I’ve been enjoying some house swaps within driving distance of my home. And I’m realizing that these are basically free vacations. So I wanted to run through some quick numbers for those who haven’t yet realized what a great deal this is.
Let’s say you live in Los Angeles, and you want to visit San Diego. If you can find a home exchange, you can enjoy the trip for just the cost of gas. I know lots of European folks do short-distance home exchanges regularly. They have a lot more options for short drives to great new destinations (even in other countries). Distances are longer in the U.S., and some folks might not have this opportunity. But I encourage everyone to take a look around your home, search for listings within a reasonable driving distance, and see what’s there. You might be surprised by your options.
Cost of a trip to the San Juan Islands from Seattle
- Driving distance: 80 miles to the ferry + driving around to explore to the island = we used about 20 gallons of gas
- Ferry = $47 round trip with a small car
- Ferry ride to San Juan Island with car (to explore for the day) = $15 round trip
- Ferry ride to islands on foot = free
- Lodging = free
Without adding in the cost of activities on the islands, this week-long trip was about $132.
In a home exchange I eat most of my meals in. That’s easy for breakfast and lunch, even if your swap kitchen isn’t well stocked. For dinner that can be more of a challenge, but I like cooking so I’m usually up for it. Groceries are a bit more expensive on the island, so I brought a bunch of food from home, but probably bought at least half the groceries there. That’s a small additional expense that could have been avoided with more planning ahead.
Additional (optional) expenses
For me the main expense on this sort of trip is exploring fun things. I want to try the samples at the breweries, cider houses, and wineries. Tastings were $10 or $15, and for $15 the pours were large enough for two of us to share. That’s not something I’m doing quite so frequently at home, and it’s not a huge expense.
There were also a few really highly reviewed restaurants I wanted to try. In the end we only went to two of them. Not cheap, but very good food. This is obviously optional. It was possible to eat all our meals in. But also there were some much cheaper restaurants we could have tried (although in Spring a lot of places were closed during the week, and after 5pm).
A lot of the entertainment on these islands was free: hiking in the parks, visiting the lavender farm and the alpaca farm, whale watching from shore (we saw 3 whales in 15 min!), checking out the incredible pottery store with works from all the best local artists. And at the home exchange there was also plenty of entertainment with a fire pit outside, various lawn games, deer and rabbits to watch, and a TV with more channels than I can count. I would have paid to rent a kayak, but it was too early in the season without doing a full group tour.
Overall, this six day trip didn’t cost much more than I would have spent at home on entertainment and food. I’m looking forward to organizing more road trips like this one. And I know many other home exchangers are enjoying local swaps. If you haven’t tried one, it’s a great option.