indulging · travel

Ready Set Home Swap!

Our house is buzzing and scurrying – we’re getting ready for our 10th home exchange in 9-years. Along with all the cost savings that happens with home swapping, it also saves me – from being disorganized!

Ready Set Home Swap!

When I know that my house needs to be “guest ready” with plenty of space for our home exchange partners to make themselves at home, it keeps me on task with eliminating my stacks of stuff and the dreaded “clutter-creep.” This time of year – the end of the school year – seems to make stacks appear much like the dust bunnies do – overnight!

Many of these ideas here have come from me seeing what our home exchange partners have done for us when we arrive at their homes. None of these details are absolutely necessary and some may argue more work but once these methods are in place, it takes little effort to update or prepare your home for your new friends…

Ready, Set, Home Swap!

These are 5 easy steps to facilitate you get ready for a home exchange that will help you and your home swap partner enjoy your “home away from home homes!”

  1. Make space – Make room in closets, drawers, and the kitchen. Really, what’s happening is that I’m taking all the clothing and pushing them aside. Or, in the pantry, I’m making sure there’s space for food to go so that it doesn’t have to sit out on the counter (my kitchen is very small!).
  2. Put together a “House Tricks Manual” – This is how the house works – which faucets drip, where the toilet plunger is kept, who to call in case of an emergency, and which neighbor has an extra key to the house. The details can be helpful when something goes wrong or can be laughed at when everything goes right! Mine is a Word Document that I update before we leave and review to make sure our home swap partners know the details. Every house we’ve stayed in has had one and some are quite humorous.
  3. Make a travel binder – Our travel binder is a 3-ring binder filled with maps, magazines, newspaper articles, bus schedules, travel books – anything that has to do with our city or state. There are page protectors to hold the maps and other items have 3-ring punches to keep them in place. Again, this idea came from our home swap to The Netherlands
  4. Leave notes – Leave notes around to help take the question out of your partner’s mind. “Please eat” or “Put clothing here” “Clean sheets are here” – notes let your partner know what goes where. I had no idea what a benefit this was until we arrived in Paris for our first exchange and there were little notes telling us details that helped make our stay smoother. Meanwhile, our partners were on their own at our house! They figured it all out but leaving notes is super helpful.
  5. Welcome gift – this can be simple or fancy and shares a “Welcome to our home” attitude with your home exchange partners. It can be a local treat or a favorite bottle of wine – or a homemade goody. It can also be a note with warm wishes to enjoy your stay. Our last exchange partners from Victoria, British Columbia had an entire spread for us and we totally loved it. Local coffee, smoked salmon, artesian cheese, a bottle of wine, and fresh flowers. We felt as if we were receiving the royal treatment!
Go Gingham Welcome to Victoria
Our home exchange partners in Victoria, BC really went the extra mile!

Fresh sponges and keys….

I always leave a new kitchen sponge for our home exchange partners and I always bring one with us when we travel. On our first home exchange, I took one look at the sponge and thought, “Is this what they scrub the floor with or clean their dishes with?”  That was the last time I wondered.

It goes without saying that making arrangements for the key is crucial to a home swap. After several exchanges that involved leaving the key in a secret spot or with one of our neighbors, I now mail the key ahead of time. When we arrived in Vienna, Austria after a long trip, a train ride, and then a bus ride to our home swap house, I wasn’t in the mood to go hunt down the key from the neighbors who had it. The neighbors were home and the key worked in the door but sometimes you just want to get into your “home-away-from-home-home” and kick back – and relax.

Getting ready for a home exchange motivates me to get moving and eliminate the “clutter creep” that somehow magically appears. With a little setting up of a binder and a “House Tricks Manual” you’ll be ready for your first home swap – and then you’ll definitely be ready for more!

Are you going on any trips this summer? Are you a home swapper?

Go Gingham related links:

Our first home exchange is here
Travel packing tips with a PDF chart are here
Our San Francisco home exchange –Part I, Part II and
Part III
Save money on your next trip: before and during

11 thoughts on “Ready Set Home Swap!

  1. Ah I want to house swap, but I haven’t bitten the bullet to go online and ‘subscribe’ – it’d probably help if I had a clearer plan of when/where I want to go too!


    1. Sarah, not necessarily! Some of the best home swap trips we’ve taken have come out of left field and not on our list of spots we’d like to visit. You can mark your profile, “Open – make me an offer” and see where it takes you! Good luck and happy travels~ 🙂


    1. Erin, frugal minded travelers like yourselves will love home swapping! The trip is so much richer and authentic when you home swap. Good luck on taking the plunge!
      We’re off to Boston – little college touring, little vacationing. 🙂


  2. You are so right about having a key when you get to you destination. I showed up in Seville, Spain without the key. My wife recognized the neighborhood from pictures.

    Our cell phones didn’t work, and neither did the pay phone down the street, so in my non-Spanish speaking best I got a local shop owner to make the call for me.

    While waiting I remembered the landlord wouldn’t recognize me, but he would hear an American singing Me And Bobby McGee in a loud voice.

    The Welcome Gift is a nice idea.


    1. Oh, David, the fun of travel! It makes for a good story, that’s for sure.
      I’m seeing lots of similarities in our travel styles – you and your wife sound like you can really roll with whatever comes your way. I like it!
      Any travel plans for this summer?


      1. You’re right about rolling along. Once you arrive at the end of known possibilities it gets interesting.

        This summer is the all-Oregon World Tour from the SW Coast and kayaks on Charleston’s South Slough, to the NE corner and the Wallowas.

        Ah yes, Joseph in August.


      2. David – Sounds like we go to the same places. We did the all Oregon tour about 5 years ago. 3 weeks of camping. We looped around the state, first heading east through Fossil and on to Lake Owyhee. Then south and west, through Cave Junction and Crater Lake. Then up the coast with nary a reservation along the way. The mosquitoes were brutal though in Crater Lake and Steens Mt. (it was mid June). Enjoy your summer.


  3. Sara, My family has enjoyed 15 home exchanges in 15 years and I have the same travel binder as you explained here! Protective sleeves and everything. HaHa

    I love your idea about putting out a fresh sponge AND bringing one with you too. We did a home swap in Steamboat Springs in April. The 3-bedroom condo was adorable and overlooked the slopes. However, the kitchen sponge was lacking in beauty.

    My home swap tip is that I put a new bar of soap, still in its box, in the showers. Everyone appreciates a fresh one.

    Have fun on your home swap!


    1. Shelley, that is a great soap tip! You are right about the fact that everyone appreciates a new bar. It takes little effort but makes a big difference.
      Why am I not surprised that we both have travel binders and we both use page protectors?! Nerd alert! 🙂
      Happy travels, Shelley! I look forward to our next chat.


  4. Hey Sara,

    I am so glad you made this post! I am really excited for our first exchange and am so happy to know what I should be doing to get our home ready for you!!! Thanks!


Comments are closed.