A Free Vacation? It Was Possible with HomeExchange

As an avid participant in the sharing economy, I am always looking for more sustainable and affordable ways to access resources. So when a friend told me about Homeexchange.com, I was intrigued.

I knew that people sometimes swapped homes, as made famous by that Cameron Diaz movie. But I wasn’t sure if it would make sense for a family of four. But as it turns out, it was completely ideal.

We took a few photos of our Philadelphia home and posted on the site with a brief description and our desire to travel somewhere in August. We didn’t really have a specific location in mind, but since Philadelphia is a hot tourist area we quickly got inquiries from everywhere from French villas and Spanish vacation homes to tiny towns in New Mexico.

Then we received a message from a family in Montreal who were “expert home swappers” with a passport full of high ratings. My husband and I had been to Montreal before and loved it, and we knew we could save the money on airfare as well, as long as we split up the eight-hour drive with kids in tow.

Setting up the exchange was simple. We agreed on a preferred week and agreed to the exchange, which would cost none of us anything apart from the $150 Website registration. As we both had two children, we knew we’d have all the built-in amenities of a family home – toys, bikes, scooters, and no precious vases we’d have to worry about breaking. We also both lived in very walkable family neighborhoods, close to parks and playgrounds.

We spent months leading up to the swap exchanging details about sightseeing, transportation, and how to access each other’s homes. They even agreed to watch our dog for the week, saving us hundreds that we would have had to spend on a petsitter!

We did our best to make our messy home as presentable as possible with fresh sheets and a quick vacuum, but it would pale in comparison to their spotless, modern, minimalist condo. While they only had one bathroom, it was nicer than our three bathrooms combined. Everything was streamlined, simple, and practical, and we were right in the middle of the ideal neighborhood for exploring Montreal with children.

All of our children were absolutely enthralled by the sight of someone else’s toys, keeping them happily occupied and far less obsessed with screens than usual. And unlike renting a beach house, we didn’t have to worry about bringing our own sheets or towels – we simply used and washed each others.

Admittedly, we lucked out – I’m sure not every swap is as seamless. Fortunately, this family was as eco-conscious as us, and all their products were fragrance-free. We could have easily walked into a home filled with plug-in air fresheners and heavy fabric softener wafting from the sheets. But we happened upon our Canadian counterparts!

We saved thousands on this vacation and we are already looking for future home exchanges!

 

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