Meet six HomeExchangers who have been members for more than a decade, completing dozens of exchanges and with enough travel experiences to fill a book! They share why they have been loyal home swappers for so long, their best memories, and advice to HomeExchange newbies.
Marilyn, 40+ years of home exchanging
With nearly 50 years of experience home exchanging, Marilyn knows what she's talking about when she says HomeExchange has enriched her life. "It has enabled me to live a life others can only dream of," she said. "I feel I am living the life of a millionaire, only a bit better. Home exchanging has opened doors for me not available to the general tourist, and the friendships and experiences have far exceeded my expectations."
Home exchanging makes the difference between a tourist and a "traveler enriching his life," Marilyn explained. In her decades of home swapping, she has plenty of amazing stories to tell.
"I remember the time a builder put us up in one of his model homes," she said. "I remember when we took our grandson with us to New Orleans and he so enjoyed the toys the homeowner's son left in his room and the airplane bed. I remember a weekend retreat 100 feet over Tampa Bay. You could take a bath next to a one-way mirror and see water skiers go by. I remember a home in New England that had once been a lighthouse. Where else could I have had such experiences?"
Sharon, 40+ years of home exchanging
She shares one of her fondest HomeExchange memories: "A few years ago I got to exchange my home for a 60+ foot sailboat parked outside of Athens. My friend has his captain's license, so six of us flew to Athens, and we were able to take the yacht to numerous small Greek islands. What a fabulous time!"
The best part about home exchanging is getting messages from other members proposing exchanges, Sharon said. "They get you to immediately dream about a place, then you get excited and research the area," she shared. "It's such a high!"
HomeExchange is the only way to travel, as far as Sharon's concerned. "I've saved literally thousands and thousands of dollars over the years," she said.
Debbie, 20+ years of home exchanging
Debbie has enjoyed more than 40 home exchanges, but the one that stands out is her trip to Ireland in 2011. "Fabulous homes, wonderful hosts," she said. "They gave us two of their five homes, their Lexus, threw a dinner party for us at a restaurant, and took us to a private country club, and then told the staff that we had full privileges!"
Another memorable exchange was Debbie's two months of consecutive home swaps in New York City. "I was finally able to enjoy NYC on the weekends with friends, colleagues, and my hubby who joined me part of the time," she said. "I was able to live and explore Tribeca, the Upper West Side, Upper East Side and Midtown in ways only locals can."
Meeting new people, saving money, and flexibility in planning vacations are just a few of the reasons Debbie has loved home exchanging for decades. "A home is infinitely more pleasurable than a hotel," she said. "Besides more space and accouterments, it's great living like a local."
Kristen, 20+ years of home exchanging
HomeExchange ambassador Kristen has been exchanging for 20 years, and said spending quality time with her family has been a highlight. Spending their vacations in a house, rather than a hotel or Airbnb, means "meeting the neighbors, going to local grocery stores, insider tips and ideas for the local area," she said. Having the "little extras" of a real home is the icing on the cake of an affordable, family-friendly vacation.
Kristen has stayed in HomeExchanges in Spain, Costa Rica, Sweden, Scotland, France, Belgium, around the US, and many more. Her advice to someone considering joining? "Take a leap of faith," she said. "You will be pleasantly surprised by how wonderful it is."
Mark, 17 years of home exchanging
Mark joined HomeExchange in 2004 and has 44 exchanges under his belt. He has since stayed in a houseboat in Seattle, a farm in western Massachusetts, a luxury condo in the Gold Coast of Chicago, and a waterfront home at Lake Tahoe, to name a few.
"The best thing is staying in peoples' real houses and learning about them, sometimes taking care of their pets," Mark said. "It is so much different from Airbnb because it is personal and about trust."
HomeExchange has made travel affordable for Mark, but it's about more than that— he's able to live like a local in his destinations. "Staying in peoples' homes really gives you a feeling of where you're are traveling to," he said. "It's not just a low cost way to travel, but an exciting and fulfilling journey."
Claudio, 16 years of home exchanging
Claudio joined HomeExchange 16 years ago, and has seen the world: from Paris to San Francisco to Marrakesh to Bali. "The fondest memories are a mixture of persons and places," he said. "Some special people we met became our lifetime friends from abroad."
HomeExchange is a unique way to travel "because you are living as a local with the pace of day-to-day life, not in hotels," Claudio explained. For him, the benefit of home swapping is enjoying a slower, more relaxed style of travel.