Every so often I get a reader question that says something like this: “My family wants to visit central London in July, we live in Athens. Which home exchange network should we join?” It’s a good question. You might be inspired to get started with home exchange specifically for an upcoming trip. And it’s not easy to figure out which network gives the best odds of success for that trip.
I actually did receive a question just like this (but with more detail about the family) a few weeks ago. While not impossible to plan a summer swap in mid-April, it’s a bit late in the game. Especially for a new swapper who might need to build up some trust with potential exchange partners. And central London is a very popular place to visit, so folks with a flat large enough to accommodate this family likely have their pick of swap offers.
I don’t want to discourage people from getting involved in home exchange. But I also don’t want people to jump in with just one specific goal, and when they can’t find that perfect swap, decide home exchange isn’t for them. So my answer to this question is two fold.
First, run some test searches on networks you might want to join. Many exchange networks allow people to search the listing to see how many members live in your desired destinations. Some even let you do reverse searches to see how many people want to visit your city. This is good research to do before joining a network, if it’s possible. If this isn’t possible (ideally because the network is protecting our data), check out my spreadsheet of networks and my reviews for data on their geographic distribution of member.
My second suggestion is to think more broadly about future travel interests. After this central London visit, what other places will you want to go? Maybe you only want to visit Europe, in which case a home exchange network focused in that region is a good choice. Maybe you want the flexibility to do points-based exchanges. Or maybe you feel strongly that home exchanges should only be simultaneous, direct swaps.
Home exchange isn’t something you get involved in just for one trip. It’s something most people do to enjoy a better way of traveling. So it’s good to think a bit more long term as you’re likely to get hooked after the first swap. Or maybe you’re just dipping your toe in and don’t want to pay for membership yet. In this case there are a few free home swap networks that might be a good pick.
I know this isn’t the answer first time swappers are looking for. But I don’t think there’s an easy answer to the best network for a very specific travel plan.