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2012/03/30MoniqueHave you tried home exchange yet? If not, now’s the time! It’s a very easy concept—you trade homes with another family, optimally while you’re both on vacation. Rather than being in another cookie-cutter hotel room, you’re actually spending time in someone’s personal home. Best part: it’s FREE.

To get started, simply register your home on the website HomeExchange.com and indicate where you’re interested in going. You’re then matched with people wanting to visit the area where your home is located.

Sounds too good to be true? Jeremy, Travel With Kids blogger, initially felt the same. He wasn’t sure he was comfortable with strangers staying in his house, but after talking with families who’ve exchanged homes, he was won over. “One family who exchanged for a home in Paris talked about how they Skyped with the French family for months before the exchange. Their kids even ‘introduced’ the exchange-family kids to their neighborhood friends during an on-line tour,” he writes in a recent Travel With Kids article. “Another couple told me about the apartment they exchanged for in New York City. They said how nice it was to be immersed in a local neighborhood and hang out where the locals do. They met the couple they were exchanging with through emails and phone calls prior to the exchange. This helped ease my comfort level. You’re not exchanging with strangers—you’re trading homes with new friends. Any many become lifelong friends.”

The benefits of home exchange, according to Jeremy:

1. Staying in a local neighborhood. For many, traveling is about immersing yourself in another culture (even within the same country). Staying in a local neighborhood, with insider info on the best places, is key.

2. Budget. This is especially important for traveling families. There are no fees or costs in exchanging homes, so you can really save on lodging. There is a small monthly fee for the website service, but the money saved on hotels (especially for larger families who book more than one room) offsets that in one or two nights.

3. Kitchen. When traveling, especially for long periods of time, you can quickly tire of eating out. Plus, when feeding a family, the restaurant bills add up. With a home exchange kitchen, you can cook your own meals.

4. Space.  Every exchange home is different but many have spacious living areas, big kitchens, outdoor patios, generous backyards, maybe even a pool. You can spread out and truly unwind, plus the kids have space to run around (unlike a hotel room).

The only downside: Home exchange can be addicting. Once you see all the exciting places you can go, the possibilities seem endless!

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