Home Swapping and Eating Like a Local

Go Gingham: Eating and living like a local on vacation
Welcome to our home: homemade granola and wine for our house swap partners.

My favorite way to travel is to home swap. Trading homes has allowed our family of 4 to travel to different countries and live like locals without the expense of hotels or eating at restaurants. Not only do we stay for free but we also eat like locals because we’re cooking at home. What better way to experience life like another than to eat local foods and cook in their kitchen? Enjoying regional foods and cooking with what’s available at the market helps us to enjoy and appreciate our trip and home exchange even more.

Public and street markets are great places for fun and relatively inexpensive meals. Market shopping turns the need to eat into entertainment and an event. The market square is the center of life and even in large cities neighborhoods are centered around their markets.

When planning our trips, the first thing we research are local markets. Every European country we’ve visited has a local market that is usually situated on the main square. Finding the spot that’s unique to the area is easy because all you have to do is ask the first person you meet. Everyone has a favorite market or spot to shop and are happy to tell visitors about it.

Go Gingahm: Food and people of spain
Food, sites, and new friends in Spain. Everyone speaks the language of good food!

Home Swapping and Eating Like a Local

What questions do we ask locals and how have these turned into adventures?

Who bakes the freshest bread on Long Island, Bahamas? Miss Ophelia does but plan to spend several hours listening to her stories about raising a dozen children without running water or a bathroom (she still has neither). She was lost at sea on a row boat and lived to tell about it. She keeps dozens of cats and goats at her home and they all wanted a peek at the bread that was still warm in the tin foil as we left after our visit.

Frugal Travel Eating
Miss Ophelia’s goats wanted to eat our fresh bread.

What day is the cheese market in Gouda, The Netherlands? Thursday, of course, and the town square market is bustling with activities around the prized cheese that this region is rightly famous for. Don’t forget to sample the local kibberling (fried fish) and get it with sauce when asked “SOS?” Yes, it goes on everything.

Why did we end up with 2-scoops of ice cream on 1 cone rather than 2 cones with 1-scoop each while in Paris on a sunny, hot, and humid day? Well, I tried to order with my long forgotten high school French. My then 5-year-old and 7-year-old children didn’t complain as they licked their shared strawberry ice cream off their fingers.

Where is the best spot to eat paella in Spain? Ayo’s in Nerja near the southern most point of Spain. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but the paella is ready at lunch time. It’s cooked outdoors on a huge iron skillet that requires several cooks to move it on and off the open fire. Spain is known for their paella but it is notoriously a tourist trap meal. Make sure yours is authentic with seafood fresh from the Mediterranean and oil and tomatoes fresh from the surrounding fields.

Home Swap to Spain
Food in Spain that was readily available for us to buy and cook during our home exchange.

Picnicking is another travel pleasure that easy to do whether you home swap or not while vacationing. It’s absolutely inexpensive and is the best way to eat, see, and experience the place you are visiting. With a backpack and a tablecloth (or the pashmina you’re wearing), whether it’s in a park or town square, grabbing bread, cheese, and vegetables or fruit, it’s easy to make a spread to dine on while enjoying the sights. I like to keep snacks and reusable drinking cups with me because when hunger or thirst strikes, a bubbling water fountain or dried fruit and a baguette can always satisfy while on the go. I also don’t feel the need to run into an expensive restaurant when simple, great local food is available.

There’s no better way to experience life like a local than to share foods and experiences around traveling. With home swapping, experiencing life like a local while traveling is attainable without the expense of hotels and eating out at restaurants for every meal. Shopping at local markets and cooking with what’s available helps us to enjoy and appreciate our trip and the location we’re visiting even more.

Go Gingham related links:

Frugal family summer fun – more tips are here
Travel packing tips with a PDF chart are here
Vacation meal planning
Travel packing in a little suitcase and a chart
Our San Francisco home exchange –Part I, Part II and
Part III

6 thoughts on “Home Swapping and Eating Like a Local

  1. Does this mean you have another trip planned soon? I love to “armchair travel”. My hubby would never agree to a home swap but it’s fun to read about yours. 🙂


    1. Kris,
      Yes! We’re going to Victoria, British Columbia for spring break. Our home exchange partners are coming to our house during the same week. It should be lots of fun and you’ll hear (or read 😉 ) all about it here!
      Thanks, Kris.


  2. This is something that makes so much sense to me. You have figured it all out and I am so impressed!!! I love living vicariously through the experiences you make happen for your family. Someday….


    1. Annie, yes, someday but I vote you surprise your kiddos with a home swap! They’ll love it once they arrive at their fabulous destination.
      Our home exchange partners are a couple who are bringing their friends with them. They travel together regularly. They sound lovely.
      Thanks, Annie!


  3. The concept of traveling and eating like a local are really enticing. The concept of letting strangers live in my home, would make me extremely nervous. Do you ever worry about your house, belongings, precious items being broken or worse, stolen?


    1. Sue, I don’t worry. We do have a locking closet that we lock but every home we’ve stayed in (and there have been 9!) has that, too. Honestly, my “stuff” isn’t precious or valuable but I do like it BUT I like traveling more!
      The trick is joining an exchange website and learning about the people you’ll be trading with. You can see photos, read about your partners, and see if they’ve exchanged before. You are in their house while they are in yours so there’s that, too. I think the treat others how you want to be treated attitude is part of the home swap mentality.
      I also love to travel and toss caution to the wind. It’s the only way we could afford to go the places we’ve gone!
      Thanks, Sue…


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