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Vacationing Differently: Opening Your Home To Others Opens The World To You

Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a ChooseFI advertiser. Disclosures.

Those of us in traditional jobs earn our precious vacation days slowly, and we spend them wisely.

Aideen and her husband Patrick both lost their jobs within a couple months of welcoming their new baby. Patrick set up his own business, and Aideen decided to freelance. This new financial strain forced every dollar to be stretched or sacrificed.

When it came to getaways, they needed to find ways to cut the costs as low as possible. Since they live in Ireland, credit card rewards are not available. So they had to get creative. In Ireland, “holidays” are not a luxury, they are considered a cultural necessity. If we can open our minds to non-traditional methods of vacationing we are likely to adopt a bit of that Irish Culture mindset.

Aideen and her family live in a small house in the city and she has a friend who lives in a large house in the country. They swapped and stepped into each other’s lives which was the refreshing break that each needed. She began researching to see if this was a “thing” and she struck gold. There are many sites devoted to “House Exchanging” or “Home Swapping.”

Benefits Of A Home Exchange

With this method, you get to step into a life that is different than your own for a set length of time. Starting with Direct Swaps, meaning you swap locally with someone geographically quite close to you, you can make local friends who likely have similar money philosophies. Perhaps they can slow down on your patio, and you can soak in their courtyard?  Your own to-do list simply doesn’t exist when you are not in your own home. Staycations are then blissful.

You’ll find that you’ll get offers from people in places that you’d never make a destination priority. Let the location choose you and engage even the kids in preparing your home for others. The process of optimizing is learned when you decided to get away in a new manner.

Once you truly experience a Home Exchange, you may find that staying at a chain high-rise hotel across from a huge tourist attraction is not vacationing at all.

If this concept is a fit for you, here are a few sites to get you started. Some are generic and some have specific niches.

  • HomeExchange: The #1 exchange community.
  • LoveHomeSwap: Worldwide travel. Get two weeks free.
  • CultureGoGo: Specializes in people wanting to learn English from locals.
  • Wwoof: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
  • HomeExchange50Plus: Specializes in people over 50 years old.

Spending Less Means Going More

Aideen’s family of four flew from Ireland to France and spent two weeks there. The entire experience, including flights from Ireland cost them about 1600 Euros. That’s $1,835 American Dollars. They ate out at nice places and experienced everything they wanted. All on just over 100 Euros a day.

The Home Exchange idea isn’t focused on making money, but rather on SAVING money. Aideen and her family travel so much more because of the savings. You’ll go more when you are spending less. Ultra nerds could bank the savings, and if that’s you, go for it.

A True Experience

One of Aideen’s favorite experiences during an exchange was at a home that had a huge vegetable garden.

The owner left word requesting that they pick some zucchini. Aideen and her family even took some zucchini to the restaurant next door, and the chef made them a dish and brought it over after the restaurant closed. They all sat in the gazebo, drank wine, and ate this delicious dish. What a neat memory, and it had literally zero cost.

Getting Started

For our example, we’ll use the site Home Exchange. At the time of this writing, it had just switched over into the new “point system”. Aideen’s experiences had been on the “old system” which was very altruistic and didn’t rely on points. Being that the points system is very new, our goal is to expose you to the concept itself and let you explore from there.

Registration is a basic cookie-cutter Airbnb style setup to profile your home. A few verifications will earn you points which serve as an artificial currency. Your home will auto-populate a point value which others would “spend” to stay there, those points are transferred to your account which allows you to spend them on lodging within the system.

With the points earned, we can see how this fits with a low travel budget.

Members of home exchange sites typically have nice houses and are pretty laid back people. You would be opening up your home similar to an Airbnb type of style by getting it ready for guests like you would enjoy being welcomed yourself.

How Home Exchanges Generally Work

There are many home exchange sites. In learning how they work, our example has two different plans. One plan is for light travelers and charges a $15 nightly fee, or for more frequent travelers, there is the unlimited plan for $150 per year. No matter how you look at it, it’s darn inexpensive. Just choose the plan that suits your travel lifestyle.

Remember, this is the only cost. There is no actual cost to staying in someone else’s home as you are spending points you earned by allowing people to stay in your home.

A Direct Swap Is A Good Place To Start

Feeling weird about having a stranger stay in your house? You may want to start with a direct swap with someone local. That way you can arrange to meet in person, which may make you feel more comfortable. You are in my house, and I am in your house. We both know it. Then, once that feels good to you, you can start navigating into scenarios where you don’t meet the person, hence developing more unseen trust.

Facilitating An Exchange

Just contact another member on the site and start a discussion about an exchange. It can be Reciprocal or Non-Reciprocal. All of the sites have their own strengths.

What About Trust And Safety?

What if someone falls down the stairs or some unforeseen situation or accident happens? HomeExchange provides insurance to cover that. Checking your homeowner’s policy is also a good idea prior to joining.

If the home exchange is for any length of time, you may decide to stop your mail, or even get a P.O. Box. You may also consider locking up anything irreplaceable and you’ll need to make other arrangements for your pets.

If anything would go awry, you have their identity and a whole bunch of info on who was registered in your home on said date.

It Gets Even Better When Retired Or Location Independent

Professionals in many fields get assigned to work in another location or country for a set length of time and need a place to stay. If you have the freedom to do a direct exchange with them, the result is a win-win. Still, once you have that freedom to not have to work around earned vacation time, and a geographic location, home exchanging provides unlimited short or long term lodging.

Think of the Geoarbitrage possibilities!

Related: Podcast Episode: The Cult Of Home Ownership & Crushing Geoarbitrage | Millenial Revolution

Aideen and the Hot Seat:

What’s your favorite blog that you’re currently reading?: I am quite unfaithful on this front and I jump around a lot. Sorry bloggers!

What is your favorite article of all time?: Anything of the UK’s Guardian Long Read which is a great series of high-quality long-form journalism. The entire news site is free, too.  It’s one of the best sites on the internet.

What is your favorite life hack?: Not working full time! It’s life-changing and it doesn’t impact your financial life that much because you are not in the highest tax brackets and it all works out in the end with a lower cost lifestyle.

What was your biggest financial mistake?: Over the years in different jobs I signed up for various 401(k) type funds and didn’t know to question about the fees. I don’t like to think about how much I have paid over the years.

What advice would you give to your younger self?: Learn about fees ASAP!

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Vacationing Differently: Opening Your Home To Others Opens The World To You

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Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a ChooseFI advertiser. Disclosures.
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