Affordable Family Vacations

by Nicola McCormack


This isn't the best option if you live overlooking a railway track or under a busy flight path. But if your home is in a desirable location, chances are you can swap it with another family's property for a vacation without accommodation costs. It works by registering with an agency—check out HomeExchange.com, HomeLink International, and Intervac—that charges a registration fee, usually in the region of $100, then gives you access to a list of quality properties to barter for here or abroad. After seeing the concept in the movie The Holiday two years ago, Doug Leibinger and his family signed up with HomeExchange.com. They swapped their four-bedroom, three-bath property near Aspen (pictured) with a similar-size home on Bainbridge Island, just offshore from Seattle. Six e-mails and one call sealed the deal. It's a good idea to swap with families of a comparable size—that way there are likely to be suitable bedrooms, toys, transport, and child-friendly pets that won't bite off inquisitive little fingers. Hooked, the Leibingers are now planning a two-week exchange over the summer with a house in Florida that includes a boat and access to a private beach club. Not all property-swap agencies provide insurance, so check that your own home policy covers an invited guest. Members are also encouraged to ask for references from prior exchanges and to prepare a written agreement (including finer points like whether you should refill your host's fridge or gas tank at the end of the swap). Leibeinger also thinks you have to go into an exchange with the right attitude. "Friends have asked, wasn't it weird to have total strangers sleeping in your bed? We never once thought about what might go wrong, but just committed to the concept. We would have missed out on an extraordinary experience otherwise."

NEXT: Go to Bumpass Hell (really)

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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