags and trade lives with Cameron for the next few days. Cameron and Kate swap houses and, lo and behold, they find a whirlwind romance while on vacation. Jude Law and Jack Black literally show up on their doorsteps.
Such adorable meet-cutes may not happen all that often in the real world, but there’s something undeniably romantic about an excursion abroad. Especially if you have a home where you can cook your own meals, soak in a tub, and savor those private moments with someone special. HomeExchange, an online community of international travelers, can put such romance and excitement within your reach.
Since 1992, HomeExchange has given thousands of people the opportunity to escape from the humdrum of everyday life and experience a new city from the comfort of a real home. You can create an account for free and browse thousands of accommodations, which range from modern apartments in the heart of a big city to rustic cottages in the middle of a wooded area.
What started as a print catalog of available homes soon expanded to an online home-swapping network active in hundreds of countries worldwide. Members from all walks of life can use the website or app to trade homes and take a memorable vacation in Brazil, Cambodia, France, China, and other destinations off-the-beaten path. This is a terrific opportunity for couples to travel the world without spending a fortune.
“When you do a home exchange, it’s your home entirely while you’re there,” explained Alexandra Origet du Cluzeau, Head of Communications. “You’re not confined to your room. You can have wine and cheese in your own garden. So, you have a higher level of comfort and privacy.”
The HomeExchange network spans across 150 countries. It’s particularly popular in the US, Spain, France, and Italy. More than 65,000 members have listed cottages, villas, apartments, and houses on HomeExchange. You can become a member, add your own listing, and start fielding exchange requests from other members online. You can arrange an exchange with someone living in Paris, the Caribbean, or popular destinations around the world. Of course, you don’t have to do an outright trade — you can earn Balloons for non-reciprocal exchanges.
The HomeExchange system is uniquely cost-effective. You pay a flat fee to join, and you can home exchange as many times as you want. You are guaranteed an exchange within your first year. No more booking overpriced hotel rooms. According to the website, home exchangers save an average of 58% a year on their travels.
“You’re saving so much money on accommodations, you can afford to do something special with your partner,” Alexandra pointed out. “You can buy a nice dinner, go on a helicopter ride — be creative with it!”
Couples often take advantage of HomeExchange’s simple and affordable tools when going on their romantic getaways. Whether you’re planning a honeymoon or an anniversary trip, you can guarantee yourself some quality time together by staying in the home of a local. You’ll have the place to yourself, so you can feel at home while you travel abroad.
It’s a great way to see the city the way the locals do. If you want some good recommendations for where to shop or what to eat, you can simply knock on a neighbor’s door and ask.
“The beauty of it is we’re facilitating in many different ways the connections and conversations between travelers and locals,” Alexandra said. “Wherever you are, you’ll have a great experience going off the beaten path.”
HomeExchange began as the passion project of home exchange pioneer Ed Kushins. In 1992, this Californian printed and mailed a directory of house listings called Trading Homes International. Readers could use this to look up places to stay and coordinate a home exchange via snail mail. In 1995, Ed launched an online version of his print catalog and created one of the first online social travel communities in the world.
Since the 1990s, HomeExchange has continued to innovate new features and expand its travelers network. HomeExchange was acquired in February 2017 by the leader of the industry, GuestToGuest. Now the company employs over 60 team members in 15 countries, including the US, France, and Croatia. GuestToGuest Co-Founders, Bostonian Emmanuel Arnaud and Parisian Charles-Edouard Girard, share a common passion for unique travel experiences. They do everything they can to ensure members enjoy frictionless travel anywhere they want to go.
“We think no one is better positioned to guide our members than a local,” Alexandra said. “We are all home exchangers who are registered on the website and regularly use the service in our travels.”
Through the power of collaborative consumption, HomeExchange has facilitated over 1 million successful exchanges throughout the world. It’s an easy system that ensures transparency and facilitates travel — and many people have raved about their experiences swapping houses with someone abroad.
In the Guestbook section of Home Exchange’s home listings, you’ll find numerous reviews from people who have stayed at that location and enjoyed every minute of it. “We thoroughly enjoyed our Canadian house swap,” said Geraint, a HomeExchange member form Northern Ireland. “It was definitely the best yet. We were all sorry to leave after three weeks.”
Teresa said her first home exchange went smoothly because of the hands-on assistance of her Spanish hostess Mhairi. “Mhairi gave us a log of recommendations and contacts…that helped the stay to be perfect,” she wrote in her review. “I would love to go back another time.”
“Very nice stay at a lovely home, thanks to a very nice and lovely family.” — Pilar, a Spanish home exchanger who stayed in a home in Iceland
“One of the best things about swapping houses, in addition to being economical, is that it provides many opportunities to stay in real neighborhoods,” said Camilla in a review.
Alexandra told us a story about her own stay in Rome. She stayed in a charming neighborhood with her family and wanted to know where the nearest grocery store was, so she asked her next-door neighbor. One thing led to another, and the Italian woman ended up inviting them over to have dinner together. “We were telling stories and laughing,” Alexandra recalled. “That’s something you won’t find at a hotel.”
Whether you want to stay at a beach house in Hawaii or a quiet villa in Italy, you can enjoy all the amenities of a local home with your significant other. “You have a lot of flexibility with where and how you vacation,” Alexandra said. “You get to live like a local and stay for free.”
I watch “The Holiday” every year around Christmastime because it’s such a feel-good story about singles finding love and happiness abroad. You can’t help but smile at the end when Cameron Diaz and Jude Law are dancing in each other’s arms.
It may seem fantastical, but some people on HomeExchange have actually found an international love story in real life. Margie (a Florida resident) and Ian (from Queensland, Australia) met on the website and made vacation plans together. Ian wanted to visit the Sunshine State and arranged to stay with Margie. As they emailed back and forth, their long-distance friendship became romantic, and they’re now happily married.
HomeExchange gives couples the chance to create treasured memories on their romantic getaways. It’s a fantastic way to travel the world on budget because you can stay for free at a quaint country cottage or a sleek seaside condo. Thousands of budget-friendly options and user-friendly features can help you make your next trip more comfortable and unique.
“One thing is for sure — it’s off-the-beaten path,” Alexandra said. “It’s an immersive experience, and that makes it more special and something you’ll always remember. That’s something you cannot buy.”