Home Exchange

Last minute pre-home exchange disasters

home exchange disaster

People worry about all the things that could go wrong on a home exchange. But most of us don’t think about the stuff that could go wrong before the exchange. I’ve heard some good (actually they are bad) stories of pre-home exchange disasters. The toilet stops flushing the night before guests are due to arrive. The AC goes out in a heat wave two days before a swap. The house floods in a storm just a week before the exchange. Your fridge bites the dust. There’s an endless list of things that could go wrong. Most of these problems would just be annoyances (potentially expensive ones), but in the days before a home exchange these issues become urgent. You’re left scrambling for a solution while also doing last minute packing and preparing for your own trip.

I’ve been fortunate to keep my home disasters timed so they don’t conflict with my home exchanges. But last week I did have a taste of the panic other people experience when these problems arise.

I was hosting a woman and her two teenage kids in my home while away visiting friends. And I had agreed to put the air mattress in our spare room so that one of the kids could sleep there. I got the house all ready the night before, leaving only a few things to do in the morning before departing for the airport. As I was finishing up my preparations I went into the spare room to find the air mattress was half deflated. Apparently it had a leak.

I sprung into action. First emailing my guest to ask if she could bring an air mattress if she hadn’t left home yet (they were driving). Then texting all my neighbors to ask if anyone had an air mattress I could borrow. One person did have one….but without the required pump. Then texting my guest since maybe she wasn’t checking email that morning. Then texting other friends who live nearby. I did find one friend with a working air mattress but I didn’t have time to pick it up before my flight. And then I heard back from my guest: still at home and happy to pack their air mattress, no problem. Phew!

I actually have a couch that works nicely as a bed, so it’s not like the air mattress leak was really a disaster. But I had promised my guests the comfort of bedrooms. So I felt bad having to go back on that and put someone on the couch in the living room. I’m sure that would have been fine, especially since this was for a teenage kid. But I felt like an awful host. And I had a flight to catch!

Everything worked out well in the end, and my guests had a great time. I know pre-swap disasters might happen in the future, but I’m hoping that this one counts for my share for the next 10 years.

What sorts of pre-home exchange disasters have you dealt with?



  • Buenos Aires flat.. wet sunday night…10pm, returned to flat after dinner and found that key broke off in lock, with all our worldly goods inside.
    Rang contact number for problems (always essential to ask for) but they had typed it wrong…
    Neighbours either out or could not speak English, contemplated sleeping on foyer floor until came up with the solution…. can you guess how we solved it?

  • Oh no! We plan our exchanges around animals on our small farm, and this year our ram didn’t do his job in a timely manner and lambs were being born as we left for our house exchange (instead of all lambs arriving before we left!)! Luckily our exchangers were quite understanding. Lessons for next time… plan and then have a back-up plan!

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