Last January I started looking into home swapping as an option to go visit my sister in Paris. I found lovehomeswap.com; a pay for use site that connects you with other home swappers around the world. They got me with their one month free (always know that if it’s free for the first month, it’s a trap for the rest of your life).
I joined the site, paid my fee, and started looking around. Then I started messaging, looking for swaps. Boy, did I message. I have twelve pages (ten messages per page) of messages in my inbox, just under 120 messages and just under 80 messages of requests sent (my outbox). Of that number I booked three swaps: two at my house and one for us to go to Paris..
I like the site. I like the model (non-consecutive swaps, points swaps, etc.,) and everyone I interacted with was pleasant. There are some caveats however:
- There is no need to do the deposit through the site. They take a cut. You can arrange a deposit without them taking a cut.
- You need to report any problem within 48 hrs. or else the deposit is returned.
- Your mileage may vary depending on the popularity of the location.
We tried to book the south of France in the summer. No one is going to do that because it would be silly. People will rent you something in the south, but they won’t swap. This, I suspect applies to any truly desirable location in the high season. You’re fooling yourself otherwise.
The absolute best bet is to join the site with few expectations. You may get close to what you want or you may get an absolute gem of a surprise. If you can’t decide where to go, or even if you can, it’s fun to browse the site and look at the beautiful houses. Some places are simply stunning..
I arranged two swaps for people coming to my house. One came for a wedding and the other had family in the area, which truth be told, surprised me a little bit. By no means are we in the south of France or some other often touted destination. I love where I live; I just don’t expect (nor do I really want; imagine the crowds) everyone else to feel the same way.
I am going to group both swappers together because they were both great and I have no complaints. We got a reasonably clean house on our return (sheets needed to be put on the bed; floors needed a wash) and nothing had a giant gaping hole in it.
Unfortunately everything that could go wrong in the next couple days got blamed on the homeswappers. This is, of course, scapegoating and we relished in it. A couple days after that we came to our senses and let it go.
I could say we got lucky, but I think horror stories of home swaps are few and far between, especially on a pay-per-use site like lovehomeswap..
We went to Paris and while I have lots to say about that and the entire sublime experience that it was, the focus here is the house we stayed in. We (Nova and I) had two kids (almost five and almost 10 months), four checked bags, three carry-ons and zero sleep.
Paris was hot this summer. We bought a fan. The breeze just wasn’t cutting it. I should have bought some door stops as well because that breeze kept slamming doors and waking the baby. I guess point one is don’t go in expecting the comforts of home because they aren’t there.
Other peoples stuff is very breakable. This is especially true with a baby and a five year old. Boundaries are pushed or stuffed in the mouth and tasted. Yum. Boundaries. What’s in your mouth baby? Nothing dadadadadadadada. Point two: leave the kids at home or buy the super-glue ahead of time. Incidentally, I bought the super glue and the fan at the same store on the same day. Final note, I broke what I glued back together and hid in a corner, not the baby or the five year old.
Home swapping gives you that home away from home experience. That comes with all the cooking, cleaning and headache that a hotel just lets you throw money at until it goes away. This is definitely a benefit when you’re travelling and want to save money, but not so much when you’re both tired yet obligated to cook because you can’t very well take the kids out for dinner at 9 pm at night. Point three: 9 pm is only 21:00 in France and is still a perfectly acceptable time to take a baby and a child out to dinner in Paris. Relax and enjoy it for what it is.
In the end, I got what I came for; I still like my house better. For a Paris apartment in the summer, it was perfect.
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