Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Travelling abroad with Home Exchange

Disclaimer: I was previously gifted points  by the company I am discussing.
I was meaning to write about our trip to France a while ago, but I thought I would wait till this time of year, when most of us start looking into Summer holidays to discuss how we booked last years villa with Home Exchange (previously Guest To Guest). We used their website to book a cottage in Wales (read about it here) last year and then a villa in France during the Summer Holidays and it was pretty straight forward. It does take some effort though, so let me tell you how the process worked for us.

First of all, we had  an open mind about dates, as both me and Scott are self employed, so it helped massively to find properties. I searched for villas with a swimming pool in France and then once I found something I liked, I would check the availability and decide if it was a good fit. This way we had way more options to choose from and I managed to pick a good amount of hosts to contact. 

To be honest, I think I contacted around 20-30 members in various parts of France, as we were driving from the UK, so proximity to airports and transport didn't matter. Another big plus which gave us more options. Once I started receiving replies, I noticed that many people marked their homes as available, but they weren't actually willing to host anyone. Thankfully I got a few positive replies from hosts who were keen to pre-approve the exchange and before I knew it, it was all sorted, finalised and we could book our ferry! As I said, it took me a few weeks of messages, so it's good to plan well in advance. There is so many beautiful properties to choose from allover Europe (and the world actually), but we had our heart set on France.

We were paying with Guest Points, but not doing an exchange, which is what most families do when they start using Home Exchange. Completing your profile gives you over 1000 points, so you don't have to do a swap right away. And if you don't have enough points, you can purchase more to finalise a stay, which works out great if it's only an extra day or two you need. We also purchased the insurance offered by Home Exchange, as our host required it to be able to finalise the exchange and paid a small deposit (it's 3,5% of the amount of the actual deposit).

Another thing worth mentioning is the filters on the website. Make sure you tick all the right boxes to make your search as easy as possible. We were sure we wanted a swimming pool and needed a house suitable for kids. Many hosts are not willing to rent their house to families, especially with small children, so be prepared for that. One more thing we had to keep in mind is the fact that we couldn't look after dogs or cats as my husband and son are allergic. You can pick that filter on the website, but I forgot about it so when it came to looking for villas, I ended up booking one with outdoor pets (rabbits and chickens), which we were able to look after, as we discussed it with the host prior to our holiday. They actually offered help from a friend daily, but I grew up around all sorts of animals and was comfortable with looking after hens and rabbits and loved it! So it all worked out great at the end, just be open minded. We were also responsible for watering plants of course.

Our first trip with Home Exchange was in the UK, so the communication was in English, but with travelling abroad, you might be a bit nervous. Our hosts were French, so we used the translating tool on the website and it was perfectly fine. It's automatic and you simply type in your message in English and your host will receive it in French. Some silly things probably got lost in translation, but we communicated easily and there was no problems whatsoever. 

My last tip would be to make sure you read everything about the place you're booking. Some of the villas I was looking at were actually not fully available and were just a room or an outhouse, despite the pictures showing a full property, so you I wouldn't have the privacy. I was only comfortable with a place which we can have fully to ourselves, so we can enjoy our time as a family, so I made sure to be extra careful during my search.

I am not gonna lie, I was a bit nervous about out first Home Exchange trip abroad, but it was everything I expected and more. We had the most amazing week and I was crying when we had to leave. The kids loved the pool, the greenery, the animals, the house and the beautiful weather and have never been this relaxed in my life. 

Are you curious about Home Exchange? 

You can sign up HERE (and earn your first 100points) and when you complete your profile, you will be able to book you first holiday with the free Guest Points, just like we did. It was the best decision ever!

Sandra xxx

*I was previously gifted Guest Points by Guest To Guest

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