This is part 1 of a 3 part series which includes:

Part 1 – Why I Like Points

Part 2 – Choosing the Right System for You

Part 3 – Answering the Critics

I’m a big fan of home exchange: it’s a great way to travel without paying for lodging. You are leveraging the mortgage/rent that you’re already paying for your home, and just swapping with someone else who has a home in a place you want to visit. It works for houses, apartments, houseboats, or any other sort of lohousedging. But a big challenge of home exchange is finding a match for the location and dates you want to visit, with someone who wants to come to your home those same dates. People with vacation homes have it easier: they can do non-simultaneous swaps and take advantage of the relatively permanent availability of their vacation home. But those of us with just one house have to either be very flexible or get lucky to meet our swap needs.

This is why I’m so interested in the idea of home exchange using points. Essentially a house swap website facilitates exchanges that are not simultaneous and also not between the same people. I earn points by letting people stay in my home when I’m away (maybe when I go visit family or friends). And then I can spend those points in other people’s homes. 

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.51.27 PMMy first experience with this form of home exchange was with GuestToGuest. A couple from Paris stayed in our home while we were away visiting a friend, and we used Guestpoints to stay in a few places in Spain where I couldn’t find a simultaneous swap or only wanted to be there only a few days. I have also recently booked a few points-based exchanges through LoveHomeSwap using their swap points system.

Why do a Points Swap?

If you always travel together as a family and want to stay in one place for several weeks at a time, and you are flexible about where and when you vacation, traditional simultaneous home exchange probably does a pretty good job meeting your needs. But for those who want a bit more flexibility, points-based swapping is worth considering.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 1.03.37 PMOver the Christmas holiday we will be taking a trip to southern California to visit family. I’ve tried to find a home exchange for this annual trip with no luck. So I turned to guest points and found someone on LoveHomeSwap who will be away from  home for the holidays and is willing to let us use her house. This is saving me 6 nights that would otherwise be in a hotel (the family house is too small to fit everyone who will be visiting). Conveniently, I was contacted by a couple from San Diego who wants to come up to San Francisco in late December, so I’m going to earn points by having them stay in my home while we’re away. It’s almost a simultaneous exchange, except that we’re not going to San Diego so this is only possible with the points system.

Another scenario for which points are very useful is when you are not traveling with everyone in your household. I’ve recently booked a points stay in Reykjavik, Iceland for a trip that I’m taking alone. This allows my wife to stay home while I still save money on lodging.

The points system is giving me a flexibility in both timing and location that I don’t have with traditional swaps. As someone who likes to move around a lot, is sometimes traveling alone, and likes stringing together multiple destinations in one trip, combining points exchanges with traditional home exchange is proving to be an excellent solution to my travel lodging needs.

Check out part 2 of home exchange with points, covering: which sites offer points-based swaps, the systems they use, and how to pick the right one for you.