The pandemic has really limited my travel this year. Over the summer I enjoyed some backpacking trips in the mountains near home. But none of my usual travel, international or domestic. I haven’t done a single home swap since January. So I was quite happy to finally do a short home exchange getaway to the coast in late October.
My approach to finding home swaps changed dramatically with the pandemic. I’m only looking for places within driving distance. And I won’t even consider hosting folks who seem to be doing a lot of travel. I want exchanges with other folks who are also being cautious about Covid. I got a request from someone who wrote: “Covid is really not a big problem where we live and beaches are lovely in October.” My brother happens to live right near them so I’m very familiar with just how big of a problem Covid is there. And I was really dismayed by people trying to sell their home town as Covid-free when that’s definitely not the case. Folks like that get a polite “no thanks.”
After a number of unsuccessful inquiries, I got lucky and found a place in Seabrook, a small development on the Washington coast. I found the listing through the HomeExchange network. It’s a vacation home, often rented out when not being used by the owner. I was flexible on the dates of stay and the home owner found some days available for us.
A Use Case for Points
This is a case where home exchange points worked nicely for me. I was only looking for a three night stay. And since this property is not a primary home it was easy to find some dates when the host could accommodate us. I did approach a few other people (within a few hour drive of my home) about doing a simultaneous swap. Many are being even more cautious than us, not traveling at all. And others were unable to take a short trip due to schedule constraints. I very much respect the decision to safely wait out the pandemic at home. But generally I think this is less of a concern with vacation homes.
And while the home was lovely, it definitely felt like a rental. There are some positive sides to that: the enormous gaming entertainment center, the excessive number of fluffy towels, the call-us-any-time property managers, the pristine condition of the refrigerator, to name a few. But one thing I really love about home swaps is that it’s actually a home. That means it feels like a home. But also, you can find staples in the pantry. I like to cook. And it’s just not practical for me to bring or buy all the ingredients I need. I wanted to make a salad dressing one evening, but there was no vinegar or oil to use. That would never happen in a swap of primary homes.
Overall I’m super grateful that I can use points for short stays like this one. And I’m fine with the trade offs that come with second homes that are mostly vacation rentals. These listings give me more options and more flexibility.
Local Travel during Covid
As infection rates are rising I think it’s important to mention precautions we took on this trip. Mainly this involved planning the trip so that we wouldn’t be interacting with other people. Staying in a self-contained home was a good start. We wanted a kitchen so that we could bring groceries and prepare our own food. And a place where our entertainment would be self-contained within the house and in the surrounding nature. Beach walks, in a less-popular season, meant few other people. In fact the neighborhood was so empty the first night we found it a bit spooky.
I think driving-distance home exchanges are a great option for pandemic travel. It’s a good idea to confirm with your swap partners that you have the same standards of pandemic cleanliness. And a few hours of airing out any indoor space is a good precaution. And many hotels don’t have windows that open for ventilation. I feel safer staying in a house than in a hotel where you usually have to pass through common areas and use elevators. And you generally get a lot more space in a house, an important feature if your plan includes indoor relaxation.