Home Exchange

7 ideas for home exchange gifts, and some non-gift alternatives

home exchange gift

Home exchangers are a friendly and welcoming bunch. Many folks go out of their way to make their guests comfortable. This includes leaving home cooked meals in the fridge, welcome drinks for the adults, and even toys for kids. It’s really nice to walk into a home and find a delicious meal after a long day traveling. Or to find a kind note with a bottle of wine waiting on the table. And many guests also bring gifts for their hosts.

But there’s a down side to all this gifting. After seeing pictures of some bountiful welcome home exchange gift baskets I feel a bit inadequate. And I’ve had guests leave me thank you notes apologizing for not bringing me a gift. I don’t want people to feel bad! Gifts should not be an expectation. If you want to leave a gift, I have some ideas for you below. But don’t feel obligated. I also have some alternative suggestions.

What are some good home exchange gift options for hosts?

Think about what’s special in your home town. Are you known for a kind of flower? Maybe there’s some delicious jam made from berries that grow in your region. An excellent coffee roastery? Unique baked goods? If you need ideas, ask your friends what they bring for family when they travel.

You can also consider making some food as a welcome if you like to cook/bake. Just beware that many people have dietary restrictions, so leaving a cheese platter for someone who is lactose intolerant, or a meat platter for the vegetarian, might not be a welcome gift. It’s best to consult with your guests before leaving them a meal. In fact I have some hesitations about leaving alcohol because many people don’t drink. As long as your gift is small I think it’s ok if it misses the mark. It really is the thought that counts.

Here are some gifts you can consider:

  • A local food (chocolate, jam, whatever your area specializes in)
  • A local drink (wine, beer, soda)
  • Home baked cookies, bread or other treats
  • Basics in the fridge for breakfast
  • A meal to eat upon arrival
  • Local toys for the kids
  • Some small art you’ve created

Keep in mind that if you aren’t gifting consumables your guests will need to pack the gift home. So don’t give something too big to fit in their luggage.

What about home exchange gifts from guests?

If you’re driving to your home swap you can bring anything that fits into your car. You can bring a plant (I was once gifted an orchid), a bottle or wine, or really whatever strikes you as fun and kind (see list above for ideas). But if you’re flying, luggage space is limited, and some restrictions apply. I often bring a bar of locally made chocolate. But I’ve recently branched out into a special kind of smoked salmon only available in my city. Sometimes I just bring a hand painted card (that I purchased) of local scenery to write a thank you note. And in a pinch, when I forget to bring a gift, I’ll go to a local store and buy a bottle or wine or something else that seems appropriate based on what I’ve seen in my host’s kitchen.

Do I need to leave a gift?

No! Seriously, no. One of the most memorable home exchange gifts I received this past year was a really thoughtful and kind thank you note from a couple who stayed in our home. They wrote it out on a blank sheet of paper (which they probably found in our printer). In it our guests commented on some things they loved about our home, told us about their passion for travel and how some of our art inspired them. They invited us to come stay in their home, or have dinner with them if we’re ever in their home town. It was sweet, and heartfelt.

An alternative, if you want to give a home exchange gift but don’t want to worry about waste or dietary restrictions, is to make a donation to a local cause in your guest’s name(s). For instance, if you and your guests are both pet lovers, they would probably appreciate you giving money to your local shelter. Or maybe there’s a fund for homeless youth in your neighborhood. Or an organization that cleans up the beach near your home. Doing this will help introduce your guests to something meaningful about your neighborhood or city. An example in this vein is the Horizon hospitality service that takes donations for a local homeless resource center in lieu of payment for lodging.

What’s my gift plan for 2020?

My goal in 2020 will be to always travel with some locally-made cards so that I can leave thoughtful notes for my hosts. I will also continue to carry small gifts of locally-made food items when I can. And for my guests I’m generally leaving a bottle of wine. I joined a local winery recently (it’s literally just up the street from our home), and I really like the gesture of introducing people to a winery they would otherwise never experience. But I’m also making sure to stock the fridge with some non-alcoholic options and inviting guests to partake in our extensive collection of teas. At the same time I plan to investigate neighborhood organizations that need donations and try to expand my gifting in this direction in the coming year.


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