More Holiday Ideas to Beat the Credit Crunch by:Clive Wilmer
One of the things that I did not have time to cover in my last article on 'Holidaysideas to beat the Credit Crunch' (http://www.findholidays4u.com0 was a real killer money saver. House Swapping, actually I noticed the organisations concerned prefer to call it exchanging, perhaps to avoid any overtones. This one seems a bit way out at first but offers some real savings if you still want to travel and gives much more chance to get into the local culture and pace of life than a traditional package.
The range of people and places who want to swap houses is really quite surprising. At the biggest home exchange service http://www.Homelink.org there are over 14000 from 72 countries. I think that sort of people this would suite would be slightly more independent and adventurous. If you dislike the way you are treated like a tourist on conventional tours and hotels that are impersonal. I think Home Exchangers want to gain new experiences and like to feel in control of their precious leisure time.
Here are some of the reasons why some people find home exchange makes for an ideal holiday.
Holiday Ideas Cost-savings
The cost of accommodation is a major factor in holiday budgeting, especially for those such as teachers or parents of school-aged children who are tied to specific dates and so tend to pay inflated prices. For the price of annual membership (120), accommodation budgets can be totally eliminated, irrespective of the duration of your stay. It is easy to see how this money could be put to good use: A more exotic destination perhaps? How about longer (or more) holidays? Or maybe you might have little more spending money to treat yourself to some special events that help to turn a good holiday into a great one. One home exchanger recently put the cost-savings into context for me when she said that her membership more than paid for itself on the first night of her first exchange!
You can keep it simple by merely exchanging homes, however you can save even more money by also agreeing to exchange cars, so that the holiday budget can be limited to cost of travel plus food / spending money.
Holiday Ideas Authenticity
Conventional tourism can sometimes thwart the principle of "When in Rome...." as travellers are often treated as tourists. In this way you have the opportunity to parachute into a genuine local community and live like a local. So, if you like the idea of sauntering along to the local diner to ask for "eggs easy over and coffee", home exchange could be for you. With this in mind you dont have to live in a touristy area yourself, either.
Holiday Ideas Flexibility
Remember also that there is no limit to the number of exchange holidays that you can take during your membership year. This should be appealing to retired or semi-retired members as they are more able than most to succumb to wanderlust. This also means that there are quite a high proportion of similar travellers, and the sites indicate both where people have children and where they are retired. Having members in over 50 countries also means that there is an enormous range of destinations from which to choose.
The emergence of local airports and low-cost airlines makes domestic and European destinations more accessible and so opens up the possibility of adding a number of cheap 3-7 day breaks to the main holiday of the year. On renewing for their second year, one family recently told me that they had completed seven exchanges in their first year!
Holiday Ideas Convenience
Well-matched home exchange partners go on holiday in the knowledge that their accommodation is likely to be tailored to their needs. For instance, parents of young children may find it easier to relax when their holiday home is child-friendly. Parents might also enjoy travelling light, as many normal accompaniments can be left at home as a car seat, high chair and a range of toys await them.
Furthermore, many members agree to take care of each other's pets and/or garden maintenance so there may not be a need to pay for alternative arrangements or return home to a jungle after your holiday.
Frequently asked questions about Home Exchanges
How do I know my home will be Safe?
The answer is you don't. However, arguably your home will be much safer when occupied by exchangers than if left empty. Home insurance companies know this, as do the police. HomeLink claims that in over forty years of exchanging they have had very few instances of damage and no reports of theft. Most problems are at the level of, "housekeeping standards," at the home being visited. Even in these rare situations exchangers return to find their own home just as they left it. While you are setting up your exchange you will get to know the other family. You also know the other exchanger's profession and have a good idea of the home involved before you make your first contact.
Most HomeLink members are professionals - doctors, engineers, teachers, etc.- business executives, and retirees. In general, they are in an upper income bracket, well educated and are experienced travellers. They are also very proud of their homes, which is why they're not too embarrassed to let others enjoy their home whilst they're away.
Who pays the bills?
Pay your mortgage and utilities as you normally would and agree beforehand who should pay extraordinary expenses such as long distance telephone calls. If a car-exchange is involved you should discuss who pays for minor or major damage.
Is my house covered by my insurance?
In general, most home insurance policies covers home exchangers. After all, they're your guests, and it's really no different from having friends or relations stay in your home whilst you're away on holiday. Most insurance companies say they would much prefer you to have exchangers looking after your home rather than going off on holiday and leaving it empty. However you would have to check with your insurers and personally I would ensure it either explicit in your policy or you have it in writing.
Planning and getting an exchange
There is a continual turnover of people joining such schemes and looking for exchanges, many arrange an exchange within a couple of weeks. The most successful exchangers are those who are proactive and send many invitations. The more flexible your plans, the greater your opportunities. Generally speaking, short-haul trips are planned 3-6 months in advance with long-haul trips being planned 6-9 months ahead or more.
What's actually involved? How do I prepare my house?
These recommendations from http://www.HomeLink.org will give you some idea of what you have to do to prepare your home.
1) Leave your home clean. Standards of cleanliness vary, so make sure that floors are cleaned, refrigerator emptied, oven and hob grease-free, bath and shower free of mould and grime, windows see-through, and surfaces dust-free. No need to repaint the house!
2) Clear away enough of your personal belongings to leave space on shelves and in wardrobes and drawers so that your guests can empty their suitcases, arrange their things in bedrooms and bathrooms and feel at home.
3) Leave at least two sets of clean sheets per bed and two sets of towels per person.
About the author
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