Frugal Travel-The-World and Stay-for-free Option! (Part I)

What if I told you there’s a way to stay for free in people’s homes all over the world and they won’t be home? There’s just a few catches: a) you have to pay a yearly fee to be part of this awesome club and b) you have to be willing to let them stay in your house too. It’s called Home Exchange, and I love this program.


Since I was an exchange student to Germany, I’ve always been interested in this concept of home exchange (seeing this movie helped too). When we had our huge doctor McMansion in New York, my husband had zero interest in swapping homes.


Then we sold that house and moved, met a teacher who told us about this wonderful thing called home exchange—had we ever heard of it? We should look into it, you know, because she’d used it for ten years with her four kids and traveled all over the US with home exchange. She never had a bad experience in the decade she participated in the program!


Well now.


This is the part where I should confess we’re on the tail end of a three-week home exchange at a beach house in Southern Spain in a gated community with a pool. Did I mention this house stay was free?


Though if you’re anything like me, given the option for free lodging, you end up flying further away from home when you don’t have to cover that significant cost (though I scored a car exchange in Iceland, I still need to learn more about travel hacking like the Physician on Fire does).


In today’s blog, we’ll go over the common objections people give me when I tell them about home exchanging.


1) But won’t people steal your stuff? Researching other people’s experiences, it seems the worst thing that happened was a family drank a bottle of wine and didn’t replace it. Being out one bottle of wine sounds a lot better than stuff I’ve read about airbnb. So far, the worst thing that has happened to me was a plastic spatula got melted, so I had to replace it.

I didn’t cry over losing a cheap Walmart kitchen utensil.


2) Why don’t you just get a time-share or a second home? First, I get hives thinking about having a second home—I can’t even manage the one I have! Second, I read  this book , so, nope. Not joining the second home club anytime soon. Plus, I’d be stuck going to the same place year after year. I want to roam the world with my family, making memories (But hey, if you’re interested in a time share, read this blog by Dr. Fawcett).


And trust me, between my Hospice fellowship and running an inpatient Hospice Unit for two years, I’ve been at enough deathbeds. I know what dying people talk about—the trips they took, the things they did with their families. That time they took a year sabbatical and sailed the Caribbean with their family.


My kids are constantly asking to do another home exchange in Iceland.

3) But what if the guests go through my stuff? You become friends by the time you’re done communicating about the whole exchange—and often meeting them for a meal and giving them a tour of your place right before you leave. I am friends on Facebook with multiple exchangers in other countries I haven’t even exchanged with (yet!). I still send a Christmas card to the first family we exchanged with as I found them to be a lovely people (It’s like I tell DH: there are nice people everywhere).


Besides, you don’t go through your friends’ stuff when you visit them, so why would they go through yours? And I don’t have anything that interesting (you should probably take that kind of stuff of stuff  with you—you’ll have a better vacation with it along). 😉


I do however lock my study as I’ve had a bad experience with unsupervised children in there with my whiteboards (they have my novels outlined all over them).


4) But what if I want to exchange for longer than a few weeks? There are groups out there that world school and do long-term (like half a year or longer) exchanges . But maybe you should consider your child’s point of view.


Next week in Part II of this post, I’ll give some tips and tricks on how to do an actual Home Exchange (learn from my scar tissue, please).

And remember my sister, the nurse who lives in the UK that I had seen only twice in the past six years before my trip in May? I not only saw her for a third time in May, but her and her fiancé arrived yesterday! They flew into Seville and drove south to join us at our beach home exchange on the Southern coast of Spain.

This is what getting your financial life under control can do for you: You can spend time with your loved ones, instead of working all the dang time. So please, if you’re not financially free, start today—just take that one next step. Read a book. Take a class. Track your finances.


I have faith—you so got this.

(Edited End of December 2018 to add this: There has been a big change on the home exchange website, causing much outcry from the members. While I am letting the site transition and won’t check it out for a few week—in the hopes the bugs are worked out before I visit it—many members are leaving.  Here is a good write up summary of the changes that are causing so much outrage. HomeLinkPeople Like Us, and Interval are alternative websites that are being mentioned by people planning to leave Home Exchange should you want to have more options to explore. And if you’re a physician, consider joining the Facebook group: FIRE Physicians Home Exchange Hangout.)

13 thoughts on “Frugal Travel-The-World and Stay-for-free Option! (Part I)”

  1. I think I might look into this. I really love your concept of “I know what dying people talk about—the trips they took, the things they did with their families.” We do get too caught up in work and forget to go home and have fun with the people we are working for.

    Thanks for the new travel idea.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

  2. Such a great way to travel! We’re actually on a home exchange right now. It’s our third home exchange accommodation on this trip (Denmark and Norway). It’s been amazing.

    1. Home Exchange is a FANTASTIC way to travel and I’m so glad it’s working out for you to do THREE: WOW! How’d you get three in one trip? Did you use a balloon or collect/save some up to use? Or do a non-simultaneous exchange? Spill your secrets here please 😉 Miss you! Let’s meet up next time we’re both in the same hemisphere!

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