There has been a lot of debate about points-based home exchanges this past year. After Guest to Guest (the largest points-based swap network) bought and then integrated HomeExchange.com, many HE.com members were unhappy. They felt the points system was leading to lots of insincere requests from people who treated the swap like a hotel stay. And we’ve seen some questionable advertising and policies around points gifting and selling from the major points-based swap networks.
I’ve been planning my 2020 travel. And this involves seeking home exchanges for a number of trips. My experience over the past few months has reinforced the benefits of points-based home exchange for me.
Lots of hosting = lots of points
First, let me say, I’m someone who hosts a lot. I try to say “yes” to requests for home exchanges. And since I often can’t agree to simultaneous swaps, this means I offer my home for points-based stays whenever it’s available. Sometimes we stay with friends or family while traveling. Sometimes we go places where exchanges aren’t available. And so those trips usually involve hosting a guest from somewhere else in our empty home.
Of course before agreeing to an exchange I will review the profiles of potential guests, check out their history doing swaps, and chat with them about expectations like cleaning. But overall I have had lots of requests from experienced swappers who are good communicators and I haven’t hesitated to welcome them into my home. The result? I accumulate lots of points on both Love Home Swap and Home Exchange.
In my recent memory I can only recall one stay request that I turned down when my home was available. She wanted to stay for a month but was willing to just stay the week my home was empty. The number of guests (her family members) were too many people for the beds in my home. This woman was a new member of Love Home Swap (appeared to have joined just days before sending out the requests) and so had no history hosting or doing any swaps. I’m not opposed to hosting new members, but I wasn’t comfortable with this one based on our interactions and her lack of history.
Flexibility = cheap flights
I don’t currently plan travel around home exchanges unless they are within driving distance. This is purely a cost consideration. I want the flexibility to buy a cheap flight or use miles for an award redemption. And this means I often need to fix on the destination and dates before talking about lodging. Once I have the transportation booked I start looking for a home exchange.
I’ve gotten lucky a few times with people willing to plan for a simultaneous swap around the dates I’ve already booked. But more often I find people offering to host for points. And so far this has worked out very nicely. Here are a few of my recent successes:
- I found the cheapest flight to a warm December destination and worked out a plan to visit a few towns for three nights in each place. We managed to find points-based swaps for all three destinations between the Love Home Swap and Home Exchange networks.
- Last year I booked a Cathay Pacific mistake fare. Basically a super cheap price for a nice flight. I’ll be in Hong Kong for a week, and I found a host for my stay on Home Exchange.
- For a trip next year to southern California I found a lovely home for a four night visit on Home Exchange.
For most of these I offered either my home (usually for longer than I wanted to stay) in a simultaneous exchange or points. In all cases the hosts requested points.
How to use points effectively
If you want to book home swaps with points I have a few suggestions:
- Read through the profiles just like you would with a simultaneous swap request. Personalize your requests.
- Offer a simultaneous exchange as well as a points option if you can. If you can only do points, explain why.
- Tell your prospective host about your history doing home exchanges, and assure them that you will treat their home with respect (and do so!).
- Try to request stays that are longer than just a day or two. People have to clean and prepare their homes for you regardless of how long you stay, so short stays are not necessarily worth their time. If you really need a place for just a day or two, explain that and offer to do extra cleaning, laundry or whatever you can to ease the burden on your host.
What not to do:
- Don’t get mad when someone turns down your request. Even if their calendar says the home is available. No one is under any obligation to host you. Instead think about what you might change in your requests to make your offer more appealing.
- Don’t treat this like a hotel or Airbnb service. Whether you are using points or doing a reciprocal exchange, this is a personal swap to someone else’s home. Treat them with respect like you would a friend who invites you to stay.