Localizing Travel with a Home Exchange

home exchangehome swapswapping homes[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 home x changeWhat 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 exchange home 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