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Regardless of the season or the reason, there are times when you need to take a break to have some fun and nurture your inner child! These water parks from around the world provide imaginative, innovative ways to make you laugh, scream and challenge your inner speed demon. Whether you like to relax in the sun or escape the snow drifts, let your wild child run free and pamper yourself for a bit.


Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach

Orlando, FL, USA

Blizzard BeachFlickr: asitrac / Creative Commons

There is a debate over which park is better, Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach. Frankly, we’re not sure! Disney knows how to have fun and certainly provides plenty of opportunities at both parks for thrill-seeking adventurers as well as those of us needing a more tranquil experience. At Typhoon Lagoon, snorkel with the sharks, stingrays, and tropical fish. Take some time off to sunbathe on the beach while the rest of your family and friends challenge themselves against the big drops of the Humunga Kowabunga or get spun around in unexpected ways on the Mount Mayday ride. At Blizzard Beach (once a ski resort), swiftly slide down Mount Gushmore or scream your lungs out as you plummet 50 feet on the Downhill Double Dipper. At either park, you’re bound to have a wonderful time with plenty of stories to share when you get home. Pack your bags and stay in Orlando.

Over 190 homes and apartments in the area.

 

Noah’s Ark

Wisconsin Dells, USA

Noahs Ark Flickr: elliottdotorg / Creative Commons

As one of the most popular water parks in the middle of the United States, Noah’s Ark has something for everyone. Go surfing on their new ride, Surfing Safari, or slip quickly and freely down the quarter-mile (.4k) slide on the Black Anaconda (a must for roller coaster enthusiasts). For those seeking more relaxing rides, head over to one of the Bahama Falls rides and quietly ease your way down the tranquil waters. For the roller coaster enthusiasts in training, start with the Paradise Lagoon rides and then graduate up to Slidewinders. Soon enough, you’ll be ready for the knuckle-gripping, scream-your-lungs-out rides like the vertical plunge of the Point of No Return. Find a place to rest your weary head after adventuring at Noah’s Ark.

Over 195 homes and apartments in the area.

 

Cariba Creek

Alton, UK

AltonFlickr: thevoicewithin / Creative Commons

Find fun year-round in this 40,000 sq. ft. (3,700 sq. meters) indoor water park! No worries about missing the sun. There’s a 50,000 sq. ft. (4,700 sq. meters) dome roof overhead. Float lazily down a river or speed wildly over the rapids. This imaginative park with its talented “paradise plumbers” has a wide variety of rides and adventures to ensure every family member and friend has a wildly wonderful time. Start your adventure by choosing your home away from home in Alton, UK.

Over 765 homes and apartments in the area.

 

PortAventura

Barcelona, Spain

Costa CaribeFlickr: fixeche / Creative Commons

Water parks are a great place for family fun. However, PortAventura sports a relaxing area just for adults called Playa Paraíso. Feel like you’re in the Caribbean without having to leave PortAventura. Soak in the sun while laying around on a water bed and let your cares slip away, if only for a few hours. Find a home to soak in the sun near Barcelona.

Over 725 homes and apartments in the area.

 

Aqualand

France

AqualandFlickr: djburkey / Creative Commons 

With eight parks to choose from, you’ll find fun in the sun and water nearby on your travels in France. There’s a ride for every free spirit in your travel group, from the tranquil bubble baths to the breath-stealing, heart-pumping rides like the X-Trem Bowl or the King Cobra. Relax at your pace in a place near you in France.

Over 440 homes and apartments in the area.

 

Raging Waters

San Dimas, California

Raging Waters Flickr: rwong / Creative Commons

Near Pasadena, California as well as all that Los Angeles has to offer is Raging Waters Park, which showcases one of the largest drop slides in the country. You could drop 40 miles an hour (64 km/h) down seven stories on the Drop Out, or if that’s not thrilling enough for you try slipping down a 40-foot (12 meters) drop in the dark! For those of us who choose a more tranquil vacation, you can relax at the Splash Island Adventure or head over to the Flowrider for a bit of body surfing. The thrill-seekers can find you later! Book your home away from home here.

Over 620 homes and apartments in the area.

Featured image: Fickr: christian_bachellier / Creative Commons
When we say HomeExchange.com has homes of all shapes and sizes, we mean it. Meet Sylvie and Didier, who exchange their castle. That’s right...a castle!

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When we say HomeExchange.com has homes of all shapes and sizes, we mean it. Meet Sylvie and Didier, who offer their castle when they swap homes. That’s right…a castle!

Sylvie and Didier run a charming hotel, the Varenne Castle, near Avignon, France. They have been members of HomeExchange.com since July 2008, and offer the unique experience of staying in a castle. Obviously, they have no shortage of exchange inquiries in their inbox. They have already done five exchanges with two more scheduled. Silvie and Didier have perfected the art of treating their exchange partners as guests of the castle. Almost nothing in Provence has changed since the eighteenth century; guests are invited to travel back in time, to let themselves be enchanted by the charm of a large park and lounges, and to feel like true guests of the castle as in the days of horse-drawn carriages. château-de-Varenne For Sylvie and Didier, the pleasure of receiving guests implies rather demanding daily work. But during the low season, when the castle is closed, it’s time to get away. Didier recalls his previous home swaps: “Two exchanges in Costa Rica, two exchanges in Brazil, one exchange much closer in the north of France – that makes five in total. This year we will spend Christmas exchanging in Panama, and we are preparing an exchange for Christmas 2015 in Orlando, Florida. It’s an apartment located in Disney World. Our kids are looking forward to it!” Their two sons, Mael and Swann, are far from protesting. At each exchange, they have their own room and share unique experiences. “Brazil was delirious!” says Silvie. “A driver picked us up at the airport in an armored car. There, wealthy people do not joke about security. We had a villa on a private beach with a chef and a butler. But the craziest thing was when the skipper of our exchange partner’s yacht asked us when we wanted a ride! In Costa Rica, we were greeted by the French designers who had built their house on the Pacific. We are still friends.” Sylvie-et-Didier-au-château-de-Varenne In exchange, Sylvie and Didier’s partners benefit from one of the 13 rooms of the castle for free. “Or more rooms if they are more people in their exchange group,” says Didier, “but of course we prefer that our exchange partners come at mid-season. Fortunately for us, during the high season the castel is often full.” “And like that,” Sylvie adds, “We can have our dream holiday for the price of the transportation. The fact that we live in a castle, does not mean that our resources are unlimited!”

Feel like living in a castle for your next adventure? Check out Sylvie and Didier’s listing here.

Antiparos feat.
Guest post by Renia Tsitsibikou

This little island in the Cyclades is only 17 square miles, but it packs enough beauty for a whole trip. In fact, you might spot Tom Hanks strolling on the beach; he owns a house here! Surely he would agree with these 10 reasons to love Antiparos and visit over and over again. Of course, not every little secret is shared here. You have to be surprised when you get there, no? Enjoy!

1. I love Antiparos because it is the “rival” of the cosmopolitan island of Paros: calm, peaceful, warm and flirty.

2. It might be a small island, but its beauty is overwhelming: cobblestone streets, lovely whitewashed houses, bougainvilleas everywhere, and a wild nature that reminds you how “small” we humans are in reality.

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3. Antiparos provides the luxury of the ultimate relaxation. Since there are few but exceptional choices – beaches, restaurants, and bars – you don’t have to feel anxiety or have dilemmas on what plans to do every day. You definitely plan NOT to plan, and that is the perfect holiday scenario.

4. Soros beach is in my heart for its wonderful pebbles you can play with for hours, the clear crystal waters, the deep blue colour that attracts you constantly, and the underwater scenery for perfect snapshots!

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5. On the other hand, I much appreciate Psaralykes, the three-in-a-row beaches right outside Antiparos village (that means you can walk to the beach) for endless hours of relaxation and chit chat with your friends on the golden sand, under the coolness and the shadow the tamarisks provide generously…all for free.

6. I feel blessed every time I reach the small archaeological island of Despotico. Endless, sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and the peaceful silence provided to you since the island is uninhabited. If you need to feel like an explorer, that is a must- have daily excursion. And don’t forget to make stops in the middle of the trip to see the water caves or have a dive where the waters are emerald green!

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7. Magic comes from the earth too! Don’t miss a visit to the exquisite cave of St. John, one of the most important caves in Greece, which has been desecrated by the various conquerors over the centuries.

8. Wonderful nights in Antiparos: cool bars for cool people who know how to have fun in style. Walk to La Luna, an open air discotheque with amazing energy for free spirits! And, at the end, if you really think you need to get to a club, you can always jump to the “slipper,” the little boat that will take you to Paros island in no time.

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9. Flavors: delicious breakfast and afternoon daiquiris at Margarita and casserole cuisine with original greek flavors at Klimataria, both in the Antiparos village. Great seafood at Pipinos on Ai Giorgis beach and onion pies at the tavern on Soros beach. Not to be missed, the perfect cheesecake at Navagio coffee shop, just before the entrance of the castle…

10. …Which we left for the end: the beautiful, vibrant Venetian castle, which keeps all calm and mystery inside, while before the gates, life flows in more “modern” rhythms!


About the Author

reniaRenia Tsitsibikou is a travel expert journalist from Greece. Follow her travel recommendations on her Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Her favorite quote: Travel never ends!

Featured image: Flickr / visitgreecegr ; All other images: Reina Tsitsibikou
Cape Town

No matter where in the world you are, fall seems to be beer season. To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite beer festivals around the world. (Just remember to drink responsibly!)

1. Oktoberfest

Munich, Germany

Flickr: trentstrohm / Creative CommonsFlickr: trentstrohm / Creative Commons

Of course we have to kick it off with the mother of all beer festivals: Oktoberfest. This gigantic festival (it received around 6 million visitors last year) has been running since 1810 and commemorates the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen (try saying “Saxony-Hildburghausen” after a day at the festival!) Did you know that all beer served at Oktoberfest is required to have been brewed within the city of Munich?

 

2. Belgian Beer Weekend

Brussels, Belgium

BelgiumFlickr: mcsdwarken / Creative Commons

During the first weekend of each September, the Grand-Place turns into a showcase of Belgian beers. The festival features more than 350 from small and large Belgian breweries alike.

 

3. Great American Beer Festival

Denver, CO, USA

AmericanFlickr: maryatuab / Creative Commons

This annual “Mile-High” event has grown from 40 beers at its inauguration in 1982 to a whopping 3,100 beers last year in 2013. Highlights include a farm-to-table pavillion and bookstore where you can find all kinds of brew-related publications.

 

4. Great British Beer Festival

London, UK

BritianFlickr: scubagirl66 / Creative Commons

Every August, more than 50,000 people gather for the largest beer festival in the UK. The festival focuses on real ales served directly from the cask, along with bottled ales, ciders and other beers from around the world.

 

5. Mondial de la Bière

Montreal, QC, Canada

MontrealFlickr: pah57 / Creative Commons

Canada’s largest beer festival features over 600 beers from around 200 breweries all over the world. You’ll also find beer workshops and seminars offered by teachers from a local beer school. Sign us up!

 

6. Pilsner Fest

Pilsen, Czech Republic

PilsnerFlickr: picthugues / Creative Commons

Every year, locals and visitors gather to celebrate the creation of Pilsner which was, of course, invented in the town of Pilsen. The festival is held in October, around the anniversary of the very first Pilsner brew. Visitors can try their hand at traditional brewing crafts, even donning period costumes if they choose. It’s a beer festival and history lesson in one!

 

7. New Zealand Beer Festival

Auckland, New Zealand

New ZealandFlickr: pelegrino / Creative Commons

The New Zealand Beer Festival is a relative newcomer to the scene, having only started up in 2006. The festival predominantly features beers from Kiwi breweries, with some notable international exceptions. In addition to brews, you’ll find food pairings, stand up comedy, and concerts.

 

8. Stockholm Beer & Whiskey Festival

Stockholm, Sweden

StockholmFlickr: cmbellman / Creative Commons

Scandinavia’s top beer, cider, and whiskey festival hosts hundreds of beers from all around the world. There are classes to attend and awards up for grabs, including best Swedish beer, best fresh beer, and more.

 

9. Bandol Wine Festival

Provence, France

Bandol Flickr: sarahrzepecki / Creative Commons

Ok, this one isn’t a beer festival, but we had to sneak something in for the wine lovers. This festival is all about the art of winemaking. In fact, growers don’t bring the year’s finished wines but instead let you try the works in progress straight from the barrel, allowing tasters to appreciate the tendencies of the year’s vintage. Fancy!

 

10. Cape Town Festival of Beer

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town Flickr: blyzz / Creative Commons

Every November, Cape Town holds a celebration of all things beer. This year’s festival will house more than 200 different beers from 60 breweries, including some specials brewed just for the festival. Of course, there will be tours, blind tastings, raffles… and the world’s biggest game of beer pong.

Have you been to any of these festivals? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Q: I found some home swap sites that don’t charge a subscription fee. Why do I have to pay for HomeExchange.com?

 

A: Because the safety and security of our members is our top priority.

 


 

Think about it: When you want to swap homes, would you ever dream of browsing Craigslist for someone who says they have a cool apartment in the area you want to visit? Since there’s no payment or verification process, that person could be anywhere…and their house might not even exist! The same goes for free home swap sites; when a company doesn’t ask for payment, literally anyone can post a listing to that site with no way for it to be verified.

Of course, there are other perks that come with paying for a HomeExhcange.com subscription along with safety. For an annual fee that costs less than a night in a hotel, you get unlimited exchanges with no hidden charges, endless extra benefits, exclusive access to our knowledgable 24/7 global support team, and a guarantee that if you don’t find an exchange during your first year of membership, your second year is on us. Signing up is easy, and we even offer a 14 day free trial before you commit.

Do you have questions about HomeExchange.com? Ask us in the comments and we might feature yours in our next FAQ blog.

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Guest post by Dawn Paulinski

House swapping was an early adopter in the sharing economy, even before people started calling it the sharing economy. Recently, a multitude of new companies have launched services that help people “share” resources. Sharing doesn’t necessarily mean free, but it can translate into significant savings, especially for things that travelers generally need. And it can lead to some really interesting local experiences. Here’s my list of best sharing economy services for house swappers.

Transportation

While you are enjoying a house swap, you may want a vehicle in your home away from home (if you didn’t arrange for a car swap as a part of the exchange). There are two categories that are particularly useful for travelers: Peer to peer car rentals and ride sharing.

Peer to peer car rental services like buzzcar.comtamyca.de, and drivy.com expand car rental options beyond the traditional rental companies, and generally have at least slightly better pricing with more diversity of vehicles and pick up locations. If you are a car owner this is a fine way to earn some extra cash when you’re not using the car (and when you are traveling there are now a few companies like flightcar.com that pay you to leave your car with them at the airport). If you are in need of a car for a day or more this is a good option to consider, especially if you find rental car companies are too expensive in your location.

Peer to peer ride sharing is also catching on in Europe, Australia, and the USA. Drivers join a website such as Blablacar.com or Carpooling.com, where they post upcoming trips they are taking and how many open seats they have, along with a price per seat. Then riders can sign up to join those trips. Drivers and riders get reviewed, and in some cases you can select traveling companions based on features like how talkative they are. This is often cheaper than taking the train or bus, and a pleasant way to meet locals and travel in comfort without all the unnecessary stops inherent to public transportation.

Tours, activities, and local eats

Tours and guided activities are fun way to explore while traveling. These services are traditionally offered by commercial tour companies, but in recent years there have been a number of attempts to create a peer to peer travel experience marketplace. Of the companies in this business today, Vayable.com is the largest and most sophisticated. They offer a platform for people to buy and sell travel experiences, activities, and extended trips. Events cover a wide range of prices and experiences. My search of options in Barcelona turned up a $10 two hour roller skating tour, a $240 tour of the city in a convertible, and a $1,995 food and wine week, in addition to culinary classes, night life, photography, art, yoga, and a nudist beach visit, with most prices under $100.

A newcomer to the sharing economy is meal hosting. For travelers, this means an opportunity to eat in the home of a local, sharing a home cooked meal with locals and other travelers. There are a few variations on this theme, but the main option from sites like eatwith.comcookening.com and mealsharing.com facilitates a cook hosting a group of people for a meal in their home. People attending might be locals in search of a good meal, or travelers looking to enjoy home cooking in the place they are visiting.

Equipment rentals

In some places it’s now possible to find vacation toys through peer to peer rentals. Companies like Boatbound.co and Getmyboat.com facilitate rental of boats from their owners. You can find all sorts of adventure gear including ATVs, bikes, kayaks, RVs, snowmobiles and surfboards on sites like Propaloo.com and Qraft.com. And for bike and snowboard rentals, Spinlister.com has built a strong marketplace.

Wifi sharing

For those who like to stay connected while touring around a new city, there are some free and shared wifi options that go beyond paying for a cup of coffee to use the wifi at the cafe. Fon.com offers a membership-based global wifi network, providing members with free access at millions of Fon hotspots worldwide. To join, you just buy their Wifi router and plug it into your home broadband connection. This network has very good coverage in the UK and France and a lot of hotspots in other parts of Europe. Japan and Brazil also have impressive participation. In the USA it costs $49 for the Fon router. That’s not a bad investment for long term wifi access around the world, especially if you spend much time in Europe.

For those who prefer to get their wifi at hotels or cafes, there are a number of companies like MyPublicWiFi.com which allow people to turn their computers into a WiFi access point, complete with firewall service if needed. If you don’t want to pay for wifi access, some web sites make it easier to find open wifi hotspots. Services such as OpenWifiSpots.com will display your nearby options on a handy map.

Pet sitting

For travelers with pets, there is a significant additional cost, and no small amount of anxiety, associated with taking a vacation away from home. If you are going to do a home exchange, it’s worth looking for a swap partner who also has pets and is willing to swap pet care. This is free and you are already entrusting these folks with your home so it’s not a big stretch to also trust they will care for your pets like their own.

If pet swapping isn’t an option, you could look for a sitter. Expanding the options for pet owners, there are some peer to peer websites to help you find a good sitter. Companies like Dogvacay.com, Borrowmydoggie.com, and Holidog.com match dog owners with locals. They include reviews, match you with sitters based on criteria you can specify, and allow payment online through the website. Some even provide pet insurance.

Lastly, there is the option of finding a house sitter to stay with your pet in your home if you are doing a non-simultaneous exchange. Companies like trustedhousesitters.comstaydu.com and Ilidor.com which will match home owners with house sitters.


About the Author

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Dawn Paulinski is an avid traveler, devoted to exploring the world cheaply. She runs sharetraveler.com to provide information and reviews about travel-related sharing economy resources. More information about the above and many more peer to peer services can be found there.

 

sleeping pup

Q: I don’t want to board my pets at a kennel. Will my exchange partner take care of them

A: Yes!

Pet exchange, like car exchange, is an option you are able to select when searching for your next swap. While it’s likely that you’ll find it easier to swap with a fellow pet owner, it’s always possible that another member without a furry friend at home would love to take care of yours (or be happy for you to bring your pal along for the adventure). HomeExchange.com members care for each other’s dogs, cats, hamsters, even chickens! Here are some tips for setting up shop before you leave your pet in the hands of your exchange partner:
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