Mary and William are long time members of HomeLink having joined in 2006. They have completed 24 very successful exchanges taking in countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and many others along the way.
Since 2006 we have exchanged our home with members from France, Switzerland, the UK, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Austria. Later this year we plan to visit Vancouver, Nantes and Sion.
Every one of our exchanges was exceptional. We met wonderful people and explored hidden gems, mostly away from the standard, and often overcrowded, tourist spots. It is too hard to pick out any particular exchange, but the two that come to mind first are our numerous exchanges with Rome and all our swaps with Switzerland.
In Rome, we were situated in a beautiful apartment, with its own roof garden, looking directly over the Tiber River. We were located a short skip from the Circus Maximus. I was training for a half-marathon at the time so every morning, before breakfast, I would run a few laps of the Circus Maximus and get inspiration from the ghosts of the past who trained (not always voluntarily) on that exact circuit. On another occasion, we were located 20 metres from Piazza Navona; famous for its Bernini fountains, live open theatre, artists, buskers and magicians. Not to mention the Gelato!
As for Switzerland, we visited the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau. We had lunch in the revolving restaurant on top of the Schilthorn, with spectacular 3600 views of the surrounding majestic peaks and we skied in Verbier. We walked to the Matterhorn and hiked through the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Paradise indeed!
Home exchanging is one of the most inexpensive ways to holiday in style.
We have a large family - 4 children and a Granny. Without Homelink, it would have been prohibitively expensive for us to undertake all the holidays to such wonderful locations over the years.
The only expense we ever had to worry about was the air fares. There are no accommodation costs, no car-hire costs and none of the very expensive, and dreaded, long-term airport car-parking charges. This is because we usually swap our car with the host family’s car. I estimate that we have saved well over €80,000 on our 24 exchanges to date.
We regard home swapping as a cultural exchange. It enables us to see the real country and to meet the local people in their natural environment, away from all the unwelcome trappings of some of the more purpose-built, high–density, generic major tourist resorts.
It is particularly good when you have a young family if you swap with another family, as they will usually have children’s toys, bikes and games. You simply move, seamlessly, from your home to another home and immerse yourself into the local community.
One of the major advantages is that there is plenty of space and usually a large garden with swings, table tennis and maybe even a private swimming pool, in the exchange home. We all know too well how cramped a hotel can be, particularly if you have a large family. And you don’t have to be up too early in the morning, towel in hand, to book your pool side lounger.
In addition, the host family provides you with a list of the best places to eat, visit and explore.
Furthermore, the Homelink website – with several thousand members - offers you a window into most corners of the world. And, as you are dealing with like-minded people, the exchange process is extremely straightforward. You soon discover that other families – no matter what part of the world - are similar to your own.
Home swapping will change your perception of holiday making. But beware! Once you start, you may find it very hard to stop. It may even become a lifetime addiction. However, unlike other addictions, you will save a fortune and you will have truly, life-impacting, magical experiences.
A friend of mine once told me they would never swap their home with a stranger. He said, “I don’t want a stranger sleeping in my bed and I certainly don’t want to sleep in a stranger’s bed. I prefer to sleep in a clean hotel bed.”
When I pointed out that there were probably 200 people – probably all strangers - sleeping in the hotel bed before him and only one person sleeping in the home-swap bed, he soon realised how narrow and unadventurous his views were. That friend is now a proud card-carrying member of the Homelink site and a strong advocate of home swapping.
If you are planning to swap, I would advise you to start early. Start looking around Christmas time for the following year.
Send out 20 or 30 requests. That way, you are guaranteed to find someone who has similar plans and timeslots as you. If you get more than one taker, then you can always keep that person in mind for your next swap. Finally, as a simple courtesy, always respond promptly to any request you receive.
And remember, no matter whether you live in a garret or a gorgeous mansion, there is someone out there who will want to swap with you. Home swappers are not so much interested in the type, or size, of home you have; they are interested in your location and the opportunities your home can give them to explore your country, your city, your county, your culture and your community.
We started using Homelink when we had a large, young family. It was perfect for us and allowed us to see parts of the world, in comfort, that were not otherwise accessible to us.
24 swaps later, while our children are a bit older and we - at 60 - are both retired, we plan to explore further afield and our grown-up children may still join us. We also plan to swap more often. There are plenty of retired members who are retired, foot-loose and fancy-free who are available to swap – even at short notice. We find that retired people are also open to long-term swaps as well as weekend swaps. They are totally flexible and mostly very experienced swappers.
We also hope to swap more often in our own country, Ireland.
Home swapping: just try it, you will surprise yourself!