This year I planned a vacation to Japan that involved traveling between cities every few days. There aren’t many home exchanges available in Japan. And moving around that much makes it even harder to find house swaps. So I used hotel points for mostly free lodging on this trip instead. And that means my home was available for hosting other travelers. I could have hosted either via a non-simultaneous swap, where I’d go stay in the guest’s home at some point in the future, or via points.
After this trip was booked I got a request on the Guest to Guest home exchange network from a couple in Vancouver, Canada. They wanted to visit in March, April or May and offered to do either a points-based exchange or a simultaneous swap. I told them I had two weeks available in May if they wanted to book that with points. They immediately accepted this offer: “My goodness we are excited!”
They asked if we would consider including our car in the swap. I think it’s not uncommon to swap cars in a home exchange. This is covered under most auto insurance policies, just like loaning your car to your friend. But we’ve never included our car in a swap. Ultimately we decided we just weren’t comfortable enough to loan out our car to strangers. Our guests were very gracious about their request and not at all put out by our refusal. I think if it was a simultaneous swap where we were also using their car we would have been more likely to agree. That may just be the selfish logic of saving on car rental costs ourselves making us more comfortable with the idea.
The communication with our guests was excellent, starting on the Guest to Guest platform and then moving over to our personal email accounts as we got close to the swap. And the visit overall went very well with only two small problems.
The first problem was my fault. I told our guests the wrong time that we would be returning home. For some reason I thought our flight didn’t land until 7pm, when in reality it landed at 1pm. So we got home to find their stuff still in our house. I quickly realized this was my mistake. They were out, but we didn’t want to have them come back and find us there. We also wanted to make it easy for them to finish cleaning. So we put our suitcases in the bedroom and went out to run some errands, leaving a note apologizing for the mix up. About an hour later I got an email letting me know they had left.
The second problem was no ones fault. My guests emailed to let me know that they had broken the bathroom light switch on the first night fumbling in the dark. They said to just let them know what it cost to repair and they would pay. It turned out that while they had smushed in a part of the switch, that was actually irrelevant to its operation. The bulb had just burned out and I suspect this led to extra fumbling and pressing the wrong parts of the button. I was able to fix it all with a new bulb and a bit of work with a screwdriver. But I really appreciated them telling me about this and offering to pay for repairs.
I would not have charged them even if the switch was broken. This was clearly an accident, and a broken light switch is a minor thing to fix. Something I’d expect to cover as a part of hosting guests in my home. But I think it’s fair if hosts charge for repairs like this. And Guest to Guest actually has a system where they collect a deposit and/or offer insurance to cover such things. We had the guests pay for a deposit for this visit. So if they had really broken some stuff and not offered to pay for repairs, we could have recovered our costs that way. (Read more about home exchange insurance here.)
Overall, this was another great GuestToGuest swap experience. And two weeks of hosting has greatly replenished my bank of swap points. Now it’s time to plan some more travel to spend those points!