Since the speed of life these days is going at full throttle, holidays are necessities rather than luxurious. We need to STOP and rest. However, when you are a family a holiday can cost a lot.
You may consider camping or glamping but one doesn’t always have the energy for camping, and it could be mid winter. Our family hardly ever had a budget for holidays yet we have had loads of regular holidays, at no cost! How?
Our secret was to do house swap holidays.
We have had countless house swap holidays in many fantastic locations, and have been doing it for around 12 years. That’s a lot of holidays that cost nothing! We used the asset of our home to trade, and it meant another family was blessed with a rest at the same time. For a weeks accommodation for a family through airbnb you’ll pay at least $1200-1500 in school holidays. Can you imagine then, the savings to both families by doing a swap!
We firmly believe that for a happy family you need to stop and get away every few months. For rest, deeper connection and adventure! Our older kids don’t seem to remember the thousand times we drove them to school or the million meals we made them, but they often laugh or talk about some fun thing we did on a holiday. The memories of our holidays are our mutual family treasures.
If you are longing for a holiday then read on for My favourite things about house swap holidays, and A guide on how to do a house swap. We are actually doing right now (as I write) in a gorgeous town 3 hours drive away from our home. We swapped our home in the hills, with friends who live nearer the ocean. See more photos at the end.
My favourite things about house swap holidays:
- We get to stay in a different region. Swap country for city, or beach. A change is invigorating and inspiring for both families.
- Due to free accommodation we can have some treats like eating out.
- We get to have our cake and eat it too. Had a holiday, and, our finances are not affected at all. (Great as right now we are trying to save up for some air flights.)
- Absolutely brilliant to bless another family at the same time.
- Your home is safer as it is not empty, and plants, mail, goldfish are taken care of!
- Younger kids love the different toys and garden at the hosts home.
- You can swap to be near old friends or family and catch up without sleeping over.
Mini guide: how to do a house swap holiday.
1. Write a list of people you know whose homes and locations you could imagine having a holiday at. Think hard of people near and far. Of course there are also websites for this (I just saw at a glance ‘aussiehouseswap.com’ and ‘lovehomeswap.com’, etc) but it is actually not hard to find a match with your own connections.
2. Prepare your email to send to those people on your list to suggest the idea. Let them know you are sending it out not just to them. In the email describe your home (e.g. 3 bedrooms but have 2 spare mattresses) and list any good points like air con, dishwasher, wood-fire, a view, dog friendly yard, near the beach, whatever. Add a couple of nice photos. Be honest about what you have, e.g. ‘we only have one living room, but there is a nice porch to sit on’. Explain how it could work e.g. ‘we could leave all beds freshly made and clean towels’. State if you will need to bring or leave a pet. State the dates or rough time frame that could work for you. Send off your email and wait! You do not have to say yes to the first person who replies. If you get more than one reply consider carefully who is the best fit.
3. Found a good fit? Awesome! What is next? Now you can have a phone call and chat about it. Finer details can be fixed closer to the time. Go to the next point.
4. Make your house swap-ready. If you slowly prepare your house ahead of time then your departure will be smoother. De-clutter a bit, deep clean here and there, and if something is broken try fix it. Do a bigger clean the day before, or maybe pay one of the kids or a cleaner to do it! Yes it is a bit more work than checking into a hotel, but you are saving a lot of money by doing a swap. Agree ahead of time that each of you will leave each others homes pretty much how you found them.
Make sure you will have enough extra bed sheets to make up beds for them on the morning of departure, and enough towels to leave out for them too. Leave some space in the fridge for them. Make sure the bathroom is nice. Don’t kill yourself however. Nothing kills holiday joy for your family more than a stressed parent! I always tell my house-swap friends that it will be tidy and clean but perfection won’t be possible!
5. Have a hospitable mindset from the start. I personally believe that my home is a gift from God and that it is a good thing to share that resource and gift. I accept that when I get home, some of my my things will have ended up in different places on shelves etc, e.g. some kitchenware, and it is possible some little thing may have broken. I put away anything I dearly love just before the swap but I expect some minor things to happen and then it doesn’t phase me if it does.
6. Type up your ‘House Info’ page for your guests with things like; Wifi password, rubbish bin day, any plants that need a water. Location of spare key, name of nearest hospital / good cafe / good food shops, and tips on good outings, etc.
7. On departure day leave a thankyou card saying what you enjoyed about their home and maybe a small gift. They were awesome to swap with you!
8. When you get home, home actually seems more fun after a break away! You are all recharged and inspired from having put some new sights into your brain, and done some cool stuff with the tribe.
Some general practical tips.
Bedding. We find it best if both families make up all the beds with fresh sheets and lay out the clean towels before the swap. We also also agree that at the end of the holiday, we will both strip the beds and put the used sheets etc in the washing machine or laundry hamper. These little things help!
Young kids and house swaps. Young kids love house swaps as they come to a new place with different toys and a new garden to explore. It is so much more fun than a bare room in accommodation. If our kids would break anything at the house swap, we would try replace it or leave some money. It is important to teach our kids respect of the home we stay in.
Older kids and house swap holidays. Older kids may feel a bit weird about other kids staying in their room. We had to push a bit for these holidays as our kids got older. You have to explain why you are doing it and explain just how much accommodation would cost. Help them put away a few things in their room, and take them for a treat on the holiday.
Pantry food. We always write on our House Info page that our swap buddies can use any food they want and just replace stuff if it gets used up.
Lastly I will say: do holidays! You need it and your kids need them. Your kids will grow up so fast and when they are young adults and are at University or jobs it is very difficult to gather the tribe for a holiday!
Please do share this article with any friends!
The snaps below are taken in the gorgeous area we got to stay in this weekend. The first one is me relaxing in my friend’s beautiful garden. 🌿😊
Happy holidays! Siobhan