Monday, April 17, 2006

Home Exchange - FAQs

From the end of April until early June, my blog posts will be less frequent as I will be travelling in England and France as part of a home exchange. A lot of people are curious about home exchanges so I thought I would dedicate this post to addressing some frequently asked questions:

How does it work? In many ways, home exchange is akin to an elaborate dating game as you search for a compatible counterparty; make contact; build up trust and seal the deal. There are a multitude of websites that offer home exchange facilitation services. While the specific formats vary, they provide a forum for you to post details about yourself, your home and where and when you want to travel. Others can read it and, if they are interested, they will make contact.

What service did you use?
At various times, our property has been listed on:

We also supplemented the listings with our own personal website. Coincidentally or otherwise, in the end, both of our exchanges came through Homelink with the other side initiating contact.

How long did it take to organise? Despite having an attractive home, in a great location, and a fair amount of flexibility - it took almost a year and hundreds of e-mails to secure our first home exchange arrangements. My impression is that there are many more Antipodeans looking to travel to France, Spain and Italy than vice versa. Furthermore, most French like to take their vacations in August which is not an optimum time to take an Aussie beach holiday. Nevertheless, for a consummate travel planner like me (I think I was a travel agent in a previous life), the quest was part of the fun. Travel research is so much easier with the internet and my knowledge of European geography has improved enormously.

Where are you going? We will be spending 2+ weeks in Axat, in the eastern French Pyrenees - think Tour de France hill country. Our other exchange is for 10 days to an apartment in a converted mill in the Yorkshire Dales. Our plan is to do some hiking in both locations but as a car exchange is part of the deal, we will be able to do lots of exploring too. Maybe even stumble over a quilt shop here and there.

Do you ever meet the other side? Yes we will get to meet everybody involved in our home exchanges but it doesn't always work like this. We are doing a NSX (non-simultaneous exchange). We had an English couple and a Danish couple (at different times) staying in our home while we were visiting family in America at Christmas. They got to enjoy summer at the beach and we will get to travel in the spring (which is looking ominously COLD and WET at the moment!).

We actually got to meet the Danes (who reside in France) in January but they are kindly doing the airport transfer gig so we will get to hear more about their adventures in New Zealand and Australia. Apparently Ida enjoys quilting and handcrafts so hopefully we will be able to talk about this too although she speaks little English and French and my Danish is non-existant.

The English couple are also kindly meeting us and will navigate us from Leeds to the Dales - hopefully with many pub recommendations for David who is partial to an English ale.

Will you do it again? based on experience to date - definitely. The budgetary advantages seem to more than compensate for the logistical challenges but I'll keep you posted!


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