Insider Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Home Exchange
By Hannah and Chris of Love, Play, Work
We are well underway with the first month of our Around the World Home Exchange challenge and already we’ve spotted a few things which make a big difference in helping you get the very most out of your stay.
Arrange to swap cars
Home Exchange works best when you swap cars too! It saves a ton of money and is just easier. For instance, if you are going somewhere snowy, you want to know that the vehicle you are driving can cope with the terrain. If possible, try to exchange vehicles at your point of arrival. In the past we have driven into London and left our car in an airport carpark. We crossed air space with our Home Exchange partners, and when we arrived in Toronto their car was waiting for us right where they left it. Car key exchange is easy, just arrange it with the parking lot help desk or airport concierge. For our current Exchange, it was a little different as we had been in Portland a few days before we were due to head out to our Home Exchange, plus the owners of the home had left the US several weeks before. So we ended up with a car-exchanging plan involving a lovely and accommodating French woman and an airport hotel parking lot. Simple! (Now we just had to figure out driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road!)
Have a friend drop by
We’ve done a few Exchanges over the last few years, and you know what often happens after a few days? A friend, neighbour, brother, or in-law drops by unexpectedly to say ‘hi’. And that’s ok, because we understand that for that little bit of extra peace of mind it helps to know what the people living in your home are up to! I think that a big part of the intention behind any impromptu visit is also to offer help and advice. You’d be surprised how welcome it is to get some inside guidance on how to deal with that drawer that just keeps sticking or where to store the recycle bin.
Get to know your neighbours
When you move into your temporary new home, if you are lucky, your neighbours will become your new best friends. Who better to advise you on where to go and what to buy, what to avoid and what is a must-see? Since we have been in Sun River our neighbours have lent us kayaks and giant inflatable rings for floating down the river; they’ve invited us out on a pub tour and cooked us dinner; lent us guidebooks and given us homemade jam; have taken us out on their speedboat to a secluded lakeside beach and taught us to wake board on a mountain lake. And as fantastic as this is, it’s not that unusual. People like showing off where they live, and they want you to have a good time. It’s an awesome benefit.
Pick up local papers
There are some activities you just won’t find on the internet, so finding the local visitor information office or picking up local papers is a great way to find out what’s going on, local style. You’ll learn about little-known festivals and street fairs, farmers markets and activity days, and concerts and shows that would otherwise pass you by. So far this trip we’ve been to a music festival, a food market, and a rodeo, all by checking out the local ‘what’s on’ guide.
Be prepared to lend and borrow
However well you pack you probably won’t be covered for every eventuality, especially if you have your family in tow. But most Home Exchangers have no problem with sharing ‘stuff’. If you don’t have a raincoat in a downpour, there is probably one in the wardrobe; if you didn’t bring hiking boots, you may be lucky to find your size in the mud room. We’ve borrowed umbrellas, bikes, camping equipment, and a canoe to name but a few. Try as you might, you just can’t travel with all of your belongings, so make the most of what is there. Treat borrowed items with respect and put them back clean and just where you found them. The things your Exchange partners share with you will help you get the most out of your experience as a local.
Do you have any tips of your own? Share them in the comments!
About the author
We are Psychologist Hannah and IT expert Chris and we’ve spent 5 years traveling the world whilst running our own business. Home exchanging has been a big part of making that happen! You can learn the 7 refreshing ‘get there quick’ shortcuts to creating your own location independent lifestyle from our loveplaywork.com homepage. You can also follow us on Twitter for updates.