Frugal Travel-The-World and Stay-for-free Option! (Part II)
1) Start emailing as far ahead of time as possible to arrange your home exchange. It astonishes me the number of people who email me in JUNE looking for a trade for the summer. I often wonder if they find anyone to exchange with as most people have set up their summer exchanges already—usually by Christmas time of the preceding year!
A French family contacted me a year and a half ahead of time. Since she was the first one to ask for the second most popular time of the year to exchange, she was granted her request in return for a balloon (it’s like a magic ticket—you can use it to go stay somewhere else instead. Balloons are becoming a hot commodity of late on the site). Her plans have changed since then, but the moral of the story is the early bird gets the nest!
2) Buy your airline tickets as soon as you have a confirmed exchange. The longer you wait to purchase your tickets, the more expensive they become as your departure date gets closer. And look at the price of tickets before you agree: I almost had an exchange with Ireland for Spring break one year. They decided not to come after they looked at how expensive the airline tickets were during peak season.
3) If at all possible, try to get an exchange that also wants to swap cars. This will save you a lot of money. But I would tend to be more likely to swap cars with foreigners than I would with fellow Americans—Europeans thinks we’re crazy for how often we sue each other. It’s why I’ve left the “car exchange” option on my listing as “negotiable.”
4) It’s easier to exchange if you’re a minimalist. If you’re not, at least try to go through your house and seriously declutter a month before. I like swapping because it makes me clean up (before this past exchange, my garage looked like a bomb exploded in it).
Participating in home exchange sort of forces us to not have expensive stuff: if someone stole everything from our house, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. About the only thing I’d cry over is sentimental family antiques.
5) You want an excellent communicator—and be one in return. Stay away from people who don’t have a high communication rating. You can see their percentage for answering messages under their profile picture. I have two people from Montana who told me they wanted to exchange but never communicated beyond that.
6) Invest some time in making your listing look good. I took photos after I’d had the house professionally cleaned. To make a high quality, detailed listing, it took me about five hours, spread out over a weekend.
I’ve had requests from people with no profile picture and one photo of a house. Instant rejection from me because that kind of a profile smacks of laziness and not wanting to be a good communicator.
7) List if you don’t have a TV or only have one. Also, list if you don’t have cable. In some family cultures, this is a big deal.
8) Most especially list if your wifi is slow or you have none at all. I see this as a huge complaint on the private Facebook groups for the home exchange organization. People need to know ahead of time about the wifi quality—especially if they rely upon the internet for their livelihood.
9) Save yourself stress and hire a professional cleaning crew before and after the exchange.
Make reciprocal cleaning a part of the swap agreement. Otherwise, it sucks to have to clean an entire house right before you get on an international flight to come home (ask me how I know).
On our most recent exchange, we had to get rid of fifty rubber duckies from our boys’ bathtub (you think I’m joking. I’m not).
10) Top off your kitchen and bathroom soap containers before you leave your place. Your guests might not know where to find your replacement soap.
11) Send requests out in batches of Tens. My “yes” response to people sending me swap requests is about 100:1! A lot of things have to line up for an exchange to happen—you have to want to go there, they have to want to come here, and the dates have to match. So this takes some effort. There is a “search” option that helps you narrow homes down to ones that at least want to come to your country/state, so that is helpful.
And don’t put a lot of time into personalizing the emails you send out—you may not even get a response back (again, look at their communication percentage before sending them a request).
12) Leave a little gift for them. The private Facebook groups for home exchange are very informative for this etiquette. I was surprised to read someone canned the host family’s fruit from the backyard and left it as gifts for them (canning is a level of super power I can’t even fathom).
Gifts I have left: touristy type local gifts and flowers on the table. After our latest exchange to Spain though, I’m going to up the game and leave a bottle of wine and some small water bottles next time. Our Spanish hosts left us a big bottle of water that came in handy refilling our water bottle during day trips. (I was overwhelmed when I arrived at their beach house to find they had arranged a freshly baked cake for us!)
I hope those tips were useful in case you decide to participate in a Home Exchange program. If you find these blogs helpful to you in your search for financial freedom, please sign up below as a subscriber and I’ll “see” you next week!