If money is tight and you would still like to go abroad this summer, you could consider a holiday that will give you free accommodation worldwide: a house swap. Do you fancy an Italian villa? A flat in bustling Cannes in the South of France? A room with a view over Central Park?
No, you can’t have all of them at once but you can take your pick. All you need is to be willing to exchange your own home (or second home if you have one), to be trusting and trustworthy, willing to research and communicate with another family, and take the time to do it properly – maintain a home, research insurance details, leave instructions and perhaps remove anything from your home you can’t afford to lose. There may be plants or pets that need looking after at your destination, or the phone might ring. Nonetheless, many report that the generosity of their hosts is touching and it restores their faith in humanity.
In some cases, it won’t cost you a thing, although you might want to consider paying for extras like arranging a cleaner on your last day – or theirs. It does have other advantages: your home will be occupied while you are away, your plants will be watered and your dog walked. You can exchange cars too and save on car rental costs – though make sure to add the temporary drivers onto your insurance.
While it may not be ideal for short trips – you’ll still have to maintain the home you visit and you may miss the service you’d receive from a hotel – it can be a great way to get to know a city. Say you wanted to spend a month in Manhattan instead of a long weekend, what better way than to find yourself a prime location, as well as local lifesavers such as a bicycle, Netflix, and the ability to save money by self-catering.
Of course, communication is key. Get to know the people you are exchanging with; it’s a good idea to swap with those who live in similar circumstances. The more shared values, habits and requirements you have, the easier it will be to live with the thought of strangers in your home, and instinctively know how to treat theirs.
The other important point is the human factor. Even hotel and resort holidays don’t always turn out perfectly, but the difference here is that you’re unlikely to get compensation. Make sure your flights are flexible in case your exchange backs out at the last minute – or at least ensure you have a backup plan, or are willing to stay in a nearby hotel instead. If your exchange partner is injured, for example, there may be legitimate reasons they can’t make good on your agreement, so it’s good to be prepared for any eventualities.
Weighing up the risk of letting a stranger into your home is important before you decide if a house swap is a good idea for you. Contact your home insurance provider to check whether you're covered for non paying guests – you don't want to be left out of pocket and unable to make a claim if something goes wrong.
There are several companies that do home swaps: shop around and choose the most reliable with the best testimonials.
While there are ways to get away for less if you do your research, one thing you shouldn't economise on is travel insurance. Medical bills abroad can be expensive, especially if you fall ill somewhere like the USA. Having appropriate cover can help make sure you receive the treatment you need. If you're a regular traveller, buying an annual insurance policy could perhaps be a good idea too.
Another possible way to make some savings is by shopping around in advance for your travel money. Search online before you go to find the best exchange rates. Some providers even offer pre-paid currency cards which allow you to top up your cash whilst you're abroad.
Issued by Sainsbury’s Finance
Sainsbury’s Finance is a trading name of Sainsbury’s Bank plc. All information correct at time of publication, but may be subject to change. Any views or opinions expressed in this article are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any part of the Sainsbury’s Group of companies.