The phrase "freedom from want" often conjures up images of Norman Rockwell's famous Thanksgiving dinner painting. However, because I'm always thinking about travel, I interpret the phrase to mean that people can enjoy freedom from want of a family vacation. We all want a vacation, but many people think they can't afford it. You can afford it! And I'm going to tell you how.
- Eating in restaurants
- Car rental
What if I told you there's a way to delete the first three? Could you afford a family vacation then? Home exchange is the answer. If you swap your home with someone, there will be no lodging expenses; you'll eat at home so there will be no $15 pancakes; and if you do a car exchange you'll also save on that expense.
Freedom From Want Of A Vacation Action Steps
1. Select home swap club: There are more than 70 home swap companies around the world; approximately 30 are based in the U.S. There are four agencies that I recommend: Home Link, Home Base Holidays, Home Exchange.com and Love Home Swap. If you want an easy comparison checklist of these four, you can download the information from my blog. The fee for most home exchange clubs is around $100 per year; this is cheap when you consider the fact that many hotel rooms are over $250 per night.
2. List your home: After you join a club, create your home's "listing" page. Each home swap website explains how to create them. Look at other home exchange listings and borrow good ideas from them. Now hear this: High-quality photos of your home are the single most important way to attract a quality home exchange. Follow these seven photo tips.
3. Dream vacation: This is the really fun part. Take a walk or go out to a nice dinner with your travel partner and dream. Where have you always wanted to go but thought you couldn't afford? HomeExchange.com has 6,293 listings in France, HomeLink offers 2,250 in the U.S. and Home Base Holidays has 1,500 in England. With home exchange, dreams are affordable.
4. Start the process six months in advance: To schedule a home swap vacation in June, you should begin the process in January. (Although, I just received an e-mail asking if we'd like to exchange our home with someone in Lyon, France 12 months from now!) Finding the right home swap partner usually takes one to two months.
5. Hello, my name is: Create a word document and write an introductory email. Include the basics, but season it with a few selling points about your home and community. For example:
- Family of 4
- We have a 2 bedroom/2 bath condo in Portland
- We'd like to visit Orlando in June 2013
- Our organic garden will be full of tomatoes, zucchini and carrots
- The condo is walking distance from park with playground and jogging trail
- We hope to car exchange our Honda minivan
6. Cut and paste your way around the world: Whether you want to vacation in Sardinia, Seattle or Sydney, don't sit around and wait for others to find you. Now that you have your groovy email ready, send it out to your favorite home swap prospects. I've been known to send out as many as 20 home exchange requests. Email and engage!
7. Book it: It's out there. I promise. The right home exchange is waiting for you. Someday soon, you'll find the perfect flat or cottage or villa. You'll like the country, the neighborhood and especially the people. You'll agree on travel dates and how to exchange the house keys, and, if you choose, you can sign a home swap agreement form.
8. Visitor prep: You'll want to be sure your house is ready for your home swap partners. I always use it as a motivator to clear out the clutter that inevitably collects around my home. Make room in your closet for them to hang their clothes. And, yes, scrub, dust, vacuum and sweep your house.
9. Enjoy your (almost free) vacation: The day will come when you load up the car or board the plane and travel to your home exchange. I gotta tell ya, arrival at every one of our 14 swaps has been a thrill. I always say to whoever's nearby, "I can't believe we're getting this for free!" But the best part is relaxing in a home, in a new environment and being fully present with my family. Now that's a real vacation.