New York Home Exchange
This was our first home exchange experience. We wanted a family vacation and wanted to save money through exchanging homes. So in late March we started responding to home exchange listings across the USA and Canada.
After we e-mailed 20 home exchange listings in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, California, Texas, New Mexico, Hawaii and Ontario and we soon found out that March was rather late to start looking for summer home exchange partners.
To our surprise, we had replies that evening, all informing us they had already arranged a home exchange for the summer but to please try them again for next year.
The next day we received two more replies, the first from Texas explaining that they had plans this year but were open to arranging a home exchange another summer, the other from a couple in up state New York near Albany indicating they were interested in a home exchange from July
From their very first email we could tell that Anita and Jim were warm, genuine down to earth people. There wasn't a doubt in our mind, this is where we wanted to go and these were the people we wanted to have a home exchange.
We were open to going anywhere and Chatham New York hadn't even crossed our minds as a destination. Now, it would be our new home for two weeks.
A few days and several e-mails later we had the exchange arranged.
At first, I wondered why anyone from New York would want to come here. We learned from others that this is a common thought. Anita and Jim asked us the same question, "Are you sure you want to come to small community in New York?"
Over the next two months we exchanged emails, letters, brochures and pictures. We had planned to see Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island and the Bronx areas of New York City, Albany and the Hudson Valley in New York State. We also planned to see the nearby Berkshire area of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
I want to add this point, we didn't have any photos of the inside of the New York exchange home, so the first time we saw the interior was when we opened the door. Neither of us made a phone call and really there was no need as Anita and Jim, our New York home exchange partners emailed several times a week with the most entertaining notes.
On July 1 we flew from Edmonton Alberta to Montreal Quebec where we rented a car. The next day we drove the short distance to our home exchange house in a beautiful rural village south of Albany New York.
The exchange home was massive, with a large yard over looking a lake, swimming pool and screened porch. We soon found that we ate our meals in the porch. Anita's and Jims kitchen had two large windows that swung open so one could easily transfer meals from the stove to the picnic table in the screened porch area.
Anita left us a wonderful casserole and plenty of other food and drinks in the fridge and cupboard. A wonderful thought.
With a three year old, we decided to use the exchange house as our hub, doing day journeys to the Hudson Valley, Albany, the magnificent Berkshires area in Massachusetts (20 minutes away) . We also got away for an overnight trip to the Connecticut coast(2 hours) where we saw the tall ships in New London and went to a fabulous beach in Rhode Island.
We had wished we had visited New York City and Manhattan. Perhaps next time we will work on arranging a home exchange to Manhattan, Long Island or Brooklyn.
We also learned that a three year old isn't always interested in seeing the historic and cultural aspects of any region. Actually his only experience with culture was eating yogurt.
We saved 12 nights accommodation cost, by traveling on a home exchange. A hotel for 12 nights in New York would have been over $1500. Our cost with for our New York home exchange, 12 nights was $ 0.
Our home exchange partners got to see Alberta's Rocky Mountains and Mountain Parks, along with the many exciting things in and around Edmonton, Calgary, Jasper and Banff. Both families had a terrific time. As members, Anita and Jim got to choose which exchange request they wanted to accept. As we didn't list our home, we had to respond to listings and hope that we could find someone who was interested in an exchange. We are very happy to have gone to New York on a home exchange and we highly recommend house swaps.
Visit our New York City home exchange
Phoenix home exchange
Perhaps we are a bit disorganized, but we seem to frequently have these last minute vacation travel ideas. Two years ago, the day before Christmas I started getting the travel bug. I wanted to go somewhere over the holidays but wasn't sure where. Airline seats were booked so we couldn't do air travel, at least not affordably. December 26, an exchange offer arrived into my inbox. A home exchange offer to nearby Seattle, for 2 to 4 days starting December 29, three days away. We took it. Three days later we were sitting in our home exchange partners home planning activities in the Seattle area. That's last minute!
This year we got better organized and starting planning our trip to visit friends in Phoenix Arizona. They owned a small fifth wheel trailer so we needed to find alternative accommodation. We started looking for airfare and accommodation January 10 for a trip that would start around February 20. This was advanced planning for us.
Living in the Pacific northwest, it is more of a challenge attracting vacationers with homes in warm climates to be interested in traveling here in the winter for a home exchange. I didn't even try to inquire about an exchange! My focus was on affordable hotel/motel/vacation rental lodgings.
For 8 days I searched for bargains, $ 185 a night for a hotel room was the bargain. I also saw prices ranging between $250 and $450 a night for rentals and at resorts plus resort fees, taxes and those extra charges. For a 7 to 10 day escape to sunshine, this was going to be expensive.
18, I started checking the home exchange ads. Right away there was one
that stood out, Fountain Hills Arizona. I wasn't sure were Fountain Hills was
located but checked a map - Fountain Hills is 10 minutes drive from Scottsdale
in the Phoenix area.
Before emailing my inquiry, I tried to think on how to make our area more enticing to visit. That's when advance planning kicked in. In the summer we were off to a family reunion, leaving our home unoccupied. So I sent off my home exchange offer, providing the Arizona family with a choice, a straight swap now or we come to their home in February and they return to ours in the summer.
Within a hour of sending our offer we received a reply, asking us a few questions. The next day, an exchange was arranged. Our Arizona exchange partners offered us two alternatives, to come to Phoenix in early February when their home was available as they were on holidays to Florida or to come anytime after Feb 20 and they would go visit friends and relatives in their RV. They wanted to visit the northwest in the summer and were quite flexible in accommodating us.
had our Phoenix area accommodation, absolutely free. I could live with
this, but could we get decent airfare? Thursday mornings are a good time
to look for airfare bargains. That is when we stumbled upon a $23 one way
airfare from nearby Bellingham Washington to Phoenix Mesa airport. I
few weeks we were off to Arizona and the sunshine with no cost accommodation and
bargain airfare. We left Bellingham in late February, with snow in the forecast
and three hours later were greeted by 80 degrees of bright sunshine upon arrival
in Phoenix. We picked up our rental at the Mesa airport complete with GPS.
During our 7 days in the sunshine we visited the Grand Canyon, saw some spring training MLB baseball and just enjoyed the warmth. The home was awesome. Spacious, new and quite. We cooked our own meals in our hosts kitchen, used their computer and relaxed on their patio. Did I say free accommodation? Wow, what a bargain!
Total cost for a one week vacation including no cost home exchange accommodations, car rental and airfare was less than $800 total for three people or about $260 per person. This was an affordable holiday.
Amsterdam Home Exchange
For years we hosted International high school students in our home during the school year. Most of these students students came from Germany. It came time to take advantage of inexpensive airfare and visit the families of the students we hosted. Hotels in Europe can add up quickly, so we looked at our home exchange options. We placed a listing on Global Home Exchange and started sending out inquiries. We were intrigued by an offer made to our listing from Amsterdam. This wasn't Germany but would work.. Family of four wanting an exchange starting in early August to our area. We answered immediately and after a few emails, we settled on some dates that were convenient to both our families. They wanted an exchange for three weeks, we only wanted 16 days, so we came to a compromise that worked.
We planned our trip, contacted our ex students and found it was only a few hours drive to their homes.
Soon we were off on our first international flight and none of us got a great deal of sleep. From Schiphol airport in Amsterdam a train took us to a little city just outside of Amsterdam and our home away from home. We soon learned to rely on a wonderful train service throughout the Netherlands.
The two story home was smaller than ours but very clean and spacious. They had what best could be described as a dream kitchen. We could only wish we had something this nice. In the house were several bedrooms, children's books, toys, a computer and English DVD's. There was also a computer in the den that we used to keep in touch. There was a driveway to park our car rental and navigating in Europe was more difficult than in North America. We ended up washing the car daily as birds found a liking to the tree branches above the vehicle, leaving evidence of their frequent visits.
Driving to Germany was easy, the highways and autobahns are terrific. No border crossing to stop at between the Dutch and German borders, just a sign welcoming us the Germany. The best part of visiting Germany was visiting our student's families and having tours and dinner with friends in Castles over looking the Rhine valley.
Our visit ended too soon but we came back with many fond memories of Amsterdam, Madurodam, a wonderful model village in Den Hague and several other stops throughout the Netherlands. We have often seen windmills in pictures or on TV but seeing the real thing was memorable. We traveled to Amsterdam regularly and found it was easy to get around by foot, train or by city bus.
Almost all our meals were at home, we learned to shop at local grocery stores, meat markets and Dutch bakeries and as our Dutch was rather poor, had to guess at what was in some packaging. As almost everyone could speak some English, we never had difficulty communicating.
Total cost for this trip including airfare for all, car rental and groceries was less than $2500 for the 16 days. It did help our budget having friends provide some meals, but we saved a huge amount with a home exchange. Accommodation cost through the 16 days was zero.