Your guide to home-swapping in 2024

Your guide to home-swapping in 2024

Why home swapping is our favourite sustainable travel trend

Home swapping is gaining in popularity, with Conde Nast Traveller naming it as one of the top travel trends for 2024. As well as providing an affordable holiday option, switching homes with other like-minded people offers an eco-conscious way to travel.

Say the phrase ‘home swapping’ and most people think of Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet in the movie, The Holiday. But how does home swapping work and what are the benefits? We take a look at how to have your own The Holiday inspired trip. 

The Holiday has inspired home swapping.

How home swapping works

Originating in the 1950s with European teachers who were wanting to travel on a budget, today’s home swappers can choose from a number of different companies offering this service. For avid travellers, home swapping opens a world of possibilities. With thousands of properties and homeowners around the globe signed up to home swap schemes.

The home swap sites typically charge members an annual fee. These range from £49 to £175 a year, although most will offer a free trial period. Once you’re signed up no money changes hands, apart from occasional cleaning fee requirements.

All types of homes are available for home swapping.

There are three ways to facilitate a home swap: A simultaneous home exchange, where you go to the other person’s home while they stay in yours (a la Diaz and Winslet); a non-simultaneous home exchange, where you agree to stay in each other’s homes over different dates (this works particularly well for people with second homes); and swapping on a points basis, where your property is set at an agreed ‘points per night’ value which you can accrue to spend at a later date elsewhere.

The benefits of home swapping

The appeal of home swapping is manifold, from cheaper holidays to living like a local. If you’re looking to save money on your next trip look no further. Using your home as currency means no need to splash out on expensive holiday rentals. Staying in someone else’s fully kitted-out home saves having to pay for travel extras from Wi-Fi to cooking spices and towel hire. Sometimes the deal can even include the use of bikes or cars.

Embarking on a home swap also means that someone is in your home while you’re away. Literally keeping the lights on, watering the plants, even feeding a pet.

Pets can even be taken on home swaps.

It’s a great option for digital nomads and anyone who can work remotely, a perfect opportunity to have an authentic travel experience. If you’re considering moving somewhere, why not seize the chance for a trial run first?

Home swapping company Home Exchange describes themselves as a community “that are building the future of travel together by sharing the belief that home exchange is the most authentic, humane, and responsible way to discover new places, new cultures, and new people.”

For home swap regular Sam Kirton, there’s a feel-good factor too. “I love staying in someone’s home rather than a sterile holiday rental. We leave our photos and things like cookbooks and bellyboards out, along with recommendations of our favourite walks and places to eat and drink. It’s like staying in a friend’s house.”

From her experience, fellow swappers take good care of the property that they’re staying in, leaving it spick and span on departure.

Home swappers look after each others home.

“We also like being part of a community. You know that your guests are prepared to put their home up for exchange too and share the same values.”

Another avid home swapper, Marike Konings from the Netherlands, supports this, saying that it’s a great way to travel. “For us, the environmental aspect is also important. How nice would it be if more people would swap so less holiday homes needed to be built?”

Where to go on a home swap vacation

Most home swap companies have members around the world, making it easy to find a home swap wherever you’re wanting to travel. That said, it pays to be organised and reach out to home swap hosts a long way in advance of travel dates as availability will be limited to when they themselves are planning to be away. In popular spots some owners may limit home swap bookings to outside of peak holidays when, for example, they can rent them out through other sites such as AirBnB.

Having been a member of a home swap scheme for a couple of years now, Sam has clocked up stays in destinations including Miami in Florida, the Cayman Islands, Andalusia in Spain, La Plagne in the French Alps, the Netherlands, Ireland, London, and Cornwall in the UK. Her guests have come from as far afield as Cape Town, Australia, Denmark, and closer to home, Scotland, and Hampshire.

Home swaps are available all around the world.

“Long-term home swaps aren’t as common, but we managed to find someone from London who wanted to flat sit for three weeks while we were away visiting friends,” she says. “The points we earned enabled us to book a ski chalet later in the year through the home swap scheme.”

Which are the best home swap companies?

One of the longest-running and biggest home swap sites, Home Exchange has over 150,000 members spanning 145+ countries. The company is B Corp listed too.

Another well-respected home swap site is Guardian Home Exchange. Run by Home Base Holidays on behalf of The Guardian newspaper, the site offers home swaps in 90+ countries.

Home swapping can be more authentic than traditional vacations.

Other trusted options include Home Link, People Like Us and Kindred. There is peace of mind to be had through using an official site, where home swappers review their peers.

Or, according to Conde Nast Traveller, “head straight to TikTok, where Gen Z appears to be spearheading the home-swapping movement on social media.”

Check out the El Camino Home Small Step here.

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