I started doing home exchanges to save money, and although I have found a lot of other advantages to this system of lodging for travel, in the end for me the finances are the biggest benefit of house swapping. My recent trip to Iceland really underscored this point.
I like to travel to places that are very different from where I live. This means I spend a lot of time in Asia and Latin America (I have neglected Africa and the Middle East, something I hope to change in the near future). These are regions of the world where lodging is quite cheap. For instance, traveling around Southeast Asia with a friend I was able to find private rooms (often with private bathrooms) for about $10/night per person. At that price you don’t really need a home exchange. And if you’re moving around every night or two like we were, and doing it without an advance plan, home exchange doesn’t make sense.
But if you want to travel to Europe, Scandinavia, or, say, Iceland, a cheap hotel is going to cost more than $100/night. That’s a lot of money if you take a 2 week vacation! Even if you are willing to stay in hostels where the bathrooms are shared you’ll pay around $30/night per person. And for that price, if you are traveling alone you’ll have to sleep in bunk beds in dorm rooms.
I actually enjoy staying in hostel dorms. It’s a great way to meet people, and the other folks in these accommodations are generally quite interesting, from different countries around the world, and very excited about travel. But if you want some privacy, or a step up in accommodations, you’ll have to pay a lot of money.
Home exchange provides not only private accommodations, but also a private kitchen for you to stock and cook in (saving more money), laundry facilities (even more savings), and usually a host who provides lots of useful information about your destination.
I talked to a lot of travelers in Iceland, mostly those staying in the hostels I used while traveling around the country. Invariably they were quite interested in the concept of home exchange for future travels. They were intrigued by the idea that they could get free accommodations to help support their travel desires. And while no one complained about the hostels in Iceland, which are overall very nice, they saw the advantage of staying in a private home.
Consider the savings in Iceland: for a hotel you would pay at least $150/night (and that would be the cheaper hotels). For a dorm room in a hostel it was at least $30/night (in peak tourist season this goes up to $45/night). Two weeks in Iceland would cost a budget-conscious person at least $420 in lodging in low season or $700 in the summer, just for a dorm bed. And it costs at least $2100 for people who want to stay in a private room in a hotel. Opting for the hotel room means no cooking facilities, so you’d be increasing your travel costs because eating out in Iceland is very expensive and the best way to reduce that cost is cooking in a kitchen. Hostels all offer kitchens for guests to use, but hotels do not have this service.
No matter how you look at it, a home exchange can save you a lot of money and afford significant additional comfort to travelers visiting countries like Iceland, anywhere in Europe, and a lot of other parts of the world. Of course savings aren’t the only advantage to home exchange, here’s a post I wrote about why home exchange is a great way to travel.