[trip style = budget]
There's something romantic about the idea of exchanging homes with a tuscan farmhouse and living like Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun. Equally enticing is the idea of escaping to an English country home like Cameron Diaz in The Holiday--assuming you're OK allowing someone to live in your home.
Localizing Travel What I love about the home exchange trip style is how it catapults and engages you in local culture. Not being cooped-up in a hotel or touristy area allows for a deeper immersion in the tastes, sounds, activities and lifestyle of a local. It's an experience that compels you in a walk-in-someone-else's shoes way of life and directs you with out-of-the-way advice, suggestions and tips you wouldn't necessarily get from a concierge. The whole experience is oriented toward embracing the normality of an area versus the sometimes abnormal sense of place overly touristy activities can create.
Top Home Exchange Sites HomeExchange.com - popularized by movie "The Holiday" (actual website referenced in the movie) - 35,000 listings in over 130 countries - since 1992 - insurance option provided by Lloyd's of London - cost $9.95/month for 1-year unlimited membership or 3-month membership for $15.95/month
HomeforHome.com - major focus on listings in Europe with additional listings in Canada, the US and select countries in South America - free
HomeExchangeVacation.com - significant presence in North America, Europe, South Africa and Australia - offer feedback function for added accountability - good FAQ section and website usability - cost: basic membership is free, full membership is $29 for 3-months (need full membership to email other property owners, so if you're serious, you need the full membership)
HomeforExchange.com - 13,500+ listings all over the world, including places like French Polynesia & Mauritius - cost: 1-year $59, 2-year $88, 3-year $110.
iehv.com - International Vacation Home Exchange - touted as "the" luxury home exchange option - mentioned in multiple publications - founded in 2003 - focus on non-simultaneous exchanges and credit system to exchange with variety of properties - cost $179 - $375/anually depending on membership level