Several yeas ago, while working in a travel agency, I became aware of an outside travel representative who, several times a year, visited Europe with her husband and family.  They were often gone a month, but made no other reservations except airfare.

My curiousity got the best of me, and I finally asked if they had relatives throughout Europe whom they visited.  “No,” Pat said, smiling  as if  hiding a great secret.  I felt that I may have been rude.  “We swap homes…”  At that point Pat explained that they belonged to an organization with whom they had their four bedroom beachfront home in Florida listed.  Pat and her husband indicated to the organization when and where (giving several desired locations) they would like to stay.

The organization “matched them up”.  Their family had stayed in a charming, large apartment in the center of Paris, a seaside villa in Italy, a large condominium in Spain and a home with a view of the Rhine River in Germany.  Aside from the cost of their airline tickets, food and an occasional car rental, it was an affordable vacation with they could not otherwise have had.

Membership in home-exchange websites runs $55-126 a year approximately.  They need a full description and pictures of your home and neighborhood.  Sometimes members contact you, sometimes you contact them.  Car access is possible and vice versa.  If pets are involved, care and information is passed along.  It’s been compared to online dating 10 years ago.  Checkout www.HomeExchange.com, www.HomeForExchange.com or www.Digsville.com.  AARP mentions www.Craigslist.com which has a “Housing Swap” section where you can list free.

Whether it’s a month-long or a weekend stay in this country, try it out.