When I was a young girl, my mom made family trips a priority. Many years later… and with three young children of my own, she and her husband were able to come with us to France for the price of airfare only.
See… we did a home exchange in France for one glorious month. The beautiful thing about a home exchanges is that unlike getting separate hotel rooms, you can swap your home for a villa with multiple bedrooms so your family and your parents can all stay together for …. FREE. Yes, no money is exchanged. It is a wonderful way to travel with extended family.
There are many pluses to this….First off, some on fixed incomes have an affordable and comfortable place to stay. Ours in the French Riviera had a guest house – perfect set up for grandparents coming along.
And…not only are the accommodations free, but you have the option of eating meals at home, saving money there too. And you don’t have to sacrifice culture – if you’ve ever shopped in the Parisian markets or grocery stores for a home cooked meal, you know the experience of which I am talking.
Secondly – bringing along Grandma and Grandpa can work out fabulously for some adult time! You have willing and happy built in babysitters for a night out with your partner.
Or, they can be company in fun activities! Since my mom and her husband like wine tasting, they were my company in the world class Chateauneuf du Pape region!
Then there are the benefits for the kids…. they get to share a rare experience with their grandparents… and if you travel to a region of your heritage, grandparents can also provide illuminating facts about your family history.
Home swapping isn’t for everyone, I admit. The most common question I got was – “What did you do with all the stuff in your house” “Did it bother you to have other people stay in your house?” You have to be comfortable with people you don’t know living in your home. I talked to our exchange family on the phone before hand, and one member even was in LA for business and we had him over for dinner, so I felt comfortable. I looked at it as company was staying at our house.
Truth be told, I talked to so many different potential Europeans about staying in our house, and discovered that most of them just want to use your home as a base to travel around, and quite possibly wouldn’t be there most of the time anyway.
There are many different companies that offer home exchange opportunities – usually you have to pay a nominal yearly membership to have access to the listings. A couple that I have tried,or know someone who has tried are: www.homeexchange.com and www.intervac-homeexchnage.com
Two bits of advice: Plan ahead – many of the better houses started making plans 10-12 months before the trip. Also – get traveler’s insurance. I did have one house cancel on me… luckily, I had enough time to find a replacement, but had it been closer to the travel time, it would have been much more difficult.
It is more work than simply booking a hotel – but worth it. I know my mom would say so
Happy Mother’s Day Mom!