Digsville.com costs $45 for a year or
$100 for three years to access almost 3,000 listings in 50
countries. You can search for digs with or without offering your
own in exchange.
HomeExchange.com allows you to
offer your home swap with people who live in Australia, Canada,
England, France and Italy. Membership costs $100 a year.
HomeLink International at homelink.org and
homelink-usa.com has been around since 1953
offering more than 13,000 homes in 72 countries. The annual
directory costs $60 and you can post photos of your home for $110
one year, $176 for two years.
From the time their boys were age 3, 5 and 7, Michelle Holleman
and her husband Tom have vacationed at free lodgings abroad. They
pay in an international currency: the use of their Highland Park
house in exchange.
After four years of happy house-swapping, they have vacationed
in Paris, London and the Netherlands. Need a four-bedroom place on
the beach in Antigua? An apartment near Times Square? A loft in
Paris? There's a swap for you.
Here's how to get into the game.
Before you begin
Picture strangers eating off your dishes and sleeping in your
children's beds while you do the same at their house. Are you ready
to let strangers take over your household?
If your answer is yes, start planning months ahead. Many people,
especially Europeans who get vacations of four to six weeks, do
their planning a year or more ahead.
Your place in Chicago may be worth less in the August heat, but
worth more during a big play-off game. For someone who wants a city
stay, your small apartment near State Street might swap for a much
roomier place on a Wisconsin lake or near a Colorado ski slope.
The good neighbor policy
Your guests should arrive to find a clean house with freshly
changed beds. Holleman says guests are more likely to keep a home
tidy if it's clean when they arrive.
To avoid abuse or misunderstanding, disable such things as your
long distance service and pay-per-view television. However, if
you're too worried about theft or breakage, house-swapping may not
be for you, says Holleman.
But in the global economy, a house is not just a home. Now it's
a blank check for a free vacation.
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