Top 10 HomeSwap Destinations

Travelers who swap homes can stay anywhere in the world for free. So where do most home swappers go? Not surprisingly, there are certain destinations that are universally popular and appear on most of our members’ profile wish lists.

 

Here are HomeSwap’s Top 10 Destination Requests:

 

(1)  New York City - The Big Apple tops the list for home swappers around the world. Experience New York Like a Local

New York City, Times Square At Night. 2005. Photo Credit: Bartek Roszak via Wikimedia Commons

New York City, Times Square At Night. 2005. Photo Credit: Bartek Roszak via Wikimedia Commons

(2)  Hawaii – The Hawaiian islands are considered a dream destination for many of our members. Choose the Island That’s Right for You

View from the back yard of a Hawaiian home swap.

View from the back yard of a Hawaiian home swap.

(3)  San Francisco – There’s so much more to San Francisco than cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge! Local for a Day

San Francisco cable car at Lombard Street. Photo by Aude via Wikimedia Commons

San Francisco cable car at Lombard Street. Photo by Aude via Wikimedia Commons

(4)  Paris – According to Hemingway, Paris is a moveable feast. But when you’re there, experience it like a true Parisian. Here’s How NOT to be a Tourist in Paris!

Paris - The Opera and the Café de la Paix - 3651

Paris – The Opera and the Café de la Paix by Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons

(5)  London – First-timers will want to see all the famous sights. But home swappers also want to see the “real” London. London Like a Local.

Big Ben London

Big Ben by Morio via Wikimedia Commons

(6) Los Angeles – Hollywood is where dreams are made. Travelers can swap homes with photographers, video editors and wardrobe stylists and get the inside scoop on this mecca for film and television. What to do in Hollywood

Hollywood Sign PB050006

Hollywood Sign by Oreos via Wikimedia Commons

(7)  Rome – You know what they say, when in Rome….. Home swappers prefer to do as the Romans do….Live Like a Local in Rome

Rom fountain of Trevi

Trevi Fountain, Rome by Bodow via Wikimedia Commons

(8)  Seattle – Seattle isn’t just about Starbucks and Sleepless! Grab a latte and check out Six Quirky Things to Do in this west coast city.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington by Rattlhed at en.wikipedia, from Wikimedia Commons

(9)  Vancouver – Vancouver is one of the top Canadian cities on homeswappers’ lists! Cyclists, film buffs and sushi-lovers will appreciate this amazing city, with mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Here are more Reasons to Love Vancouver!

English Bay, Vancouver, BC

English Bay, Vancouver, BC via Wikimedia Commons

(10)  Amsterdam – Canals and coffeehouses…. Amsterdam offers everything from the infamous Red Light District to Rembrandt’s Studio. Here’s how experience Amsterdam Like a Local.

Keizersgracht Reguliersgracht Amsterdam

Keizersgracht Reguliersgracht, Amsterdam by Massimo Catarinella (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t worry if your home isn’t located in one of these top ten locations. Home swappers travel for many reasons other than visiting popular tourist spots. Members have requested such unique destinations as Bend, Oregon and Tallinn, Estonia. You might have to get a little creative in order to maximize your swapping opportunities when you’re off the beaten path, but keep in mind that some people want to get away from all the touristy spots and your home might be the perfect one!

 

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A Home Swapper’s Day One

Lake home in the Adirondacks

Lake home in the Adirondacks

Arriving at your home swap destination is exciting! It’s not like checking into a hotel with bellhops and breakfast times and wake-up calls. Home swappers are knee-deep in their travel experience which begins the minute they arrive at their “home-away-from-home.”

Meeting Your Home Swap Partners!

Some home swappers try to arrange to meet each other prior to the swap. You can invite your partners to arrive a day or two early as a guest in your home or you can be a guest in theirs. You might even be able to meet as you cross paths at the airport! It’s always reassuring to put a face to the name and to have the opportunity to ask additional questions before you each begin your travel adventures.

 

If you don’t meet your home swap partners beforehand, here are some arrival day tips and suggestions:

 

Harlem Townhouse

New York City Townhouse

1)  Keys, Keys, Keys!

Tricky locks or an intricate alarm system can take the fun and excitement out of the first day arrival. Exchanging keys (and getting them to work!) are one of the most important parts of the swapping arrangement. Consider leaving your keys with a neighbor, friend or a relative who can be available to meet and greet your guests when they arrive, or you may have negotiated to have someone pick up your guests at the airport. Some home swappers mail their keys ahead of time. In any case, it is very important to make everyone aware of any special issues for unlocking the door to your home! Be sure to give your guests the emergency number for your alarm service as well as your cell phone number, just in case! (And make sure you have theirs as well!)

2)  You’ve Arrived! Take a tour.

You made it through door. Now you’ll want to know where everything is. Take a tour of your new home away from home, unpack your clothes and settle in. Read through the home swap manual if one is provided and try out the TV and other appliances so you’ll know how everything works.

Stove in Toronto Home

Stove in Toronto home

You may be pleasantly surprised at some aspects of the home or location!

Tub in Portland, Oregon Home

Tub in Portland, Oregon home

You may also find some things were not as expected but, assuming your home swap partners haven’t completely misrepresented their offerings, keep an open mind and focus on the positive. Travel is an adventure and foreign cultures in particular may not have the same aesthetic as you do!

If a car is involved, make sure you inspect it for major dents, like you would a rental car, taking pictures as you feel necessary.

3)  Getting Groceries

Check out the available food supply and toiletries and make a list of the groceries you’ll need to purchase for the coming days. Your home swap manual should include a list of nearby grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Kitchen in Amsterdam apartment

Kitchen in Amsterdam apartment

 

4)  Enjoy Your Stay!

You will already have done your own research on your destination and your home swap partners may have left you some brochures and suggestions for restaurants and places to visit. If they suggest friendly neighbors to contact for a visit, do it! They can provide a wealth of information on the area as well as an entertaining afternoon or evening!

 

Now take a deep breath, relax and enjoy your stay!

 

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Germany: Daytripping in Bavaria

Oktoberfest 2005 - inside Löwenbräufestzelt

Oktoberfest. Andreas Steinhoff [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Think of Munich and nutcrackers and Oktoberfest probably come to mind. Munich is one of the most popular destinations in Germany and people come from around the world to soak up the Bavarian culture in the form of night life, beer gardens, Christmas markets and architecture.

Once you seen and done it all, Munich makes a great home base for some serious daytripping. A vast and efficient transportation system means you can easily get almost anywhere without the need for a car.

Here are a few choice daytripping ideas that are less than two hours from Munich:

1)  Hike the Alps. Or go mountain biking. Or just enjoy the scenery. Go green and take the train right out of Munich! Travel to the Alps

Watzmann bei Berchtesgaden, Germany

Image by Christianabend via Wikimedia Commons

2)  Visit the castle that inspired Disney! King Ludwig II built the magnificent Neuschwanstein Castle as a refuge from public life. Now this “castle of the fairy-tale king” is visited by millions and sparked the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

Neuschwanstein Castle By Softeis via Wikimedia Commons

Neuschwanstein Castle By Softeis via Wikimedia Commons

3)  Help the locals practice their English!  Every Wednesday is English Club Night in Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber and English-speaking tourists are especially welcome! Walk the ramparts of this well-preserved walled medieval town! Here are a few more things to do while your here: Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber

Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauver By Berthold Werner via Wikimedia Commons

Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauver By Berthold Werner via Wikimedia Commons

4)  Visit the Von Trapps! Or at least see the inspiration for the film, “The Sound of Music”! (Keep in mind that while interior scenes were all shot on Hollywood sets, many travelers feel the tour of the exterior filming sites is worth it.) The hills are alive with song in Salzburg, Austria, which is also the birthplace of Mozart.

Mozart's Birthplace

Mozart’s Birthplace, Salzburg

All this daytripping means staying longer, but it doesn’t have to cost extra. A homeswap, like this apartment in Munich’s hip Westend neighborhood, will save you a bundle since your lodging is free.

Apartment in Munich available to swap!

Apartment in Munich available to swap!

You can put those extra savings into a longer stay and explore a different destination each day! Daytripping has never been so easy!

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10 Great Reasons to Swap Homes When You Travel

One of the obvious benefits to home swapping is the money you’ll save on hotel accommodations. Home exchange veterans will give you many more reasons they swap their homes! Here are the top ten:

Arlington Row Bibury by Saffron Blaze. Wikimedia Commons

Arlington Row Bibury by Saffron Blaze. Wikimedia Commons

Home Swap Reason #1 – Meet people around the world! The home exchange process means you’ll be reaching out to people in countries you never imagined as you search for the perfect swap. See: Getting to Know Your Home Swap Partner. You might be staying at a home in the English countryside and get invited over to the neighbor’s house for a pint or an afternoon tea!

 

Farmers' Market in Paris

Paris Market by Deror avi via Wikimedia Commons

Home Swap Reason #2 – A glorious kitchen! If you’re watching your diet, have allergies or are traveling with young children, cooking what you want in your “kitchen away from home” is a blessing! And three meals a day in restaurants gets expensive!

Imagine the adventure of shopping for healthy, fresh food in an outdoor market in Paris!

Bon appétit!

 

Home Swap Reason #3 – Space! Traveling with children and staying in a cramped hotel room can take the fun out of travel. With a home swap, you’ll stay in a family home where the kids can have their own rooms, perhaps even a play room or a tv room while you relax at the end of a day of touring with a glass of wine on the back deck. Priceless!

Barbecue

Relax on a mountainside deck!

 

Home Swap Reason #4 – Travel farther and stay longer than you ever imagined! You can stay anywhere in the world for free, like this elegant villa in Thailand with access to a top health/wellness spa that includes daily yoga & meditation, detox programs, Ayurvedic Center, traditional Thai steam room, sauna, hot tub, Thai massage, raw food classes, workshops, organic vegetable gardens & fruit orchards, health market and more. You’ll also save money on food since you won’t have to eat all three meals in restaurants, so you can treat yourself to little extras. Perhaps a Thai massage?

Elegant Villa in Thailand

Elegant Villa in Thailand

 

Home Swap Reason #5 – Less luggage! How many suitcases full of clothes would you need for a 3-week vacation with the kids? Now imagine bringing half the amount of clothing since you’d have a full laundry room in a family-friendly homeswap! You’ll never worry about leaving behind essentials, since you’ll probably find most everything you need in your new home away from home! Travel light and carefree!

 

Napa Valley Home

Napa Valley Home

Home Swap Reason #6 – Your own personal concierge! Home swap partners offer the best insights into what to see and do during your stay in their home! This California home is owned by the author of a guidebook to the Napa Valley and you’ll find a copy available for your use when you stay here!

 

Home Swap Reason #7 – Independence! Visiting far-away family for the holidays, reunions or weddings can be a strain on accommodating family members, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Meals and shower times have to be organized and someone always ends up having to sleep on the old, lumpy futon in the computer room. Staying in a home swap gives you the independence of your own home-away-from home, with comfortable accommodations, your own kitchen and the freedom to come and go as you please. Home swaps are available everywhere, from small towns to major cities, like this spacious, kid-friendly family home in Denver, Colorado with 6 bedrooms and 5 baths!

Family home in Denver, Colorado

Family home in Denver, Colorado

 

Home Swap Reason #8 – Perks! You not only get a home away from home, you might also get a car, a BBQ, jacuzzi, gym membership, bicycles…perhaps even hard-to-get tickets to a concert! Here are some ideas on negotiating perks for your swap: Negotiating Perks on Your Home Swap

Garden

Home Swap Garden in Washington

 

Home Swap Reason #9 - Your house is cared for while you travel. Eliminate the worry of leaving your home unoccupied, especially during long trips. And if you have a lawn that will need mowing or gardens that might require tending, the right home swap partners would be happy to oblige!

 

Home Swap Reason #10 – Live like a local in exotic destinations! Flying off to far-away lands is a traveler’s dream. But navigating a foreign culture and language (especially in destinations like China and Russia where there’s also an indecipherable alphabet) can be a challenge, especially if you’re traveling off the beaten path. Staying in a local’s home gives home swappers a good foundation in foreign lands. Here’s an Austrian family with a home in Hong Kong who generously offer local travel suggestions for their swapping partners.

Gardens near Sai Kung homeswap

Gardens near a homeswap in Sai Kung/Hong Kong

 

Ready to start swapping? Here’s how to get started: Getting Started on Your Home Swap

 

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Creating a Home Swap Handbook

Home Swap Handbook

You’re almost ready for your home swap! Through emails and perhaps a phone call or two, you’ve learned a lot about your home swap partners. You’ve negotiated all the perks and details of your exchange. You’ve cleaned the house, mowed the yard and given the car a tune-up. Your home is ready for your home swap guests.

There’s one last thing left to do. Create a Home Swap Handbook.

AppliancesThink about it. You’re arriving for a stay in someone’s home in a place you’ve never been before. You manage to get the key to work and open the door. You don’t know where anything is or how to use the microwave or turn on the television. What about the heating or air conditioning system? Are there restaurants nearby? Are the neighbors friendly?

Wouldn’t it be great to have some sort of “guide” to your new home-away-from-home?

That’s why a Home Swap Handbook is an essential part of your exchange. A nice “Welcome to our Home!” with perhaps a vase of flowers (or bottle of wine) and your Handbook will put your home swap partners immediately at ease. The handbook will serve to help your guests navigate your home, neighborhood and region so they can spend more of their time enjoying their stay!

Here’s what you might want to include in your Home Swap Handbook:

  • welcomeA Warm Welcome. You probably won’t be greeting your guests in person, so leave them a friendly welcome note. Something like, “You’re in the right place! Welcome to our home!” If you have fabulous and friendly neighbors, they’ll probably be thrilled to serve as local “ambassadors” for your guests! Include their location and phone numbers in the Handbook.
  • Making Contact. Travel is full of surprises. Make sure your guests can get in touch with you and vice-versa. Include your detailed travel itinerary and information on how they can reach you.
  • Demystifying Electronics. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending precious vacation time trying to figure out the television remote. Or having mouth-watering steaks all ready to grill and not being able to light the barbecue. Include instructions and manuals on how to use your appliances, TV, temperature control units, alarm system, etc. If you are providing WiFi Internet, they’ll need the network name and your password.
  • GardenPlants, Pets & Particulars. You wouldn’t want to return to knee-high grass after your travels. Long-term stays mean that you might have indoor plants and/or a lawn or garden that will need tending in your absence. Discuss plant and lawn care up front during negotiations and include detailed information in your Handbook. If pet care is included, leave food, supplies and important information: feeding instructions, allergies, particular behaviors/how to handle them and the phone and address of your veterinarian.
  • FoodStocking Up. Your guests will want to shop locally for food and supplies during their stay in your home. Save them the trouble of hunting for places to stock up. A list of local grocery stores, convenience stores and shopping areas will be greatly appreciated!
  •  Where to Go. What to Do. Here’s where you get to play “concierge!” Offer your guests travel information on your area and region. Include maps, brochures, public transportation itineraries as well as your personal list of favorite restaurants and places to visit.
  • TrafficAll About Cars. The most frustrating part of driving in a city for the first time is parking. If your guests will be using your car or arranging a car rental, parking information is essential, particularly in areas where tow zones and parking rules can be confusing to non-residents. If a car swap is arranged, provide copies of your car insurance and registration as well as your car manual. Also provide regional driving regulations, such as seat belt laws, “right turn on red” laws and notable speed trap areas, especially when dealing with foreign swaps.
  • WinterIn Case of Emergency. Despite our best intentions, things happen. An electrical circuit could get blown. Water pipes could burst in winter. Torrential rain might fill your cellar with water. Be sure to provide the names and phone numbers of your area electrician, plumber, mechanic, furnace repairman, snow removal service, etc. Also provide emergency numbers for your doctor, nearby hospital and health clinics, area police and your local fire department as well as the name and phone number of a local friend or relative your guests can contact in an emergency. Preparation is the best defense.
  • House Rules. Everybody has at least one or two. You may have a “no shoes inside the house” policy. Or you might let your guests know that it’s OK to let the neighbor’s cat in the house for a treat. It’s up to you. After all, it’s your house.

The Home Swap Handbook is not only about making your guests feel at home in your home. It will insure that your home and appliances will be properly cared for in your absence. That’s the best insurance there is!

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Welcome4

Utrecht – The Best-Kept Secret of the Netherlands

Utrecht Canals. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Utrecht Canals. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

World-class cities get all the attention. Paris, New York and London are usually first on every travelers’ list before considering less “popular” destinations.

But the world is a big place and there are many hidden jewels that can be discovered outside the usual tourist circuit. Utrecht is one of those destinations. Located just 20 miles southeast of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Utrecht is included in Lonely Planet’s 10 of the World’s Unsung Places.

Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. Its car-free city center is right out of the Middle Ages. A curved canal winds its way around the city, lined with unique wharf cellars that create a two-level street along the waterfront, filled with bohemian cafes, shops, restaurants and bars. Utrecht’s student population is the largest in the Netherlands, making this university town a very vibrant place to visit.

Here are a few ways to enjoy the best of Utrecht:

Canalside Cafes. After strolling around the city center, take a break at one of the cozy cafes and terraces along the Oudegracht canal.

White Beer and a Castle. Dine in a 13th-century castle at the Stadskasteel Oudaen, a restaurant that serves up their own homebrewed Oudaen white beer that’s not to be missed!

Utrecht Canal House

Utrecht Canal House

Stay in a Canal House. The best way to experience the real Utrecht is to stay in a canalside house! Swap your home with a Utrecht local and be part of the neighborhood!

Find Your Inner Kid. Utrecht illustrator and writer Dick Bruna is the creator of Miffy, a design icon whose picture books have been translated into numerous languages. Miffy is loved by kids and adults alike from Europe all the way to Japan. Visit the Centraal Museum’s dick bruns huis (no caps intentional).

For Shopaholics. Utrecht is a shopper’s paradise with its art galleries, fashion districts and markets. The Hoog Catharijne, located above the train station, is the one of the largest indoor shopping centers in the Netherlands, The area around the station, however, is under construction until 2019, as roads are being turned back into the original canals.

Utrecht Central Station by Annom

Utrecht Central Station by Annom

Here are more things to see and do in Utrecht: Discover Utrecht

Next time you start making travel plans, consider alternative destinations in addition to the well-traveled standards. You just might discover your new favorite vacation place!

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Raising Global Kids

World Map

How much do your kids know about the rest of the world? If a map were laid out before them, would they be able to locate countries other than their own? Are they curious about other cultures?

A new trend is emerging in this era of globalization. Global kids.

Children need to feel at home in the world. They will also have to be far more globally aware than their parents were. Global kids will have an edge as they make their way in a world that is becoming increasingly “smaller,” due to the internet and the rise of international business networking.

Global awareness can instill in kids many of the following characteristics:

South African Children

By Abdulmirza (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  •  A healthy sense of self-esteem
  •  Heightened creativity
  •  Acceptance of others who are “different”
  •  Adaptability
  •  Ability to solve problems creatively and fairly
  •  A sense of “we” instead of “us versus them”
  •  Curiosity rather than prejudice and fear

When global kids get older, they’ll have the skills to tackle the problems of their time – problems that affect everyone worldwide over the long term instead of focusing uniquely on local, short-term solutions.

But many parents are realizing that much of what their children will need to know once they graduate is not taught in schools.

How are parents raising global kids?

There are plenty of ways. Parents can have maps in the home and make a game out of finding where countries are located. They can watch foreign films with their children, listen to music from all over the world, sample (or cook) foreign dishes from time to time.

Hong Kong Figurines

Figurines in a Hong Kong home.

The most effective way to raise global kids is through travel. A very special kind of travel, according to parents who have consciously chosen to raise their children to be world citizens. Long-term stays that focus on the “local” experience rather than simply visiting tourist attractions gets kids completely immersed in a foreign culture.

How do families afford these long-term stays?

Swapping homes with families in other countries is an excellent and affordable way to travel farther and longer. Accommodations are free. And with a full kitchen at their disposal, cooking at home rather than three meals a day in restaurants means healthier food at a fraction of the cost.

Nursery in a home swap in Bavaria,Germany

Nursery in a home swap in Bavaria, Germany

Kids will learn to adapt and be creative as they play with toys that are not their own. They’ll become open and accepting as they meet other kids in the neighborhood, even if they don’t speak the same language. They’ll watch and learn as their parents think on their feet and reach out to locals with questions and suggestions rather than remaining in the safety of a prepackaged tour or all-inclusive destination. These are powerful learning experiences that will stay with them into adulthood.

Finding the right family home for your stay is important. Here are some tips to guide you in your search: Home Swapping Around the World – With Kids!

Travel is the best education.

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Welcome4

London Like a Local

London. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

London, England is a city that practically invites you to experience it as a local. Of course you’ll want to see Big Ben, witness the Changing of the Guard and visit the extraordinary museums and other popular attractions. But once you get off the tourist path, you’ll discover a fascinating side of London and perhaps get to raise a few pints with some new-found British friends!

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Stay in a London Neighborhood. The best way to meet a local is to swap homes with one! And since your stay is free, you’ll be able to spend more time getting to know London like a local. Home Swap Travel

Home Swap in Central London

Home Swap in Central London

Head for the Dockyards. Nestled between the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London is St. Katharine Docks, one of the best-kept secrets in London! The vibrant marina is located on a huge riverside estate lined with unique shops and a popular art gallery. Don’t miss the Good Food Market, open Fridays 11am-3pm. International food stalls will tempt you with such dishes as Argentinian steak sandwiches, Mediterranean paella or Jamaican curried goat. St. Katharine Docks

St. Katharine Docks, London

St. Katharine Docks, London

Explore the Street Art. Experience parts of London most tourist never visit. Alternative London features a fascinating walking tour (pay-what-you-like) of the city’s vibrant street art culture.

London Pub

By Ewan Munro from London, UK [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hit the Pubs. London pub life is where Londoners get together to socialize. There are pubs are in the city center that draw people from all over the world. If you are staying in a London flat, consider checking out the neighborhood pub. You might meet some of the residents who live in the area where you’re staying. They may not be as used to tourists as the more touristy pubs, but you just might make some interesting local connections.

In addition to the traditional pubs, you’ll also want to explore London’s wine bars, cider bars, gastropubs, rooftop bars and more! Cheers! Bars and Pubs in London

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Getting Your Home Ready for a Home Swap

Hawaii Home

Hawaii Home

It’s exciting – you’ve found the right home swap partner for your travel plans! You’ve done your research. You’ve agreed on mutual pet care. You’ve negotiated a car swap and other perks. You have a pretty good idea of each other’s preferences and habits and you’ve discussed your personal house rules. What’s next?

Preparing your home

Now it’s time to prepare your home! To turn your swap experience into a lasting friendship, welcome your guests into your home with a good first impression. Here are some tips to make their stay more enjoyable:

  • Clean house thoroughly, put away clutter and organize usable items as much as possible.
South Carolina Living Room

South Carolina Living Room

  • Repair faulty appliances, fittings and furniture.
  • Make the house kid-friendly (if applicable) by properly securing dangerous or hazardous household chemicals.
  • Clear some space in your kitchen pantry. You may provide condiments such as salt, pepper, sugar and whatever else you wish to offer.
Kitchen in New Mexico

New Mexico Home

  • Clean refrigerator and/or freezer. You may wish to leave staples such as mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard.
Kitchen in Maine

Kitchen in Maine

  • Cleaning supplies, paper towels, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, etc. should be available.
  • Mare sure you have clean linens for all bedrooms.
Bedroom in a London Flat

Bedroom in a London Flat

  • Provide an empty closet space with plenty of hangers and drawer space for clothes.
  • Have a good supply of fresh towels and toilet paper with perhaps a fresh bar of bath soap and a small bottle of shampoo.
Florida Bath

Florida Bath

  • Arrange for temporary boarding for your pets (unless your guests will be caring for them).
  • Have your garden weeded, grass trimmed, and pool/jacuzzi cleaned right before you leave (as applicable).
Jacuzzi in Arizona

Jacuzzi in Arizona

  • Make sure your car/motorcycle/bicycles are in good condition if included in your swap. Get your car or motorcycle tuned up with an oil change and a full tank of gas before you go.

And for safety and piece of mind, valuable items such as important papers, expensive jewelry or fragile artwork should be placed in storage or in a securely locked room.

Keep in mind that not everyone has the same tolerance for dust, clutter and maintenance issues. Get to know your partners BEFORE you swap, and if you have a preference for a spotless home, choose your home swap carefully.

In next week’s post, we’ll discuss another important way to make your guests feel at home: the Home Swap Handbook.

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Welcome4

Slow Travel: How to Get More Out of Your Next Vacation

Sunset over Black Rock, Ka'anapali, Hawaii

Sunset over Black Rock, Ka’anapali, Hawaii

How did life get so FAST? Speed is everything in business these days. And over the past few decades, our need for speed has crept into virtually every area of our increasingly busy lives.

Not surprisingly, a counter-movement has emerged. It began in 1986 when Carlo Petrini founded Slow Food as a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant in Rome, Italy.  It soon evolved into an entire philosophy of Slow Living – taking the time to enjoy life at a leisurely pace with family and good friends, choosing healthier, environmentally-friendly options in all areas of work and life.

Slow Travel is one of the initiatives that has emerged out of this movement. Rather than rushing around on a nine-day, seven-city tour, slow travelers are spending more time enroute….and at their destination. They’re savoring each experience like a fine wine rather than a Hamburger-and-Fries-To-Go.

Buyukada, Turkey

Buyukada, Turkey

Here are some tips for incorporating Slow Travel into your next vacation:

  • Pick a destination that isn’t in the Top Ten on anyone’s list. Flyover States
Utrecht, Amsterdam

Utrecht, Amsterdam

  • If you are staying a popular city, take a class, enjoy a picnic in the park, ask a local for restaurant suggestions rather than the area travel bureau. Go off-season. New York Like a Local
Nikolai Church, Berlin

Nikolai Church, Berlin

  • Take the train instead of flying. If you’re driving, pull off the road if something piques your interest.
  • Spend a month or two at your destination. Maybe you’ll be invited for a barbecue with the neighbors.
Barbecue

Mountaintop Barbecue

  • Wander aimlessly. Go down that little cobblestoned street. Get wonderfully lost. Ask directions.
Bee, Italy

Bee, Italy

  • Hike a trail, ice skate, go cycling, try surfboarding.
Hot Springs, North Carolina

Hot Springs, North Carolina

  • Try food you’ve never had before. Ask about local wines.
Lunch in Turkey

Lunch in Turkey

  • Check out a local festival, attend a soccer match, enjoy a plein-air concert in a foreign language with a local band, treat yourself to a visit to a local spa.
Wellness Spa in Thailand

Wellness Spa in Thailand

  • Learn a little of the language and talk to people whenever you can! Be curious. Share stories.

How do people afford a long-term Slow Vacation? There are many alternatives to hotel stays, like house-sitting and renting an apartment.

An increasingly-popular option is through home-swapping. You can stay anywhere in the world, for as long as you want, for free. You save money not only on accommodations but also on restaurants since you’d have your own kitchen. This also gives you the opportunity to truly experience the local open-air markets!

Slow Travel doesn’t necessarily mean slow-moving. It’s about taking the time to go deeper into each experience, no matter how mundane, instead of only hitting the highlights. And the trip doesn’t have to necessarily be long. Short excursions might be just the thing to put a little balance back into a super-busy lifestyle!

Whatever your destination, Slow Travel is a way of experiencing it that will stay with you long after your trip is over. If you’re considering the home swap option, here’s how to get started: Getting Started

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