Cheapest summer vacation lodging? $0
Want to use my Fort Lauderdale home for a few weeks? OK, provided you've got a place for me to crash in Manhattan.
The single most expensive part of any vacation is almost invariably the hotel, especially when your travel plans include Earth's truly expensive spots: places like San Francisco, London, New York, Tokyo or Paris.
Adding to the pain is the fact that while you’re paying big, you’re ending up in a comparatively tiny space with far fewer amenities than you have at home. But there’s a simple solution to this expensive dilemma.
If you’re the adventurous type, and have a home in a location other people might like to visit, you can very well reduce your lodging cost to zero.
It’s called "house-swapping" and it’s a really cool idea. But rather than just tell you, let me show you. Check out the following short news story for a glimpse into the life of two house swappers.
So, as you can see, house-swapping works for this couple. And if you search for online articles from others who have tried it, you’ll find they’re hardly alone.
House-swapping isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s been around for at least 50 years, but the Internet has made it easier for interested parties to hook up. Here are some sites you can check out that facilitate house-swapping:
- Craigslist: The only free site that I could find.
- Intervac: Specializes in overseas vs. domestic. It's $99.99 a year.
- Home Exchange: Guarantees you’ll find a swap partner, or they give you another year free. Three-month membership is $47.85. Annual is $119.40.
- Homelink: They say they update their database daily to ensure only current members are listed. It's $115 a year.
- Digsville: Extra year free if you can’t arrange a swap. It's $44.95 a year.
The most obvious upside of house-swapping is that you can save thousands of dollars on hotel bills. You can also save hundreds preparing meals at “home” vs. eating out. And while you’re saving all that money, you’ll also probably be enjoying a lot more space and other amenities than a hotel might offer.
A more subtle but perhaps just as important benefit to house- swapping is that it allows you to step into the life of a native. You’ll shop where they shop, meet their neighbors, visit their neighborhood watering holes. That can be a lot more interesting than a bus tour followed by a trip to the lobby bar.
An obvious potential problem with house-swapping is having strangers in your home without you there. In fact, if you’re like me, at first blush that makes the whole idea seem completely out of the question. But consider two things. The first is the fact you are, after all, swapping. Sure, they’re in your house, but you’re in theirs, too. The second is that, as I said in my news story, this is more like a dating service. In other words, you’ll get to know these people before you swap.
Think of it this way: When you first thought of Internet dating, that also sounded out of the question. Fortunately, it loses its creepiness as you realize you’re not really using the Internet to date, you’re using it to get to know someone to decide if you want to date. It’s the same idea with house-swapping. You won’t ever have strangers in your house, because by the time they get there, they won’t be strangers. Or, at least, that's the idea.
Another potential problem is that people who live in resort areas and/or big cities will obviously have the best luck with house-swapping, especially with folks overseas. But if you don’t live in that kind of area, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the game. Remember that people go places for an infinite variety of reasons. If I live in London and want to attend my University of Arizona class reunion, I need a place in Tucson, not Los Angeles. Maybe I live in Paris and have always wanted to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Maybe I live in Hawaii but my grandmother lives in Tennessee.
Bottom line? If the idea of living all over the world for free sounds intriguing, read more about it. I have, and I really think I’m ready to give it a try. I’ve got a decent waterfront house in Fort Lauderdale, and I really think I could advance my career with a month or two in Manhattan. Interested?
Related reading at Money Talks News:
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Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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