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Home exchanges are growing as a travel experience for many travelers, both internationally and domestically. Many people have been very enthusiastic about their home
swaps while others have registered various complaints.
Accordingly, travelers should carefully consider the pros and cons of such exchanges. On the plus side, there's the opportunity to go to and stay in areas that you might not otherwise be able to. And there can be a significant savings in money. No hotel bills, a major dent in travel budgets, and you also save by not eating out at restaurants all the time. Chances are you'll get deeper insights into local cultures and a less superficial travel experience. Domestic home exchanges also enable people to go away for short weekend trips and to possibly drive instead of flying.
Other than dissatisfaction with how others use your home while you're at their place, one of the biggest problems with home exchanges probably stems from last-minute cancellations, especially when would-be exchangers have already bought air fares laden with tough cancellation
penalties. Trip cancellation insurance can be a worthwhile purchase.
Insurance is often a big concern for parties that exchange homes. Check your insurance policies to see if there's coverage for casual visitors to your home and other drivers of your cars. Make sure you have a clear-cut agreement on what the home exchange entails in the use of cars and any recreational equipment, etc.
Some home exchange companies operate by selling directories, with varying prices and schedules, which contain listings of people who want to make a home exchange. Interested parties handle their own negotiations. Other companies handle arrangements for the parties, for a fee. Exchanges, domestic or abroad, can be of homes or apartments in urban, suburban and rural locations. Most stays abroad last for at least a week, though that point is negotiable.
The amount of advance time needed to set up an exchange isn't as crucial as it used to be due to faxes and email. If you handle the exchange yourself, which is less expensive, still allow more time if not working by phone, fax or email.
Some companies to check out: Hideaway International, 800-843-4433; HomeLink, 800-638-3841; and Intervac, 800-756-HOME.