Thinking of your next holidays? Times are tough, and it's not so easy nowadays, but how about house swapping? It's not a permanent arrangement, just a chance to live in someone else's house for a few weeks, while they live in yours.
If you’ve never tried house swapping I can thoroughly recommend it. There are a number of clubs you can join, some of them with international membership. We’ve been swapping for about 20 years on and off and have never really had any problems.
You may think that you don’t live in a holiday area so no one would want to swap and obviously you are more likely to attract swappers if you live in a resort town or somewhere like Oxford or Cambridge, but people swap for lots of reasons – we’ve stayed in a millionaire’s home because they preferred our garden and had a swap so that someone could come a visit their mother without putting her to any trouble. We even stayed in a mini Scottish castle because the owners wanted to go pot-holing – we lived near a pot- holing area at the time.
Some people even swap cars, though we haven’t done that yet. All it costs is an annual membership fee- ours costs £32 and others seem to be similar. We been offered in the past a whole Swedish island complete with boat and horses. Another offer was a trip to South Africa, unfortunately we couldn’t afford the air fares at the time. There are other costs of course - transport etc., but after that it’s up to you what you spend. We just say to people, use what you want from our food stores and have never been out of pocket.
Occasionally people just want a house sitter while they fly off to more exotic climes, and it’s great for those with animals – we are feeding someone’s chickens this year and they will feed our cats and tortoises. And it’s wonderful for gardeners as people don’t mind watering your precious seedlings or picking your fruit. Also good for those with small children if you can find a swap with children of a similar age - then the toys etc will be fine for them – it can seem like Christmas in mid-summer if you are three years old. On one holiday my daughter used up all her clean jumpers (she was at the muddy stage) and I just opened a drawer and borrowed a couple.
Even if you are not going to a tourist trap there are always new places to explore. In our case there is an amazing market, we aren’t that far from the coast, Beverley and York, and the neighbours are friendly. In the past we’ve even had friends inviting our guests to Sunday lunch and we’ve been left a voucher for free meals at a local restaurant.
My only quibble is it’s funny what people don’t have in their homes – I suggest you take a can opener - twice we’ve searched in vain and had to go and buy one or borrow.
Breakages – no one has ever broken anything of ours , but we did once break a cup – which was an old unmatched one so we didn’t worry.
Some of you will be thinking about privacy , but most of us have at least one place with a lock – simply put anything in there you don’t want people to meddle with. It isn’t like ‘Come Dine With Me’ – we don’t go poking about among people’s drawers. We just clear a space so that there is somewhere to hang clothes, put away socks etc. We also leave such things as fresh bread and milk so that the visitors haven’t got to search for the shops immediately. We collect together a lot of brochures, maps etc about local attractions and then just leave a minimal list of instructions about how to turn on the stove timer etc, make sure of where the key will be and off we go – no worries.