House swapping is an ultimate budget travel feat— you allow someone to stay in your home while you take off and stay in theirs. You both get free accommodations and an authentic experience in a new city.
So what's house swapping really like? We asked Nicole I. Frank of Roofswap.com, a new site that has more than 14,000 house-swapping listings in 130 countries. She offers advice for curious house swappers, and she should know—the native New Yorker is a veteran of more than 40 house swaps since 1991.
Q:Tell us what you get with a membership on Roofswap.
A: Roof Swap was founded by passionate home swappers. You'll have access to an easy-to-use template that'll get your home listed for swapping in a few easy steps. Then, you can search one of the largest databases, with 14,000 diverse listings. We also offer customized advice from home exchange veterans like myself, attentive customer service, and unlimited home swap vacations. Editor's Note: RoofSwap's three-month trial membership costs $20; a yearly membership is $75. If you sign up for membership before Dec. 31, 2010, you can get 20 percent off when using promo code MAR2BT0.
Q: What do you tell people who are interested in house-swapping but also a little fearful of it?
A: RoofSwap has a Forum where members can ask any questions they have and get expert advice from me and other veteran Roofswappers. For more peace of mind, RoofSwap is the only house-swapping club that offers a low-cost insurance policy backed by an insurance company. Most people with home-owners' or renters' insurance can check their policies to be reassured that they are already covered for almost anything that could go wrong.
Q: What are the benefits of house-swapping, besides the fact that you get your accommodations for free?
A: Vacationing in someone's home helps you "live like a local" for a more interesting travel experience; swappers share insider tips on places to go the area. Swappers are usually happy to care for Rover or Kitty. Families will have more space than in a hotel room and can make use of the swap partners' stroller, high chair, toys, and books. Also, homes have more useful amenities than hotels— I would much rather have free wireless internet, a kitchen, and a washer/dryer than a mint on my pillow. Swappers can often negotiate trading the use of cars in addition to homes...I could go on!
Q: Do you have to live in a big city to be a good candidate for house-swapping?
A: There is something interesting about everyone's home town. City folks often want a rural retreat. Swappers from other countries want to experience small-town life. No matter where you live, someone will want to swap for your home.
Q: You've been on a number of house swaps yourself. What's your favorite story to tell about house-swapping?
A: My six-week honeymoon grand tour of Europe. We stayed in Barcelona, Nice, Paris, and Amsterdam and never spent a penny on lodging.