Those of a certain age will likely remember the 2006 movie The Holiday, starring Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, and Kate Winslet. A wildly popular rom-com, the movie brought the idea of home-swapping mainstream. It also, coincidentally, inspired creation of the home exchange platform Love Home Swap.
The platform's founder, Debbie Woskow, happened to be flying home from a not-so-great holiday when she saw the film and decided she could build a business doing exactly the type of home-swapping featured in The Holiday—only she would do it better. Fast-forward 10 years and not only is Love Home Swap doing fantastic; so is the entire idea of home swapping.
Google searches for the term "home exchange" have been up as much as 140 percent in recent weeks. And there's a growing number of home-swapping platforms ranging from Home Exchange to ThirdHome. Meanwhile, Love Home Swap experienced a 282 percent increase in usage in 2020—a year that included, mind you, a global pandemic.
The good news in all of this for parents and family travelers is that home-swapping, aka home exchange, can provide a dramatically more affordable way to travel—particularly when traveling with young ones.
According to Love Home Swap's own data, the average member (membership starts at $11 per month and requires having a home to swap) saves about $1400 when opting to use home swap accommodations rather than a hotel for a getaway. That's $1400 available to cover airline tickets for the kiddos, or entertainment at your destination—or anything, really. What's more, the home exchange platform estimates that annually, it's possible to save as much as $3,500 when you home-swap instead of booking hotels during travel.
There is a variety of ways family travelers, in particular, can save money when swapping homes on a vacation, beyond eliminating hotel costs. Love Home Swap's new managing director, Celia Pronto, recently explained a few of them to Parents.
You don't have to transport as many amenities
Parents everywhere will understand this point. Traveling with children requires bringing a lot of "stuff." Think car seats, strollers, and highchairs, to name a few. And paying to check all those items on a plane is certainly not free.
However, when you home-swap with another family, often those items are already available at the house where you will be bunking, says Pronto. So long checking fees!
Kitchen supplies and amenities
Kids need snacks. They get hungry. They may want to eat at all hours of the day. And they may have special food requests. These are just some of the food considerations for family travelers. The good news: When you're home-swapping, you'll have access to an entire kitchen—unlike at many hotel rooms, where the best you can hope for is a mini-fridge.
"Hosts also tend to leave basic necessities like milk, bread, and coffee, so that when guests arrive they have enough to get started while they are getting settled," Pronto tells Parents.
Thoughtful, right? Of course, the leaving of milk and bread will vary from home swap to home swap, and Pronto says it's best to iron out all these types of details in advance.
It's a truth universally acknowledged that kids have a tendency to get dirty. Having access to laundry can be helpful, and not having to pay for that access is even better.
"Another aspect people don't necessarily think about is the savings on laundry because you have access to a washer and dryer when you swap homes," says Pronto. "The cost of all these extras that you don't think about can add up on vacation."
Rental car costs are sky-high these days. And while vehicle-swapping is not a guaranteed part of home-swapping with Love Home Swap, it does happen, says Pronto. And when it does, that's a big chunk of money family travelers can save.
"About 40 percent of our members are open to swapping vehicles as well. And about 20 percent offer up additional services like ski equipment, or gym membership," says Pronto.
Can you feel the savings adding up? Are you doing the mental calculations right now? No hotel costs, possibly no car rental costs, and free laundry. Can you blame family travelers for flocking to this model of travel? Love Home Swap's own data shows that about 40 to 50 percent of its users are families.
"Families are attracted by the whole package," says Pronto. "Often, they have a particular destination in mind and are struggling to find suitable accommodations to meet their needs, so what attracts them is the money-saving aspect. But they're also attracted by the space home-swapping offers, the amenities, and the privacy."
Live like a local
One last added bonus to home swapping? It's not exactly a monetary bonus, but one that's worth noting nevertheless, particularly for family travelers: When you home-swap, you have an opportunity to live like a local. You feel like you're actually living in your travel destination, not just visiting, which provides a deepened level of exposure and sense of place.
"Families tell us they really get this authentic experience and they love the fact that they get little recommendations for restaurants and corner shops," adds Pronto. "They get all these added insights and tips. And it's not unusual for people to end up becoming friends with the neighbors in the host location where they're staying. They almost become adopted by the host community."