Home World The families ditching traditional vacations for home swapping

The families ditching traditional vacations for home swapping

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(CNN) – The concept of living in another family’s home while they are sleeping in yours is not entirely new.

Many thrifty holiday makers have been doing this for years to save on accommodation costs while enjoying a different type of vacation experience.

However, there has been a significant jump in this type of holiday due to the ongoing travel restrictions and uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

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UK-based company Love Home Swap reported a 282% increase in new customers signing up for the free trial last year compared to 2019, while rival company Holiday Swap saw a 20% increase.
Home Exchange, a home exchange site with over 400,000 properties in 187 countries that allows users to list their properties, has also seen a surge in interest. In fact, the number of exchanges finalized on the platform last month was 3% higher than those held in 2019.

Meanwhile, according to a spokesperson for the online platform, exchange-related conversations created by users on June 6, 2021 were up 49% compared to the same day in 2019.

Joe Watkins, a freelance general practitioner and co-founder of digital membership platform The How People, has been doing house swaps with her husband Dave and their four children for more than a decade.

stick to home swapping

Joe Watkins’ four kids Polly, Jinx, Tom and Meg are enjoying a home swapping exchange in New Zealand.

Courtesy Joe Watkinskin

“We did our first house swap back in 2010,” Watkins tells CNN Travel. “We were looking to move to Bowen Island in Canada, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and I couldn’t find anywhere suitable to rent.”

After signing up to Home Exchange, which allows users to list their properties, as well as contact owners before officially registering and paying annual subscription costs, Watkins is routed to their desired location. A house is available.

“It was very simple. Literally exchanging emails, and we arranged it,” she explains.

“We were living in a house that cost us thousands. They left little gifts for us. It was just a lovely experience. And it made us want to do it over and over again.”

Watkins soon “connected” on the house swap, but realized that not every swap would be as straightforward as the first one.

“There’s a little more luck involved and a lot more organizing and compromising,” she explains. “Because what works for one family may not work for another.”

Mark Qureshi, his wife Kerstin and their three children are among the many families that Watkins has transformed over the years.

“I think it’s a really interesting concept,” says Kurishi, who lives in Didsbury, a suburb of the northern English city of Manchester.

“It may have been pre-Internet, but you’re not going to be moving as fast as you are now. Technology has enabled this and made it more convenient.”

Although they’ve had countless home swaps, including a house on the beach in Los Angeles and a lavish house in Rio de Janeiro, the Kurishes are very fond of Watkins’ vacation home in Treseth, West Wales, and they at least Have returned 10 times. over the past few years.

The two families were brought together through the Love Home Swap platform, where members can swap houses with someone else or lend their home in exchange for redeeming points later.

Watkins managed to build up a huge bank of points by offering their Holiday Home, which sleeps 14, when they weren’t using it.

They have since been in homes as far away as Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, and the west coast of the US and Canada, which they have accumulated, as well as doing direct domestic swaps.

big savings

The Rise of Home Swapping - Handout image from Home Exchange

Home exchange site Home Exchange says domestic exchanges have seen growth since the pandemic.

home exchange

“We basically took a trip we would never have been able to do otherwise, as a result of the house swap,” Watkins says.

“It wasn’t even a possibility. I’m not sure I can put a price on how much we saved.”

Celia Proto, managing director of Love Home Swap, suggests it’s the lure of somewhere to live for free – although families will have to stomp for the cost of running, plus the annual membership fee for at least one home swapping site – that attracts. Making new home swappers.

“We believe that the home swap is becoming increasingly popular because of the many benefits it has over the ‘traditional’ holiday,” Pronto told CNN Travel.

“First of all, it is extremely cost-effective – the price of a one-year membership is often what you would pay for a night at a hotel, but you can travel as much as you want to get around. Accommodation The world without worrying about the cost.

“Second, living in someone’s home ensures that you get better, roomier, more interesting and comfortable accommodations.”

While Watkins and her family have had nothing but good experiences through home swapping, she acknowledges that it’s not for everyone, and it requires a lot of flexibility as well as good organization skills. it occurs.

He recommended the house swap to most of his friends and served as the “middle man” for many of the stays, but there is one important question that Watkins asks first.

“If you’re wondering if you can do a house swap, the essential question is ‘Do you mind the idea of ​​someone else sleeping in your bed? She tells.

“I think if the answer is, ‘Oh my god, I could never do that.’ Just don’t think about it anymore. Because strangers will be sleeping in your bed.”

“The hardest thing is doing it for the first time and feeling like someone will come in and judge you.”

Although friends of the Qureshis have admitted that they envy the wonderful experiences they had through the house swap, some have decided to take it.

Pros and cons

“I think you like meeting people,” he says. “There are some people who don’t like it because they want to go on vacation and be alone.

“You have to get into it with a degree of openness. You can’t get too excited about it. Some of our friends have said they want to be able to do it, but they don’t think they can.

“Others have flat out said. ‘Well, I don’t want anyone in my house.'”

Of course, a house swap involves much more than handing your keys to another family and going to their place.

There’s a lot of work before, during, and sometimes after a swap.

Watkins says she usually gets her home professionally cleaned and arranges for a local company to collect dirty sheets and return them after cleaning.

She also has a special wardrobe that is used to stow away items like computers or unnecessary clutter to ensure that guests have as much space as possible.

While Qureshi has an office that he plans to use similarly, he says he and his family have become so relaxed about the house swap that they rarely need it.

Both families have an information pack ready for their occupants, listing things like favorite outings, local takeaways and coffee shops, as well as local hospitals.

The wealth of local knowledge that comes from living in a live-in home as opposed to a hotel suite plays a big part in the draw of the home swap for Qureshi, a former flight attendant who says he Stayed in enough hotels to last a lifetime.

“It’s always better to get all the local information this way than it is to get it from a travel guide or TripAdvisor,” says Qureshi. “We like it a lot.”

Pronto shares this sentiment, pointing out that home swaps provide “real insight” into local culture “because you become a neighbour, and often a friend, not just a hotel.” as the guest of

“We see home swapping as a great option for those looking for more control over their surroundings, who may feel especially anxious about staying in hotels at the moment,” she adds. Huh.

It was realizing how attractive their idyllic home could be to vacationers, which initially convinced Qureshi and his wife to take the plunge.

“We realized we had a place where people wanted to be,” he explains. “We have a nice big house that is perfectly placed for people who want to come to Manchester but don’t want to live in the city centre.”

That was certainly the attraction for Watkins, who has relatives who live very close to the Qureshi family’s five-bedroom home.

“It’s a lovely area,” she says. “And for us to drive up to Didsbury where they live and be in their house means we can see friends and family.”

“They live in a city and we live by the beach, but the swap really works because we all want different things.”

network of friends

Homeswapping - The Watkins family playing cards in a house in Australia

The Watkins family has made friends all over the world thanks to their home swapping trips.

Courtesy Joe Watkinskin

While both families have fairly large homes, Watkins says that he and his family have lived in a range of homes, from small cottages to large ones.

“So many people say, ‘Well, nobody wants to live in our house.’ Size doesn’t matter. But it has to be neat. Not empty, just clean.”

Although Qureshi was an early adopter of the home swap, like Watkins, he believes more people are now choosing this type of vacation due to ongoing travel restrictions and the rising cost of home vacations.

“The pandemic has probably exacerbated it a little bit,” he says.

However, there’s no denying that the home swap has its drawbacks. Things can go wrong sometimes.

According to Watkins, broken glasses are part and parcel of the experience, while guests once broke their televisions.

Meanwhile, Qureshi’s former neighbors were not so keen on their home-swapping hobby, and sometimes complained about the noise the other families made when they were staying.

However, no serious incident has happened with any family so far.

“I think its benefits far outweigh any disadvantages,” Qureshi says. “And most of its perceived disadvantages are just assumptions that will, in all likelihood, never arise.

“As someone steals or breaks something, or damages a home in any way through reckless abandon, as in something more sinister.”

Watkins is of the same opinion, emphasizing that “most people are absolutely cute.”

“People want to help and they want you to have a great time at their place,” she adds.

The two say they have made friends all over the world, including each other, as a result of their house swap.

“We have made many friends in Australia and New Zealand,” Watkins says. “We really clicked with the many families that were there.

“It’s almost like you’re making lifelong friends around the world, while you’re swapping houses.”

While travel restrictions mean her international home swapping opportunities are currently limited, Watkins is already planning a big family trip, and admits she’ll stay away from her favorite home swapping sites for too long. If she stays away, she gets FOMO.

“We plan to do a big trip around Central America,” she says. “A lot of Americans have homes out there that they swap out regularly.”

Meanwhile, Qureshi looks forward to another stay at Watkins Holiday Home in West Wales later this month.

Qureshi says, “We have a very good relationship. “What we like and we like his house.”

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