We’ve spent nearly a month in Spain with our kids (21 days of #MurphysDo148Days are over…but who’s counting?) and we’ve toured through 5 cities in the Andalusia region in the South of Spain. Think sunny cloudless days (for the most part) of roaming through Spanish cities and towns with a strict budget that the hubs has put in place. He’s promised to share our one month report once we hit the 30 day mark.
For most travellers accommodation costs are the major factor when planning a vacation and while I LOVE my swanky hotels and rental apartments, I knew that was the one place I would have to reduce costs on as we planned for our 5 month adventure. I explored many options and discovered quite possibly the best home exchange program for families. HomeExchange is a home exchange platform that makes it flexible to travel on your own schedule and that’s who we have been using for this first month of our travels through Spain with kids. I first found them through a Google search and loved it so much that we started sharing our finds online and have now becomes Ambassadors for HomeExchange, which used to be called GuestToGuest, after our first month in Spain.
Disclosure: This post is in partnership with GuestToGuest/HomeExchange but, as always, opinions are TOTALLY ours!
How Does Home Exchange Work?
Usually most home exchange programs require that you exchange with another party – during the same dates and within the same homes. That has always put me off home exchange programs to be honest. How often will you be able to find a place you want to go to and find someone on the same holiday schedule? Psssh.. too much work! With HomeExchange, what attracted me was that we could accumulate points and then use them whenever we wanted without always doing a reciprocal exchange. Brilliant! Just for setting up an account I received 750 points (in 2019 you receive 1,150 points upon sign up)! That was enough points to stay for a week (I found houses between 80-200 points on average per night). This is a great way to test out the program. Yes you need to list your home to set up an account, but you can easily block your calendar until you take it for a test run by enjoying nearly FREE ACCOMMODATIONS for your next trip. Lovely marketing tactic!
My Home Exchange Fears
I am someone who cannot shop at a second-hand store (I know my friends have told me about the gems they’ve found…and they dress WAY better than I do!) and so living in someone else’s home made me a bit queasy. Then I realized two things. First, we found secondary homes that helped us out when we were looking for last minute exchanges. These homes are set up more like a rental apartments that you would see on a websites like Airbnb, FlipKey & VRBO etc…so internet connections may not be the best, but the homes are usually available and the members we spoke with are thrilled to earn the extra points. Second, when we did stay in someone’s primary residence, it was great because our kids would have toys to play with, the kitchen would be nicely stocked with basic spices or better yet, there would be an awesome internet connection! Of course you do have to be okay with others staying at your home too – not always the same people you exchanged with, but strangers that you have to trust. We’ve all heard horror stories of Airbnb guests wrecking a home and things like that, but, I like to think that humanity can be good. With HomeExchange, it’s all points based so this isn’t really a money making scheme so people have their own homes on the site and are respectful of the places they stay at. HomeExchange also has a great insurance policy in place and in 2019 they have introduced a mandatory 10 Euro fee per night which provides quite a few benefits in addition to the insurance (covers up to $1.2 million in any property damages that may occur but keep in mind that when you sign up you are giving a debit permission for €500. This will not be charged to your account. It will only be levied in the event of an incident during the exchange). You can avoid the 10 Euro fee by signing up for the Optimal plan which costs 130 Euros. Anyone planning on spending more than 13 nights in a HomeExchange would be wise to sign up for that. In addition, by being part of the HomeExchange community with the Optimal membership, they reward you with 500 GuestPoints at the time of subscription and you will have a one-year warranty in case you have no exchanges in your first year. Discover more by clicking here.
My HomeExchange Experience
So far we’ve stayed at various homes in Malaga (ideal location within the city), Ronda (kids loved the toys there), Granada (first place with a comfy living room), Seville (amazing courtyard and within the city) and finally in Mijas (by the beach and had a pool) and I’ve learned a few lessons. Living in someone’s home has given us a true Spanish experience. We got to see how they live (most Spanish families like to share one pillow!!) and have had the chance to even meet some of our hosts. Meeting our hosts in Malaga and in Seville was an awesome experience. It gave us the chance to really experience their culture and learn about the best spots in their city. I have spent a significant amount of time messaging hosts on the app and on the website. I prefer to use the website over the app because as it is right now, everyone is speaking a different language and the website has a nifty translator tool, making my life very easy! Right now I am planning for Morocco and I can tell you that you should book as far in advance as you can. Our 148 day adventure is all about going with the flow and I’ve been making our bookings along the way…even then I’ve been successful! Some cities are harder to find homes at while others have dozens to choose from…it’s been fun but also a fair bit of work. That said, we actually paid for a site called Trusted HomeSitters which is a pet sitting site and I spent about 10 hours a week for two months and didn’t find anyone willing to trust their pets with the kids around. It was a real challenge. With HomeExchange, a free site, we have found so many people willing to have kids around.
We’re totally loving our experience so far and our main struggle is really with the internet more than anything else. We consume an insane amount of data and trying to share everything that’s happening is hard to do. Mobile and home internet plans aren’t what they are in Canada. To think we USED to complain about our packages there… hah!
If you’re planning for a spring or summer vacation – why not check out HomeExchange?