Traditionally home exchange is done simultaneously, you find someone who wants to travel to your home town the same dates you want to visit their town, and you swap houses. It’s a beautifully simple proposition that carries with it some inherent security since you know exactly where this person lives. Of course the challenge is finding a match on both location and dates for travel.
More recently, some home swap companies have started offering another exchange model based on points. You can offer up your house for use on dates when you will be away, and you earn points when people stay there. You can then spend those points to stay in other people’s homes. I explained this more thoroughly in my interview with the Guest to Guest founder.
I like points because they offer a bit more flexibility than a direct swap. There are a lot of scenarios where points can be a great alternative. On this trip to Spain they were especially useful for brief side trips. For instance, I really wanted to visit Cádiz for a few days, but the chances that I was going to find someone there who wanted to visit San Francisco on exactly the dates I had free wasn’t high (it’s a small town).
Fortunately for me, there is someone with a vacation home in Cádiz who lists it on LoveHomeSwap for either traditional exchange or points. I had earned some points on that site and so was able to use them to book this three bedroom apartment overlooking the beach for the nights we wanted.
It’s been a lovely few days seeing this town and enjoying the food. The seafood here is very tasty, and the food and drink is cheaper than other places we’ve visited in Spain.
I know many experienced home swappers don’t like the points system. And I understand some of the concerns with security. But just like any other home exchange, both parties should thoroughly vet their potential swap partner, asking them for references and discussing anything important. In the case of this points swap to Cádiz, the owners of the apartment met us there and showed us around, so they also got a chance to see that we seem clean and responsible and hopefully trustworthy enough to be left here for a few days.
Bottom line, if you want to travel around a bit while doing home exchanges, or even if you just want to increase your options for flexible travel dates and destinations, consider signing up for one of the sites that offers points exchanges. The three biggest I know of right now are LoveHomeSwap, GuestToGuest, and Trampolinn.