I’m updating a series I wrote five years ago about home exchange points. A lot has changed in those five years in the home swap world, but I still like home exchange points. Though I now have a much better understanding of the risks and limitations of this system.
Why use Points for Home Exchange?
Home exchange is a great way to travel without paying for lodging. You are leveraging the mortgage/rent that you’re already paying for your home, and swapping with someone else who has a home in a place you want to visit. It works for houses, apartments, houseboats, or any other sort of lodging. But a big challenge of home exchange is finding a match for your desired location and travel dates. You have to find someone who wants to come to your home those same dates. People with vacation homes have it easier: they can do non-simultaneous swaps and take advantage of the relatively permanent availability of their vacation home. But those of us with just one home have to either be very flexible or get lucky to meet our swap needs.
This is why I like home exchange points. Essentially a house swap website facilitates exchanges that are not simultaneous and also not between the same people. I earn points by letting people stay in my home when I’m away (maybe when I go visit family or friends). And then I can spend those points in other people’s homes.
My first experience with this form of home exchange was with GuestToGuest (this network has since been renamed HomeExchange). A couple from Paris stayed in our home while we were away visiting a friend, and we used Guestpoints to stay in a few places in Spain where I couldn’t find a simultaneous swap or only wanted to be there only a few days. Since then I’ve hosted a lot of guests in exchange for points, and I’ve “spent” most of those points staying with other hosts.
When are Points Useful?
If everyone in your household always travels together, and you like staying in one place, and you are flexible about where and when you vacation, traditional simultaneous home exchange probably does a pretty good job meeting your needs. But for those who want a bit more flexibility, points-based swapping is worth considering.
What if you take a trip but your spouse isn’t coming along? You can’t do a simultaneous exchange. Points are very useful when you are not traveling with everyone in your household. I’ve booked a number of points stays for solo travel, including to Reykjavik, Iceland, various cities in Europe, and Santiago, Chile, among other places. In some of these stays I’ve met my hosts and really enjoyed the social benefits for solo travel.
If your destination and dates are fixed, you may not be able to find a match for a simultaneous exchange. Every year I try to find a home exchanges for our annual holiday trip to visit family. And every year I get lots of rejections from folks who already have other plans. But with points I’ve found places to stay. In each case it was with families who already planned to be away from home. Over a few of these holiday weeks I’ve accepted guests into our home. In this case I earned points by hosting while spending points for a stay. It’s almost a simultaneous exchange, except that this three-way exchange is only possible with the points system.
Home exchange points gives flexibility in both timing and location that you don’t have with traditional swaps. As someone who likes to move around a lot, is sometimes traveling alone, and likes stringing together multiple destinations in one trip, combining points exchanges with traditional home exchange is an excellent solution to my travel lodging needs.
Questions and answers about home exchange points
How should networks calculate the right number of points to circulate in their system? Is there such a thing as too many free points?
Is it a good idea to allow points borrowing?
How should home points values be calculated?
Home Exchange Points – Answering the Critics (update coming soon)