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Saturday, January 23rd
If you're open to considering accommodations that are completely different from a traditional vacation rental, Home Exchange could give you a novel way to see the country or the world. It's important to state upfront that this service involves trading a stay in your home for time in someone else's - hence the name "Home Exchange". Most people will either love or hate that idea, and if you fall into the latter camp we recommend that you consider the other vacation rental services in our review. On the other hand, if you're excited by the thought of having your lodging cost you virtually nothing and doing some reciprocal home-sharing, read on!
Over 400,000 Members
This platform represents the merger of two well-known home swap services, Home Exchange (started in the early '90s) and GuestToGuest. As a combined exchange company, it has exploded in popularity - going from 65,000 members at the time of our last review to over 400,000 just a few years later!
Enter Your Home's Info
Here's how it works. The first step is to create a listing on the Home Exchange site. It won't cost you anything, and it lets you gauge interest in your home/destination while browsing members' homes for the destinations and dates you're considering. Be sure to put your home's availability in the calendar, so that prospective visitors will know when they could stay.
Finding Available Homes
Next, the fun part: find available homes for where and when you'd like to travel, and start messaging the owners. Once you find a match that works, you'll need to become a paid member to finalize the exchange. A one-year membership costs $150 for unlimited exchanges. Home Exchange offers a guarantee, too: if you don't find an exchange during your first year of membership, they'll give you a second year for free.
Earn Reward Points With Every Stay
Since our last evaluation, Home Exchange has included a feature known as GuestPoints. This system makes it possible to share your home and stay in the destinations you want without it having to be a 1:1 swap. You'll want to read the FAQ to understand the nitty-gritty of how this feature works, but generally speaking it means that you can earn points when you have someone stay in your home, and then you can use those points to stay wherever you like. Your home's GuestPoint value is automatically determined by the Home Exchange site, and it factors in your location, your home's amenities, and so on.
Great If You Already Live In A Tourist Destination
Home Exchange is a great resource - for certain kinds of travelers. If you're single or a couple without children, and you have a reasonably nice home in a popular tourist destination (think NYC, LA, Miami, Vail or Park City during ski season), you will probably be inundated with offers to exchange. On the other hand, if you live in a rural area with few attractions, or you have a studio apartment in a not-so-great part of the city, you could find yourself with lots of places you'd like to stay but no one who wants to book your home. Additionally, many hosts prefer not to open their homes to families with children or pets.
In short, Home Exchange could be the right route for you, if you've got some flexibility and you want accommodations that are essentially at no cost. Lots of people don't even know that something like this exists, and since the service is trustworthy we give it high marks and a positive recommendation. However, because most travelers are looking to book specific dates and times for their vacation rentals, without the added obligation of having people they don't know stay at their house, Home Exchange stays in the middle of our rankings.
If you've ever stayed in one, you already know all of the advantages a vacation rental has over a traditional hotel stay - especially for trips that will last longer than a night or two. Because vacation rental properties are usually fully-furnished apartments, condos, and houses, they give you a home away from home. From kitchens with all of the pots and pans to make a gourmet meal, to washers and dryers that mean you don't have to pack as much clothing, vacation rentals can have it all.
How do vacation rental properties work? Many are owned privately, and the owners take a lot of pride in making sure you have a fantastic stay. You may arrive to find complimentary snacks on the kitchen counter or a binder full of local recommendations for things to do and restaurants to visit, and your hosts could even stop in to introduce themselves.
Other vacation rentals are owned and operated by management companies, so your experience might feel more like a traditional hotel stay. No matter how your property is managed, it's a great way to have a more relaxing, private vacation. Plus, with unique destinations that include castles, chalets and even boats, vacation rentals are only limited by your creativity (and maybe your budget!).
However, not all sites offering vacation rentals are equal. You won't care if the service you used has millions of properties if they leave you hanging once you've checked in, or if you can't get help from a responsive customer service team when a problem arises. Which one should you choose for your vacation?
Here are several things to keep in mind as you consider the options:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best vacation rental websites available today. We hope this information helps you find the perfect spot for your next adventure, whether it's a county or a continent away!
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