So what’s keeping you from your dream Irish vacation?
Could it be your concern about rising costs of the following:
1) flights and travel 2) hotel and accommodation 3) car rental
4) food and fun while you’re there.
There may be a way to cancel most of the costs except the flight … a way to set your home down in a faraway neighborhood for just a week or two. It’s called House Swap. And it makes any destination affordable. Read on for an overview and comparison of five established organizations. Or e-mail us for a list of “Tips from Experienced Exchangers”
Ireland House Swap: Is it for you?
My brother, Sean, and his young family have tried it twice. They’ve exchanged their home in Dublin City, Ireland, for a gated-community with pool in South Carolina, and for a house with sauna in Finland.
This type of vacation has been popular in Europe among teachers since the 1950s. Now, house-swapping has crossed over to every profession and generation. With easy Internet access you can preview the available exchanges online without the time lag waiting for the catalog to arrive.
Is it safe?
Don’t think of it as having a “stranger in your home” – think Internet dating for your house, recommends one site. You make a connection, ask lots of questions, get photos, find out about each others’ interests, share the amenities in your area that would appeal to your new Internet friends.
Get referrals from previous exchanges. But most of all agree on the ground rules. These exchanges are “based on trust but not blind trust.” If you’re open, flexible and have a sense of adventure, home exchanges are an opportunity for travel, learning and friendships.
So who’s doing it?
Traditionally, people with flexibility to arrange longer vacations. Families with young kids or teenagers swap with others in a similar stage of life. Professional couples swap with others of a similar lifestyle. And you can live like a local rather than a tourist.
How does it work?
Here are some of the most popular organizations: The two longest-running international companies are Intervac.com (1950) and HomeLink.org (1953). Both publish twice-yearly catalogs where members list their homes in addition to the Internet membership.
HomeExchange.com (1992) promises an exchange partner in the first year or the second year is free. Digsville.com (2000) has a member profile with housekeeping styles to help keep Oscar and Felix from crossing paths. (“Only in America” exchangehomesoia.com focuses on the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Caribbean.)
These companies act as matchmakers – they don’t screen or monitor for complaints.
However, chat rooms on these sites recall very positive experiences and few problems. As a website visitor, you can compare companies and preview descriptions and house photos online. Then, choose a company to join. Only as a member, after you’ve posted your home will you get access to other listings. Only as a member, will you be able to contact other participants.
How much does it cost?
You pay only to list your home. Arrangements with fellow members are up to you. A one-year membership ranges from $50 to $100 (at time of writing).
Intervac.com has over 12,000 members in 50 countries. Home Link.org has over 13,000 members in 72 countries. Those are the two oldest with experienced home-swappers. Home Exchange.com has 20,000 members in 110 countries and also offers hospitality exchanges. Digsville Home & Hospitality has been called the eBay of house swapping. Their tips section is excellent.
Exchange Homes Only in America is free to charter members as it builds its initial database in the continental U.S. Their website has sample agreements and emails to walk you through the entire process
So will my family be doing a house-swap soon?
I’ve discovered my kids and spouse aren’t as enthralled with this idea as I am. Also you start to look at your home differently. It’s like when preparing for the real estate market. You see the flaws and maintenance tasks that need done. So first of all I’ve got to fix up house a little, do that painting I’ve put off. Then maybe I can persuade the family to try it for a long weekend … or maybe do a hospitality exchange.
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Marian Joyce helps adventurous types to plan an authentic – yet affordable – Irish travel experience. Get your FREE copy of the special report “No More Jet Lag” plus other travel tips, at: http://www.YanksGuideIRL.com.