Is time already to organize your end-of-year adventures?

Your summer (or winter, if you’re in the southern part of the world) is about to come to a close, and school is almost back in session. The time is fast approaching when you have to unpack your back and get back to work. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning for your next vacation! Now is the perfect time to get a head-start on thinking about where you’d like to go for the end of the year. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Tip 1: Think ahead for a better exchange

If you want to swap homes with your preferred destinations, it is best to take the lead! By starting now, you can beat the “holiday rush” and connect with Members who live in the most popular locations, before everyone else! Since there is a good chance your potential Exchange Partner hasn’t made their plans yet, you can start dreaming of what to do while everyone else is still figuring out where to go. Don’t wait! Send an inquiry message now and let them know that you’re interested in spending your next holiday exploring their area.

Did you know? You can now add the “Exchange Balloons” filter when you search for your next exchange! Balloons offer another way to organize a non-reciprocal exchange, so by utilizing the search filter, you will see the results of homes interested in redeeming your Balloon!

 

Tip 2: Turn to the HomeExchange community

Looking for some inspiration to avoid a “traditional” family vacation? Turn to the HomeExchange community and unlock a gold-mine of travel recommendations and home exchange tips and tricks! One of the best ways to connect with fellow exchange enthusiasts is through our Members-only Facebook groups. With over 19 groups available, you don’t have to pick just one to join. More Members are participating daily, and there is always a conversation going on in these amazingly active groups.

Did you know? Many HomeExchange regularly coordinate gatherings when they are in the same region! Feel free to start a discussion or create a meetup event in the group so you can get together and explore your shared passion for travel.

 

Tip 3: Surprise travel partners with unique activities

Build anticipation by having your travel companions (children and child-like adults) join in on the planning by asking them to help dream up fun, and different things do on vacation. Not only will it help pass the time but it will also get them excited about the experience. Are you heading to the snow? Try ice climbing or skijoring (skiing while being pulled by dogs). Choosing to go somewhere a little warmer? Plan on making ice cream using local flavors or explore a natural wonder. Whatever you end up planning, the fun comes from looking forward to spending time together and the chance to do something outside of your comfort zone.

We know that, in the end, the most unique and authentic experience you can organize for your family will, of course, be a home exchange! Explore, go on an adventure, and use the time to live like a local.

Now we turn to you, where are you looking to go for your next vacation? Share your year-end travel desires in the comments below.

 

 

Searching for an using a Balloon Exchange just got a whole lot less complicated.

Since we introduced the program of Balloon exchanges, we have been receiving messages from members asking for a better way to not only earn a Balloon but also find a place to use them. As the program has grown, we have observed how Balloons were used but also how members searched for them. That is why we are pleased to announce the launch of the search filter specifically for Balloon Exchanges.

Set Your Preference

Before you begin your search, click over to your Dashboard and look at the “HomeExchange Balloons” box that is at the top of the screen. On the right-hand side, you’ll see a graphic that shows you how many Balloons you currently have available to use and also how many you have redeemed.

On the left, you’ll notice a little toggle button has been added. This is where you can switch your settings between wanting to Earn a Balloon or Spend a Balloon. Simply flip the switch and your home will be tagged to show up in the respective search results. As your preference changes, come back here to click the adjust your settings.

Search Ready


Once you have your preference set, it is time to search. Type in a location you’d like to visit. Perhaps you’re looking for a place to spend the end of year holidays, or you might be on the hunt for a weekend away. Whatever your destination, type it in the Search box in the Navigation bar at the top of your screen and search.

Once the results come up, you scroll down and select “More Filters.” This will open up a whole collection of other search parameters you can use to refine your results. In the second row of filters, you will see that on the right-hand side there is now a box that says “Balloon Exchange.” By using this filter, you can switch between seeing “Members looking for a Balloon” and “Members looking to spend a Balloon.” Make your selection to automatically update your search results. Remember to click “Save Search” to easily reference updated results matching your search criteria in the future.

We hope this update makes finding your next Balloon Exchange a much easier process, but we’d love your feedback as well. Feel free to reach out 24/7 to our Happiness Support Team or comment below. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Share your thoughts regarding the HomeExchange App so the next version can be even better!

Back in March we enthusiastically launched the HomeExchange App. You had been requesting it, and we were finally able to make the dream a reality. With six months under our belt, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Take a few moments and click over to your respective app store and leave a review so that your fellow members can learn from your experience.

Never left a review? No problem. Here are the steps for each operating system.

App Store for Apple Devices

Step 1: Click the link above or go to the App Store on your mobile device and search “HomeExchange: Travel Anywhere.”
Step 2: Click on the app name in the store. Note: If you already have the app, clicking “Open” will launch the app.
Step 3: Scroll down to the “Ratings & Reviews” section.
Step 4: Tap the number of stars you’d give us where it says “Tap to Rate.” Tap 1 for needs improvement and 5 for seriously loving the app.
Step 5: If you have an option you’d like to share, click “Write a Review” and leave your feedback.
Step 6: Give yourself a pat on the back for being such a valuable part of our community.

Google Play Store for Android Devices

Step 1: Click the link above or go to the Google Play Store your mobile device and search “HomeExchange.”
Step 2: Once you’ve found the app select it to open the details page.
Step 3: Scroll down to the “Reviews” section.
Step 4: Select the number of stars you’d give us and write your review.
Step 5: Tap “Submit” and you’ve completed your mission.

We appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and feedback. Your experience is the key to our success, and every comment helps us to shape the future of HomeExchange.

 

 

Our top destinations to enjoy the sun or the snow as the seasons change!

The weather in the Northern hemisphere is getting almost overwhelming, and the community member there find themselves thinking “how can I escape this…” Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, some members have to make a point to grab a jacket before leaving the house and wish they could be feeling the warmth.

The beautiful thing about being a part of the extended HomeExchange community is that you always have the option to “escape” whatever season you are currently experiencing. You can decide if you want to rest on the beach taking in the sun or by hitting the slopes and feeling the coolness of the snow. Whichever you choose, we have some options for you:

Croatia

If you are looking for sun and heat, this is an ideal destination. The crystal clear blue of the Adriatic will have you falling in love in no time. From the sea to the fairytale cities of as Dubrovnik or Split, or by taking an excursion to some of the Dalmatian Islands, and exchange here is sure to be an authentic adventure. If you like nature, you can discover its amazing National Parks, such as the Plitvice Lakes National Park, or if you fancy staying indoors, an exploration of Zagreb, its capital, will be a peaceful walk through history.

National Park, or if you fancy staying indoors, an exploration of Zagreb, its capital, will be a peaceful walk through history.

 

New Zealand

This gorgeous island should be a must visit for any traveler. The climate of the country offers a beautiful range no matter what time of year you visit due to the magnificent diversity of the landscape blending mountains and valleys. In broad terms, its winter occurs (between June and August) offer the perfect escape. While the south island is colder, it is ideal for snow sports lovers, so make sure to grab your snowboard and skis to enjoy the slopes.

Another perk of traveling during the winter months is that it will allow you to see a quieter New Zealand. With fewer tourists (there is usually more during the summer season from December to February) you’ll be able to enjoy more of the mystical landscape and, who knows, you may take in the wonder of seeing the aurora australis.

 

Italy

Italy is variety in its purest form. From cosmopolitan Milan and elegant Lake Como to coastal Calabria or the rolling hills of Tuscany to the romantic oasis of Venice or the grandeur of Florence. It’s a country that has it all. Of course, there is also Sicily with its magnificent beaches; it is a perfect family destination. Choose a specific region or enjoy a road trip and explore several locations, like a stop over in the eternal Rome. Between the history, the food, and the sun, you are sure to come home feeling warm with memories.

 

South Africa

Escape a heatwave and head down to encounter the breathtaking beauty of South Africa. Not only can you find some skiing, but it June to August is one of the best times of the year to go on a safari and discover some of the “Big Five” and other African animals. It is also an ideal time to hit the sea for whale watching. Perhaps your trip becomes a combination with your itinerary including of a safari in Kruger Park, and a visit of Johannesburg and Cape Town. You’d be hard pressed to find a more spectacular route to discover South Africa.

 

Greece

Everyone has dreamed on some occasion to relax on some Greek island, right? It may be time to make your dream come true and date that trip. Greece combines climate, history, gastronomy, incredible landscapes and dreamy beaches. Whatever your preference, you can find it in Greece. Travel through history in the Peloponnese, climb and be impressed in front of the Acropolis in Athens, go up to the North to the monasteries of Meteora, or let yourself be carried away by one of its beaches, not only in the islands.

 

Argentina

The expansiveness of Argentina adds another dimension to your travel. An exchange there allows you to decide what area on which you most want to focus. In winter, the south offers snow in places like Calafate (and its Perito Moreno glacier), Ushuaia (to visit the End of the World Lighthouse) or Bariloche. Bariloche, in fact, is a famous winter destination with ski slopes renowned among winter sports lovers. In fact, it is the time of year when the area is full of visitors looking to enjoy their slopes.

Other recommended places to visit in winter are Puerto Iguazú (and its famous Iguazú Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world) since the temperature is cooler during these months, your visit will be more comfortable than in summer when it can reach over 100ºF (50ºC).

 

So, which do you prefer? Are you looking for more fun in the sun or does some briskness sound like the perfect relief? We’d love for you to share your thoughts and, of course, add any other destinations to the list in the comments below.

 

 

You’re planning your next exchange and are probably already feeling the buildup of excitement that comes with exploring new areas, seeing exciting attractions, and sampling the local cuisine. Maybe you’ve already started packing, or at least started considering what items and outfits you might pack. If you’re a serious planner, you probably already researched a few notable places to explore and the best ways to get there. In all that planning there might be one thing that you haven’t considered: how not to look like a tourist.

Let’s face it, no matter how much fun you might be having on a trip or vacation; it’s hard to shake off the “tourist” persona that can wrap around you. You might find that you enjoy yourself more if you didn’t look and feel like a tourist, but rather blend in like one of the locals. Don’t worry, achieving the “local” look and ditching the touristy outsider look is easy enough to do.

Follow a few simple tips to “de-tourist-ify“ yourself, and you can avoid being singled out in the crowd by sidewalk salesmen or stared at with annoyance by those who have little love for tourists! Besides, blending in and acting like a local has some advantages.

Dress the Part


When you’re researching what the weather might be like on your trip, consider beyond the type of clothes but also the style. We can tend to want to dress up when we go out on the town while on vacation, but if no one else on the street is carrying designer handbags and wearing fancy clothes, you are sure to stand out. Also be aware of cultural sensitivity when it comes to showing skin and wearing things like shorts or tank-tops. No matter how warm it gets, it is better to be appropriate than unintentionally cause disrespect.

The most important thing is to be comfortable. We aren’t saying to dress like a slob, but instead try not to overdo it. The more comfortable you feel, the more you’ll fit in and have a good time.

Tip: Make a point to avoid wearing those t-shirts that showcase the place you’re visiting. They can be fun souvenirs, but they are better worn once you get home.

Learn the Language


Will you be visiting a foreign country? Take a little time to learn some language basics. You don’t need to become fluent, but mastering basics goes a long way. Locals will appreciate that you’ve shown interest and taken the time to learn some of the native tongue, as opposed to gesturing at things while saying words they clearly don’t understand and expecting them to guess at what you’re asking.

Some of the most essential items you’ll want to learn how to read and speak:

  • Greetings and thank you
  • Basics on how to read menus
  • Reading street signs
  • Questions and answers for a taxi or Uber driver
  • How to ask for directions
  • Ask where the public bathroom or public parking is
  • Ways to ask if they speak your native language

Look Like You Know Where You’re Going


Instead of wandering the streets aimlessly or pausing every few minutes to look at a map or your phone, plan your route ahead of time, no matter how close or far you are going. Looking like you know exactly where you are going (even if you don’t) goes a long way towards masking that tourist scent. If you do happen to get off track, because it does happen, you can now always easily ask for directions if you followed the above tip!

Think Before You Click


You’re on vacation, so we would never suggest that you avoid taking photos to remember your travels. That said, walking around taking snapshots of every little thing is definitely a signal that you are a tourist, and that may even attract unwanted attention by less-than-savory folks. By all means, take pictures and have fun but be aware of your surroundings when doing so.

Tip: Can’t quite get the shot you want? Often picking up a postcard is a quick and easy way to not only capture a memory but also get an image you’d have to be a professional to take.

Eat Where the Locals Eat


A lot of restaurants located in high-traffic areas purposely cater to tourists. If you want to experience local fare the way it was meant to be enjoyed, eat where the locals eat. What better way to discover the delicacies of the region than by exploring neighborhoods. Make a point to ask your Exchange Partner where they would recommend. After all, the food is most likely going to taste better, and it will be a more memorable experience than that restaurant that is more flash than quality.

Exchange Homes and Live Like a Local


Want real freedom and a new experience to create lasting memories when you go on your trip? Ditch booking an overpriced room or apartment and go for a home exchange instead. It’s cost-effective, unique, and lets you truly feel as if you live in the area. Plus, a home exchange gives you more flexibility to relax and enjoy the area without being restricted by “house” rules.

By using HomeExchange, you have more opportunity to travel and stay anywhere, and with the ability to select the ideal home for your vacation. You are guaranteed to have a much better trip. Discover HomeExchange for your next adventure.

Now that you know what to do to look like you’re one of the locals, the next step is to pick any exciting destination, pack your bags, and select a HomeExchange that works for you! Whether you take our advice or not, don’t forget to get out there and have fun. If you happen to look like a tourist, embrace it. Enjoy every moment of your adventure and savor your travel. Happy Exchanging!

Whatever the season, one of the best parts about home exchange is the memories that you return home with. We asked some of our Facebook Groups to share their summer adventures. Here are a few of the photos and highlights.

Waikiki Adventures

“We stayed three nights in a great location near Waikiki and transportation. Everything was new and clean and (our Exchange Partner) was so helpful with our questions and suggestions… We had a great trip!” Bobbi and Bodie, San Luis Obispo, California

Read More

You have registered on HomeExchange and started imagining all those places in the world you’d love to visit. You have gotten hooked, little-by-little and, after several inquiries and a few requests, the time you hoped for has finally arrived: you have officially confirmed your exchange! Now that you have that “yes” from your Exchange Partner; What’s next?

Here are a few tips so that, by the time the date of your exchange arrives, you are more than ready.

1 – Confirm your Exchange through the HomeExchange

Once you have confirmed and completed your exchange, it will register in your profile and appear in the “Exchanges” tab. You can also leave a message in your partner’s Guestbook and have them write in yours as well. It is an excellent way for other members of HomeExchange to see the exchanges you made and read comments to get to know you better. More importantly, when you register your exchange, it means that the HomeExchange team can help out if you happen to need it.

2 – Review and confirm private exchange agreement

While it isn’t a requirement, HomeExchange does recommend using and completing an official Exchange Agreement. We have created a sample agreement for you to use that cover most of the bases. Make a point to dive into all the things that are a top priority for you and that you want to make sure are reflected for both sides of the exchange.

3 – Stay in touch before your exchange

How often you want to connect is up to you. It is by no means necessary that you talk every day, but the confidence between you and your Exchange Partner will only increase as you get to know one another better. Use this time to discuss various specifics of the exchange: how will you collect keys, what’s the best way to get to your homes from the airport, will you meet in person (before or after the exchange), who is a contact person for each destination, the list can go on. You might even share your flight information once they are booked.

Communication makes all the difference in maximizing the HomeExchange experience. Don’t hesitate to go through any questions you might have regarding your Exchange Partner, the house, the destination, the family, or anything else!

4 – Set a time to talk or have a video call

If the timing works, make a point to arranged a video session, whether through Skype, Facetime or any other service! Have children that are coming along? Having them participate is a fantastic way for them to be a part of the experience and even ask a few questions you hadn’t thought to ask. You could also use this time for a guided video tour of your home!

We know that sometimes language can be a barrier, so another option is to exchange phone numbers and stay connected through WhatsApp. That way you can confirm last minute details in the days leading up to the exchange, or even let your partner know if there are any delays while traveling. It can also be fun to share some photos or experience of travels!

5 – Make or review your home guide

Every home has a personality of its own and sometimes (often) it helps to have a guide to detail those instructions, quirks, tricks that you know for years of experience. Have a particular way to cool your home in the summer? Does the water take a while to get hot? Detailing these things can make the difference between enjoyment and frustration. We even recommend sending it to your Exchange Partner in advance, so that they have some time to review it and ask questions. Other things to potentially include: how the appliances work (especially if the buttons are in another language), what is the password for the wifi, how does garbage go out. If you have pets, this is a great place to include any information they need to know, including the name and number for your vet. Need a little help? Read this article to get you started.

6 – Create a list of recommendations

You know your city. Top places to visit, the best restaurants for different occasions, the nearest (or favorite) grocery stores or park and playgrounds for the tiny humans to play. Once you get to know your Exchange Partner a little more, you can give a personalized list of things that you are sure they will love. As we all know, there is nothing better than having a local tour guide!

Other information to include: plumber, hospitals or emergency numbers as well as taxis and additional practical information that someone may want to have on hand quickly in case of an emergency.

7 – Prepare your home

As your exchange date approaches, make a point to double check that your home is “Exchange Ready”. A little cleaning and tidying up can go a long way. Top thing to do: make room in the closets, cupboards, and refrigerator for your Exchange Partner. Even a small amount of space makes a difference. If you want some extra help, we have pulled together this guide to help you stay on top of things.

8 – Put out the “Welcome” mat

No matter the distance they are traveling, having a little something prepared to greet your Exchange Partner is an added treat. You might want to have some food ready for their arrival (a traditional meal from your area, perhaps) or maybe a letter or gift for the children visiting. Whatever you choose, the effort goes a long way to making your Exchange Partner feel at home.

9 – Relax and enjoy!

In the end, make the most of the experience and enjoy every moment! HomeExchange is built on trust. With proper communication and transparency, you and your Exchange Partner will not only feel welcomed but at home during your exchange. After all, isn’t that what this is all about?

When all is said and done, it all comes down to communication. Are there certain questions or topics you make sure to bring up when preparing for an exchange? If so, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Do you hear that sound? It’s the open road, and it is calling your name.

Like apple pie and the Statue of Liberty, few things are quite freeing and “American” as a good road trip. We explored Europe earlier this year, but when it comes to a continent as vast as North America, there are almost too many options! That’s where we come in. As dedicated “road warriors” who have found their way from sea to shiny sea, were are a few of our favorite routes that are just waiting for you to explore.

Get your kicks!

Let’s start with the classic: Route 66. This legendary highway is an impressive 2,448-miles long and spans 8 states and 3 time zones. That’s a lot of road no matter how long you have to travel, so don’t feel as though you have to see every inch of pavement to get a complete experience. Going from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, whatever portion of the highway you find yourself on will be perfect for the memory books. Just know, that since “the Main Street of America” was officially “retired” from the highway system in 1985, it can take a little planning to stay on track.

Optimal Length of Trip: 2-4 weeks
Top hubs along the way: Chicago, St. Louis, Tulsa, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and Los Angeles.

Side-trips and stop points: Santa Monica Pier, Grand Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, the Cadillac Ranch, World’s (Second) Largest Rocking Chair, the 66 Drive-in Theater, St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Murals of Pontiac, Illinois, Grant Park & the Route 66 start/end point!

Coastal Cruising in California

Is there anything as ubiquitous with the Golden State as driving? Sure, there can be traffic here or there (sorry, Los Angeles and San Francisco, but you know it’s true) but with such a vast state, there is plenty to explore. Let’s stick to the coast and discover the Pacific Coast Highway. This roadway is just waiting for you to investigate it. Going from San Diego to the north of San Francisco, the beach-side road offers something for everyone. Want to surf? There are plenty of places to “hang ten.” Hoping to taste some food and wine? Prepare your tastebuds! Bringing the kids along? Who needs technology when there are tidepools and a world-class aquarium to discover.

Optimal Length of Trip: 1-2 weeks
Top hubs along the way: San Francisco, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Juan Capistrano.
Side-Trips and Stop Points: The Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Bixby Canyon Bridge, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, Solvang, Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, and Disneyland.

Bonus tip: Want to experience a little more fun on the road? Add another week to your trip and head north and explore the gorgeous rocky coast of Oregon and the majestic rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Want to experience a little more fun on the road? Add another week to your trip and head north and explore the gorgeous rocky coast of Oregon and the majestic rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

Navigate New England

No matter what time of year, there is something transportive about the rolling hills, sprawling forests and rocky coastline of history-soaked New England. Hit the mountains for skiing, grab a microbrew and lobster roll (or chowder) in exploding culinary scene, or explore a town that oozes with pride. Whichever direction you go, there is sure to be something fantastic for you to discover. That said, if you can schedule your adventure during the autumn months, your travels will become a kaleidoscope of colorful memories that are sure to stay with you for years to come.

Optimal Length of Trip: 2-3 weeks
Top hubs: Boston, Providence, Burlington, and Portland
Side-Trips and Stop Points: Fenway Park, the Freedom Trail, Martha’s Vineyard, Provincetown, Salem, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tour, Mystic Seaport, Mount Washington, and Lake Champlain.

Bonus tip: If you have a little extra time, exploring Upstate New York to see Niagara Falls or venturing up to Montréal are both relatively easy (and driveable) add-ons to your New England adventure.

Deep Southern Charm

From the hospitality to the variety of experiences, traversing the southern states can be an all-encompassing exploit. Time spent on the white sandy beaches of Gulf Coast are coupled with a rowdy romp in “The Big Easy” and tempered with the easy down-home vibes of Savannah. Walk through the essential (though contentious) moments United States history while immersing yourself in the beautiful but complicated settings while the hum of the cicadas offer a soundtrack to your wonderings. Just remember – humidity is real and it can be intense, so plan accordingly.

Optimal Length of Trip: 2-3 weeks
Top hubs: New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah, Atlanta, and Destin
Side-Trips and Stop Points: Athens, Selma, Montgomery, and Asheville

Need a little extra help to prepare for your trip? We created a guide to help you plan your adventure.

With a land a vast and as varied as the United States, we know there are many other routes we could feature. What are some of your favorite destinations? Tell us in the comments below and we might explore them in an upcoming article.